HTML Heading Tags Guide: What are Them? How to Use Them For SEO?

Jul 03 2024 by Oskay Günaçar

What are HTML Heading Tags?

HTML heading tags are elements in HTML (HyperText Markup Language) used to define headings and subheadings on a webpage. These tags are essential for organizing content, improving readability, and enhancing the overall structure of your documents.

They play a significant role in both search engine optimization (SEO) and accessibility.

Here are the different levels of heading tags:

  • <h1>: The highest level heading tag, which is typically used for the main title or most important heading on the page.
    There should be only one <h1> tag per page to signify the primary focus of the content.
  • <h2>: Used for major section headings, serving as subheadings to the <h1> tag and breaking the content into manageable sections.
  • <h3>: This tag is used for sub-sections under the <h2> headings. It helps to further organize content into subcategories.
  • <h4>, <h5>, <h6>: These are used for additional sub-headings, providing further levels of hierarchy beneath <h3> tags. Each level represents a lesser degree of importance or emphasis.

What is the Heading Tags Hierarchic Order?

The hierarchic order of HTML heading tags is crucial for structuring content in a clear, logical manner. It helps both users and search engines understand the relative importance of sections and sub-sections within a webpage. Here’s a breakdown of the hierarchy:

1. <h1> Tag

  • Role: Serves as the primary heading of a page, usually equivalent to the title or main topic.
  • Usage: Should be used once per page to define the most important headline. It gives a clear indication of the page content.

2. <h2> Tags

  • Role: Used for main section headings under the <h1> tag.
  • Usage: These tags break the content down into major sections, each defined by <h2> tags, which are the main subheadings.

3. <h3> Tags

  • Role: Serve as sub-sections under <h2> headings.
  • Usage: Further divide the sections defined by <h2> tags into more detailed topics or points.

4. <h4>, <h5>, <h6> Tags

  • Role: These are used for additional levels of sub-headings.
  • Usage:
    • <h4> tags are used to break down <h3> sections.
    • <h5> tags break down <h4> sections.
    • <h6> tags are the lowest level and break down <h5> sections.

Example of a Well-Structured HTML Document with Header Tags

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <meta charset="UTF-8">
    <title>Sample Page</title>
    <h1>Main Title of the Document</h1>
    <h2>First Major Section</h2>
    <p>Content under the first major section.</p>
    <h3>Subsection of First Major Section</h3>
    <p>Details about the subsection.</p>
    <h2>Second Major Section</h2>
    <p>Content under the second major section.</p>
    <h3>Subsection of Second Major Section</h3>
    <p>Further details about the second subsection.</p>

The Importance of Heading Tags in SEO

Heading tags, from <h1> to <h6>, play a crucial role in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because they help structure the content on web pages in a way that is both meaningful and easily digestible for search engines and users.

Here’s why heading tags are so important for SEO:

1. Hierarchy and Structure

Heading tags establish a clear hierarchy on a page, signaling to search engines the relative importance and relationship between different sections of content. The <h1> tag usually represents the main topic or title of the page, with subsequent headings (<h2> to <h6>) outlining subtopics or points of discussion. This structured approach helps search engines understand the primary and secondary topics of a page, improving the organization and indexing of content.

2. Improving User Experience

Good use of heading tags enhances the user experience by breaking up text into manageable sections, making it easier for visitors to skim and find the information they need quickly. Pages with well-organized content tend to keep visitors on the page longer, reducing bounce rates and increasing the likelihood of engagement, which are positive signals to search engines.

3. Keyword Optimization

Heading tags are an excellent place to include relevant keywords naturally. By using keywords in headings, you signal to search engines what the page or a section of content is about. However, it’s crucial to use keywords judiciously and ensure they fit naturally within the context of the headings to avoid keyword stuffing, which can negatively impact SEO.

4. Boosting Accessibility

Search engines favor websites that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Screen readers use heading tags to navigate and interpret the structure of the content, providing a better browsing experience for visually impaired users. Improved accessibility can contribute to better SEO outcomes, as search engines may reward sites that cater to a broader audience.

5. Enhancing Content Relevance

Search engines strive to deliver the most relevant results to users’ queries. By organizing content under relevant headings, you help search engines understand the context and relevance of your content. This can lead to higher rankings for specific queries where your headings match or closely relate to search terms used by users.

