Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Search Engine Optimization of a website greatly benefits from proper usage of H1, H2, H3 etc. These tags create "Headers". You may have noticed that when you search for a key word or phrase on a search engine, you often arrive at a page that has a large occurrence of the very words, you used to find that page. It's key words. This is no coincidence. H1, H2, H3 etc. are large bold, loud and proud. Anyone in business who is brave enough to put those words in a header at the top of their site is likely to be in the business of those key words. For Example here is a H1 usage:

H1 tags and Search Engines

For a search engine, it stands to reason that if a webmaster is brave enough to place those H1 or H2 tags on the top of the site, those key words that are relevant to the content of those pages. Although the opposite can hold true; a person could use these tags to mislead people. On this site I am referring to ethical search engine tactics. I am talking about getting a site to rank for key words that are relevant to the sites theme and industry sector. Mis-use of key words in an H1 tag is unethical - I don't recommend it. A mathematical calculation of the re-occurence of those key words; a comparison of what is in the Title, and the H1-H4 tags - compared to the rest of the page would show that the page is spam - in the case of misuse - so that would be stupid. Usage of these key words in H1, and prominent position purely to add a misleading "text" theme to an website about something completely different is actually unlikely to work. They will however help a site, that is overly "graphic". They can be the saving grace for such a site, and their "style and feel" can be controlled by CSS. Some webmasters are abusing this too, however, and I don't recommend placing keywords, using CSS, in "unreadable" regions of a page. It's only a matter of time before SE's are smart enough to determine those words have been "programmed" to appear about 2 feet to the right off your moniter; and the web audience could not possibly see them!

Placement of the H1 tag is likely best on the top of your page. Headers generally mean more when they are place at the beginning. This, by the way is called prominence. A key word or header is considered prominent when it is at the start or beginning, top. Also, information at the very end of an article, paragraph, or page is also important.

Consider this paragraph:

Key Words in Headers

Key words placed in bold text, in H1-H4 header tags and bolded in the beginning and end of paragraphs are a widely used SEO technique. Studies have shown that valid, relevant documents do this naturally, so it is easy to see why search engines would utilize this in their ranking algorythms. It is not uncommon when we build articles, naturally, we would stucture our paragraphs and pages using key words in this fashion.

Now, having said that, it is possible to use H1, H2, etc., without having such huge ugly words. Use of CSS to downplay the size of the text and change it's style is totally possible. In this way, we get the relevancy and importance across to the search engines, without actually having to have massive big ugly words across the top of our web pages. I do not recommend using strategies that hide them or make them so small they are not legible. These practices are likely to be the next changes that will get sites penalized.

Here is some handy CSS that will decrease the size of H1 tags This will enable you to use the tag, but not BLAST it across your page. Place this in your CSS (Cascading Style Sheet)

h1 {
font-family: Verdana, Times, serif;
font-size: 14px;
font-weight: bold;

Relevant Online Documents:

Webmaster World Forum on H1 usage
Onclick.com Article on H1 Usage
Epoweredprofessionals.com uses extensive H1 tags and simple HTML to improve their SEO


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