Are HTML Heading Tags (H2-H6) A Google Ranking Factor?

Readability, relevance, and how search engines understand your search intent remain Google’s top priorities. That’s where HTML heading tags come in. They are an indispensable SEO optimization component that has witnessed a sea of changes over the years. From H1-H6 tags, using HTML heading tags is an art that needs to be mastered.

If you already know and understand what is an h1 tag and how it affects SERPS, this post is for you. Similar to H1 tags, the H1 heading #2-H6 tags pack the punch for brand presence. However, there are multiple theories that call for a detailed analysis.

In this context, it’s crucial to ask: Are HTML Heading Tags (H2-H6) A Google Ranking Factor? Exploring this question can provide valuable insights into the ever-evolving landscape of SEO and search engine algorithms.

H2-H6 Tags As A Ranking Factor

When you weigh plain text for SEO header tags, the keywords across H2-H6 subheadings are crucial for Google’s algorithm. It’s for a reason why an H2 tag is the first main sub-heading after H1 (the first main heading tag or title of your blog). However, as you might have noticed, an H2 primary heading tag, although bigger than the rest of the body text, is always a tad bit smaller than an H1. You ask why? Well, simply because you don’t want your H2 tag to compete with H1 tags.

However, an H2 tag alone does not affect the rankings.

For content to be more legible, you need to have sub-pointers that sit right under the H2 tag, otherwise known as H3s. Similarly, anything that sits under a H3 is H4, and so on. The h tag sequence can go up to H6 or even H7. However, you might not need header tags above H4 in most cases.

The Claim: H2-H6 Tags As A Ranking Factor

Target keywords, when sprinkled across H2-H6 subheadings, weigh heavily as ranking factors for Google’s algorithm. Such a claim is in stark contrast to plain text content, making header tags vital among all ranking factors. Let’s see the evidence for and against using HTML code and heading tags as Google’s ranking factor.

The Evidence For HTML Heading Tags As A Ranking Factor

A quick flashback to 2005. Heavy research on Google rankings is still underway, and simply placing your target keywords in higher-level headers works wonders.

However, a lot has changed since then, and Google’s rankings evolved over time. But It was not until 2020 when John Mueller, Search Relations Team Lead at Google, highlighted that headings in a web page are an important factor for higher Google rankings.

Mueller answered this to a question that read whether a page not using an H1 HTML element can rank for target keywords already present in H2. While Muller didn’t give away a sure “yes,” he stressed the possibilities. Further, he referred to the heading and title tags as an essential Google ranking factor for any webpage. Any brand that runs detailed competitor research will realize this eventually.

The common belief is that header tag HTML elements hold the cue to content hierarchy, allowing us to nest other relevant content chunks as subtopics under one main topic. Take an art supply materials website, for instance, with different mediums- crayons, watercolors, acrylics, oils, gouache, and more. You can assign an H2 tag to crayons under H3 for student crayons and H4 for Crayons from a brand like Steadler.

This concept contradicts what Mueller said, as he believes one can assign H2 tags for Crayons, Student crayons, and Steadler crayons. Doing so will not significantly impact how a web page ranks on Google. Besides, assigning H2 tags for these three sections is sufficient for users to understand the content.

At the outset, it isn’t only about headings but the content as a whole. What Mueller stressed was having clearly defined headings to help your target audience understand what the content is about. They could simply look at the headings and form an early impression of what it contains, similar to a newspaper.

The Evidence Against Using H2-H6 Tags as a Ranking Factor

For a newbie search engine optimization specialist, it’s not unnatural to think header tags receive way more attention than they deserve. Especially when you know that pages that don’t have any heading tags can also rank and that simply adding a keyword to a heading won’t help boost Google rankings, this is where you need to revisit Muller’s points to get clarity on the subject. What Muller pointed out was that heading tags can be simplified into three basic points: 

  • By using clear heading tags, you can help Google understand what your content is about.
  • Besides, heading tags can also offer detailed information about what the audience can expect from the content. 
  • Lastly, sub-headings also send out what can be called “a strong signal” for a particular part of a web page.

So, one can understand how Google values content relevancy over everything else. Cupertino Giant’s singular goal is to provide users with better search results to enrich and empower them. That’s why it keeps testing several algorithms to explore different relations between entities and improve perceptions of search engines for a positive experience.

With newer algorithms being introduced into search engine results pages, the older signals with a robust higher-ranking position soon began to dilute. The reason was clear to scan. With so-called conventional ranking symbols like keyword density, formatting of text, and .gov domains, tweaking subheadings, textual content, meta description, and page title was a child’s play.

H2-H6 Tags As A Ranking Factor: Our Opinion

According to Mueller, headings tags across content should stay true to their purpose, i.e., informing target audiences what the page is about. Also, contrary to what many would like to believe, the game of placing keywords in hedging tags to rank higher is now a thing of the past. Today, it hardly matters if you place relevant keywords in your header tags.

What matters here is how you use headings tags to your advantage to communicate your content. Simply put, headings tags for SEO deliver impact across three vital fronts:

  • It is a key structural element to help readers and search engines navigate a particular webpage seamlessly. 
  • It helps plug-ins, browsers, and other modern assistive search technologies function correctly.
  • It enhances the user experience by highlighting vital information.

Undeniably, HTML heading tags from H2 -H6 affect web rankings positively.  However, that does not implicate targeting specific keywords in your SB headings to rank higher in SERPs. As an aspiring SEO specialist looking to make an impact, one must remember that the H1 tag has been abused greatly. Thanks to the forward-thinking mentality of Google doing away with keyword stuffing and banning sites that disguise heading tag HTML. 

Here are some of the best heading tag practices you should know.

  • Never stuff heading tags with keywords.
  • While it’s not a mandate, refrain from using more than one HTML H1 tag for a single page. If a page needs multiple H1 tags, divide the topic into two parts or use individual pages with two different H1 tags. 
  • Your hedging tags shouldn’t be hidden text, as these can lead to Google penalties. This is because headings tags are a vital component of SEO.
  • Use unique headings across the web pages of your site. 
  • Your HTML h1 tag and meta title tag should be unique as well.
  • Never use heading tags for styling, as they are a structural element. Instead, stick to using CSS stylesheets. 

So, what’s the foolproof way to reap the best from HTML heading tags as a vital webpage element? Well, the jury is still out on that. Until then, focusing on user experience holds the key. Look around. Leading industry brands have checked the boxes for readability and relevance with their header tags. It’s high time you embrace the strategy to gain an edge. 

Are you a brand struggling with your digital footprint? Or a startup looking to plunge into the digital realms? With the right content strategy and marketing, nothing is stopping you. Together, we can make it happen!

Still wondering, “Are HTML Heading Tags (H2-H6) A Google Ranking Factor?” Explore this question with us, and let’s uncover the insights together. Schedule your discovery call with DWS now and set your digital journey on the right path.