6. Featured Snippets and SEO Advantage

Well-structured content using heading tags increases the likelihood of your content being picked up for featured snippets in Google search results. These snippets often pull content directly from headings and subheadings or the paragraphs immediately following them, providing a significant visibility boost.

How to Add Header Tags in HTML

Adding header tags in HTML is straightforward and an essential part of structuring web content. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to include and effectively use these tags in your HTML documents:

Step 1: Understand the Purpose of Each Header Tag

Before adding header tags (<h1> through <h6>), recognize their purpose. <h1> is typically used for the main title or most significant topic on the page, and <h2> to <h6> are used for subheadings in decreasing order of importance.

Step 2: Start with <h1> - The Main Heading

Begin your document's content section with an <h1> tag, as it represents the primary heading of the page. This should give a clear idea about the content of the page. There should generally be only one <h1> tag per page to maintain a clear focus.

<h1>This is the Main Heading of the Page</h1>

Step 3: Organize Content with Subheadings (<h2> to <h6>)

Use <h2> tags for major section titles under your <h1> tag. If those sections need further subdivision, use <h3> tags, and continue with <h4>, <h5>, and <h6> as necessary. Remember to maintain the hierarchy without skipping levels.

<h2>This is a Major Section Heading</h2>
<h3>This is a Subsection Heading</h3>
<h4>This is a Lower Level Heading</h4>

Step 4: Keep Your Headings Descriptive and Concise

Headings should be informative and concise. They need to describe the section's content accurately to help both users and search engines understand your page structure quickly.

Step 5: Consider Accessibility

Use headings to improve the accessibility of your website. Screen readers use these tags to navigate through the content, so proper use and hierarchy are crucial.

Step 6: Validate Your HTML

After adding your headers, validate your HTML to ensure there are no errors in your document structure. You can use tools like the W3C Markup Validation Service.

Step 7: Test with Different Devices and Browsers

Ensure that your headings look good and function well across various devices and browsers. This helps maintain a uniform user experience regardless of the user's device.

Are Heading Tags Direct Ranking Factor?

Heading tags are not direct ranking factors in the sense that simply using <h1>, <h2>, or other headers alone will not automatically boost a page's ranking in search engine results. However, they do play an important indirect role in SEO that can significantly influence a website's visibility and performance in search engines.

Best Practices For Heading Tags

Using header tags effectively is a key component of web development and SEO best practices. Here are some guidelines to ensure that your use of HTML header tags optimizes both user experience and search engine visibility:

1. Maintain a Clear Hierarchy

Always use header tags in a hierarchical order. Start with an <h1> tag for the main title of your page, followed by <h2> tags for main sections, and <h3> to <h6> tags for sub-sections under each <h2> section as needed. Avoid skipping header levels as this can confuse both users and search engines about the structure of your content.

2. Use Only One <h1> Per Page

Traditionally, it's best to have only one <h1> tag per page. This serves as the main headline and should summarize the page content. Having multiple <h1> tags can dilute their importance, although HTML5 allows more flexibility with multiple <h1> tags in different sections (<section>, <article>), as long as it helps the document structure.

3. Incorporate Relevant Keywords

Include important keywords in your headers, especially in <h1> and <h2>, but do so naturally. Headers are heavily weighed by search engines when indexing content, so including relevant keywords can improve the content's visibility and relevance. However, avoid keyword stuffing to maintain readability and avoid penalties from search engines.

4. Keep Headers Descriptive and Concise

Headers should clearly describe the content below them to help users and search engines understand what each section of the page is about. Keep them concise but informative enough to provide insight into the section’s content.

5. Ensure Consistency

Use consistent styles for similar levels of headers across your site. This helps improve user experience by setting clear expectations for how information is structured and presented on different pages.

6. Optimize for Accessibility

Use headers to improve the accessibility of your content. Proper header structure can help screen reader users navigate your content more easily, as they can use the headers to get an overview of the page and jump to sections of interest.

7. Avoid Using Headers for Styling Purposes

Don't use header tags simply to manipulate text size or style. CSS should be used for styling, while headers should be reserved for structuring content. Misusing headers can lead to confusion and misinterpretation of the site structure by search engines and assistive technologies.

