Headers and title tags are not the same things. They may be similar or even contain the same information. But they serve different purposes.
Title tags are primarily for search engines and SERP listings. Headings are primarily for a web page as the visitor sees it. Both affect your SEO. Here is how to optimize both headers and title tags.
Good Headers Elevate Your Content
When your header game is strong, you make your content better. Not only do good headers make content more scannable, but they also encourage visitors to keep reading.
When you take time to plan out your headers, you automatically tend to organize your thoughts and your content better. And good headers can even improve your odds of capturing a Google Featured Snippet.
Headers Are Primarily for Humans
While search engines do “read” headers, they are not a known ranking factor. But that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.
On the contrary, the headers you use on your web pages can make the difference between visitors who stick around and visitors who bounce. They organize your content and make your pages more aesthetically pleasing.
Most web pages contain a single H1 header, the page’s title. They also contain several H2 headers, which indicate subheadings. Pages may also contain the less prominent H3 to H6 headings to further organize the information under the H2 headings.
In Google Docs, your H2 headings show up in the left-hand column. Read them and determine if they provide logic and structure to your content. If not, consider rearranging them or using H3 and lesser headers to give the page a logical structure.
For example, an H1 header (the page title) may be, “Most Popular Cheese Varieties.” Then, H2 headers could subdivide them into “French Cheeses,” “English Cheeses,” and so on. Under each of the H2 headings could be H3 headings like “Camembert,” “Gruyere,” etc.
Good H2 Header Use Maximizes Featured Snippet Chances
Using H2 headers effectively can improve your chances of getting a coveted Featured Snippet on page one of the Google SERPs. Start by posing a simple query or statement in your H2 header, such as “How to Ensure Safety Goggles Fit Properly.”
Underneath that heading, provide a clear, concise answer. For example, you could say, “Ensure your goggles stay in place when you move your head up and down or from side to side.” And then add a few other tips, perhaps formatted as bullet points.
Of course, there are no guarantees you’ll capture a Featured Snippet. But having headings and paragraphs written as if they could be Featured Snippets tends to ensure your content is clear and helpful.
Best Practices for Headers
Follow these best practices when you create headers for your web pages.
- Only have one H1 (title) header per web page.
- Include your main keyword in your H1 header.
- Make your H1 header as awesome as possible. It often determines whether a visitor will bother to keep reading.
- Try to keep your headers (especially your H1 header) to less than 60 characters long.
- Think of H2 headers as similar to chapter titles in books.
- Be consistent with headers. Make them all title case or all sentence case. Keep their lengths similar.
- Make all your headers relevant to what comes after them.
- Make your headers as interesting as possible.
Don’t Neglect Your Pages’ Title Tags
Title tags are for humans, but search engines read and use them when indexing and ranking your web pages. If you neglect to include a title tag, Google will make up its own, which may or may not be a good one.
The information in your title tags shows up in the search results. It also appears in the browser tabs when you open a result in its own tab.
Often, your title tag and your H1 header contain identical information. Using WordPress to manage your content will make your title tag identical to your H1 header unless you change your title tag.
Reasons for title tags being different from H1 headers include:
- The title tag contains your brand name, and you don’t want that in your page’s H1 header.
- You need a longer H1 header, so you provide a shorter title tag to prevent Google from truncating it.
- Your title tag contains words (“Best Deals of the Year”) that could appear spammy as your H1 page title.
Length Matters with Title Tags
Making title tags 50 to 60 characters long will usually prevent them from being truncated on the SERPs. However, Google measures title tags in terms of pixels rather than characters.
Therefore, a title tag in all caps would be considered “longer” and be in greater danger of being truncated for display than the identical title tag written in title or sentence case. Making title tags short and using symbols to replace words (“&” rather than “and,” for example) will help prevent truncated titles from showing up on SERPs.
Common Mistakes with Title Tags
The most common mistake people make is not having a title tag. While WordPress and other CMS setups often provide them automatically, they don’t always.
Google will “read” your web page even if it doesn’t have a title tag. But the words it comes up with for the SERPs and browser tabs may not be what you want.
Another common mistake is having “boilerplate” title tags used repeatedly throughout your website. Make your title tags relevant to their individual pages, making your website more usable while improving your SEO.
Title tags that are stuffed with keywords annoy users, as well as search engines. Never try to cram as many keywords as possible into a title tag. Stick with your major keyword for the particular page the title tag goes with.
Finally, too-long title tags will be truncated in search results and browser tabs. Shorten them if you don’t want this to happen.
Best Practices for Title Tags
Remember these four best practices when writing your title tags.
- Keep them short, or Google will shorten them for you.
- Avoid all-caps title tags, and use symbols in place of words where possible.
- Make title tags unique and specific to the page they’re created for.
- Target a single primary keyword in your title tag.
Audit Your Website’s Title Tags & Headers
Semrush, Screaming Frog, SEO Review Tools, and other brands offer free tools that allow you to audit your website. These tools will tell you, among other things, which pages have missing or duplicate title tags and H1 headers.
You can also find out which title tags are too long and which H1 tags are missing keywords. Running an audit quarterly can help you catch header and title tag issues and fix them, so you don’t harm your site’s performance.
By optimizing your header and title tags, not only will you improve your search engine optimization, but you will also make your content more accessible to a wider audience. If you need help getting started or want to take your SEO to the next level, set up a call with our team today. We will help your website represent your business as effectively as possible.