H1 headings. They’re not a particularly challenging aspect of optimization. Google has provided ample guidance for headlines, and the best practices are simple enough that most SEOs and web owners don’t give it much thought. H1s are the one thing we can all agree on! Or at least, that’s what we assumed. An informal Twitter poll with nearly 2,000 votes has revealed something rather surprising: When it comes to H1s, over 50 percent of SEOs are doing it wrong.
SEO expert Cyrus Shepard posted a poll on Twitter asking one question: “Does Google recommend using a single <h1> in your content for SEO purposes?” Of the 1,852 respondents, 57.1 percent said yes. If you’re one of the masses who think every page must use a single H1 headline, think again. Google recommends nothing of the sort. If anything, Google is extremely flexible on this front.
Back in September 2019, Google’s John Mueller stated on an office-hours hangout that there’s no H1 limit either way. That’s right – your page can have as few or as many H1 tags as you like. In Mueller’s words, “Your site is going to rank perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags.” And, if that’s not enough, Search Engine Journal’s (SEJ) Roger Montti points out that Google even published a video in October 2019 to dispel this myth. So, why the confusion? Google hasn’t exactly been secretive about this aspect of SEO.
It’s not that SEOs collectively blacked out in late 2019. It’s that many just don’t seem to believe what Google is saying.
Montti says that based on anecdotal evidence from online discussions on SEO, headings are, and continue to be, a contentious topic in the SEO community. There are many SEO professionals that don’t buy what Mueller is selling. Others still cling to the old-school notion that Google relies on headings to understand what a web page is about. It’s true that two decades ago, Google viewed headings and content at the top of the web page (as well as words written in bold, italics and in bigger fonts) as context “clues.” But times – and PageRank – have changed.
Looking at headlines and titles more holistically, the only thing you should be worried about is users. Google’s main concern is user experience (UX), and headings are a way to improve readability. In fact, the opening sentence on Google’s documentation reads, “Use descriptive headings and titles because they help a user navigate their browser and the page.”
That’s it. That’s the purpose of H tags: to communicate what a section of content is about. And the better you can do this, the better your UX and, ultimately, the better your SEO.
More SEO News You Can Use
Don’t Overthink Your Above-the-Fold Content – Google Certainly Doesn’t: We’ve just spoken about how, back in the day, Google’s algorithms considered content high up on the page – or “above the fold” – to be more important than the rest of the content on the page. Artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing have evolved, and Google understands content on a much deeper level than it did before. But is there still a benefit to pushing more content above the fold, where users can see it without having to scroll? John Mueller answered this question in the latest SEO office-hours hangout. Mueller says Google does want to see some content above the fold – from a UX perspective, users shouldn’t be forced to scroll to see your content. But as for what or how much content should be there, Google has no preferences. Yet again, UX trumps all.
Here’s What an SEO Recommends Doing With Your Outdated Content: The latest SEJ “Ask an SEO” series covers the topic of old content – more specifically, whether outdated content hurts your SEO. A web owner explained that his site has about 42,000 old articles, dating back to 2004, that are starting to be re-indexed by Google. He asked for advice on what to do with these articles. The answer Ryan Jones provided isn’t one-size-fits-all, but it could help you decide how to handle your own old content. It depends on the type of articles they are and the value they add (or don’t add) to your users. A news site, for example, might hang onto news articles for users seeking archival content, while a site like SEOblog.com might decide articles are irrelevant and outdated. Where articles could potentially still be of some value, Jones recommends updating them with current information or, if not, simply removing them.
Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool Replacement Is Live in Beta: In July last year, Google announced it would be deprecating the Structured Data Testing Tool, and the SEO community was not pleased. A few months later, in December, Google said it took note of the complaints and announced instead the migration of the Structured Data Testing Tool to Schema.org in April 2021. Well, it’s not quite April anymore, but for this one, we can deal with a month-long delay. The replacement tool, called the Schema Markup Validator, is officially available in beta as a subdomain on the Schema.org website. The new tool is free from any Google branding, but functionally, it’s extremely similar. There’s nothing you could do with Google’s tool that you can’t do with this one. The only difference is that this new tool can test for all Schema.org properties, not only those supported in Google Search results. So, if you were one of the SEOs sad to see the tool shuttered, you can start playing around with the new one.
Google’s 100-Page Web Stories Playbook Describes Countless Uses for the New Format: Google has seriously been pushing Web Stories over the past few months. Now, it’s come with yet another resource to help SEOs create optimized Web Stories that increase traffic, engagement and sales. Google has published a Web Stories Playbook – an ultimate guide that gives you everything you need for success with this new format. The Playbook runs over more than 100 pages (What, you don’t have time to read a novel? Don’t worry; it’s incredibly visual, with only two paragraphs or fewer per page). It’s well worth a read because it highlights all the different ways Web Stories can be used and monetized. There’s likely a wealth of ideas in here that most publishers haven’t even considered.
Check Out Ahrefs’ Ultimate Guide to Writing Optimized Blog Posts: Ahrefs on Wednesday published its latest ultimate guide, this time, tackling blog SEO. Author and Ahrefs’ head of content, Joshua Hardwick, starts by saying Ahrefs has grown its own Blog audience from zero to over 600,000 monthly visits since 2015. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s sharing their secrets. The guide covers how to write optimized blog posts and how to improve and maintain your posts’ rankings. The actionable insights are presented in the form of easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, meaning anyone can benefit. What with the endless supply of content available online, any extra help from an authoritative source is always welcome. Who knows? If you stick to these rules, you might increase your own audience by hundreds of thousands, too!
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