8. Use Semantic HTML5 Elements

Consider using HTML5 structural elements (<article>, <section>, <nav>, <aside>, etc.) along with headers to define the structure of your document more clearly. This semantic use of HTML not only improves SEO but also enhances the accessibility and readability of your content.

9. Review and Revise

Periodically review your use of headers as part of your website’s SEO audit. This can help you identify opportunities to improve your content’s structure, enhance SEO performance, and update your site in line with the latest best practices.

Tools and Resources for HTML Heading Tags

To optimize and validate the use of HTML header tags, as well as overall webpage structure and SEO, you can utilize a variety of tools and resources. These tools can help ensure your website is accessible, well-structured, and SEO-friendly.

Here are some essential tools and resources you might find helpful:

W3C Markup Validation Service

This is a validator that checks the markup validity of web documents in HTML, XHTML, SMIL, MathML, etc. It is essential for ensuring that your HTML code, including your use of header tags, adheres to web standards. You can access it at the W3C Validator website.

Google Search Console

Google provides this tool to help you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site's presence in Google Search results. It includes functionalities to analyze your HTML structure and how your header tags are being perceived by Google. Visit the Google Search Console for more details.

SEO SiteCheckup

SEO SiteCheckup analyzes various aspects of your website, including SEO issues, usability, social media, and more. It can specifically check for proper use of header tags and give suggestions for improvement. Explore SEO SiteCheckup online for more information.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

This powerful desktop program crawls websites' links, images, CSS, script, and apps from an SEO perspective. It helps you identify issues with your site structure, including header tag usage. More details can be found on the Screaming Frog SEO Spider site.


Ahrefs is an advanced SEO tool that allows you to track your website's performance, analyze your competitors, research keywords, and more. It includes site audit features that can help you check the effectiveness of your header tags. Visit Ahrefs' website to learn more.

Moz Pro

Moz Pro offers a suite of tools including site audits, rank tracking, backlink analysis, and an SEO toolbar. It can provide insights into how well your headers are optimized for SEO. For more information, visit the Moz Pro site.

Yoast SEO

Especially useful for WordPress users, Yoast SEO analyzes content for SEO best practices and provides insights on readability, including checks on subheadings within your content. Check out the Yoast SEO plugin online.

WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind)

WebAIM provides a wide range of resources, tools, and techniques to make your web content accessible to people with disabilities, which includes proper use of headers for screen reader navigation. Explore more at the WebAIM website.

CSS Tricks

While primarily focused on CSS, CSS Tricks offers comprehensive guides and articles on HTML structure and semantics, including best practices for using header tags. More can be found on the CSS Tricks website.

HTML5 Doctor

This site provides articles related to HTML5, its semantics, and best practices, including detailed discussions about header tags and document structure. Visit HTML5 Doctor for further insights.


In conclusion, HTML heading tags are foundational to crafting structured, accessible, and SEO-friendly web content. From <h1> to <h6>, these tags not only organize the content logically but also enhance user engagement and comprehension. Their strategic use can significantly influence how search engines understand and rank a webpage, making them integral to SEO efforts.

Furthermore, proper use of heading tags can improve website accessibility, making content navigable and understandable for all users, including those with disabilities. While heading tags are not direct ranking factors, their correct application contributes to a better structured and optimized website, ultimately impacting its visibility and performance in search engine results.

By adhering to best practices—such as maintaining a clear hierarchy, using headings for semantic purposes, and ensuring accessibility—you can optimize your content for both users and search engines. Tools like Google Search Console, W3C Markup Validation Service, and SEO SiteCheckup can help monitor and refine your use of heading tags to ensure your website remains compliant with web standards and SEO best practices.

Remember, the goal of using heading tags is not just to improve SEO but to provide a better, more engaging user experience. The direct correlation between well-structured content and user satisfaction underscores the importance of meticulous attention to detail in web development and content creation.

Oskay Günaçar
Oskay Günaçar is a Technical SEO expert and backend developer. His main areas of interest are back-end programming, Python, Django, Go, semantic SEO, technical SEO. With more than 5 years of SEO experience, he has held SEO specialist positions at İkiler, Webtures, Boosmart, and companies, and has been involved in numerous projects as an outsourced expert. Through the TechSEOHub website, he aims to share the expertise and experience he has gained from managing and developing (SEO) processes for many successful and large websites in the industry, and to produce content for easy access to accurate and high-quality information.