Head Towards Better SEO With Headers

Headers are more than just an exciting soccer move, but actually play a very important role in Search Engine Optimization. Incorporating headers into your website can help improve web traffic and SERP rankings.

The Basics

Headers are a part of a webpage’s architecture that help separate titles from the main text of the page. There are six levels of headers  that start with header 1, or h1, and go all the way down to header 6, h6.  H1s are the most important, usually the title on the page, and are a very broad description of the topic at hand. As the header numbers increase, their text gets more specific, but they also become less important. For example, let us look at the headings for a hypothetical ice cream shop.

 

<h1>Scoops Ice Cream Shop Menu</h1>

<h2>Soft Serve</h2>

<h3>Chocolate</h3>

<h3>Vanilla</h3>

<h4>Toppings</h4>

<h5>Nuts</h5>

<h5>Sprinkles</h5>

<h2>Milkshakes</h2>

<h3>Chocolate</h3>

<h3>Vanilla</h3>

<h3>Strawberry</h3>

 

As you can see, as the header numbers increase, the topic gets more specific, from the menu, to the title of the page, to the type of ice cream, to the ice cream flavors, to the toppings before taking a step back to move onto a different type.  It is important to note that you cannot skip levels in your headings. Jumping from a h1 to an h3 will break the HTML coding. Additionally, every page should have one h1 heading, but only one h1 heading. H1s are the most important heading, but having more than one creates confusion both for customers and search engines.

 

Headers and SEO

So how exactly do headers help optimize your webpage?

Importance

Headers help denote important title text from the rest of the information on the page.  Google’s Hummingbird algorithm uses headers, especially the h1 and h2s, to determine pertinent information on the page and help put relevant sites on their result page. Looking back at our example from earlier, the ice cream shop would rank well for “local soft serve”, a h2, but be ignored for “local sprinkles”, a h5.

Organization

Organization, both for you and the visitors of your web page, is another benefit of headers. Headers help to provide structure for the pages, as well as keep them organized. Pages look better and can make content easier for users to find.

Consistency

Search engine algorithms compare headers against the body text of a page when determining what to put on a results page. Headers that match the body text get ranked higher, while mismatched headers and text will fall in the rankings.

 

Pitfalls of Headers

While headers are an easy thing to start with when optimizing your website, there are a few things to avoid.

Too Many or Too Few h1s

Each page should have one h1 heading, but only one h1 header. The h1 header is a vital part of the page layout and SEO, but multiple h1s usually confuse both readers and algorithms.

Spamming Text into Headers

Headers are important in identifying keywords and other important information on a page. However, tons of headers or headers with paragraphs of text are viewed as spam by some algorithms and hurt your search engine standings.

Hiding Text

One older method of getting higher rankings on search engines was to put keywords unrelated to your product in headers on your page, but coloring them the same as your background. This prevented everyone but the search engine algorithms from seeing the text and would cause irrelevant pages to pop up on SERPs. Now this practice is considered unethical and your page will be penalized.

 

Although they do not have the biggest impact on your SEO,  headers are an important part of your optimization process and an easy way to score some goals early on.
For more basic SEO, check out our Basics of the Basics article. For more pitfalls to look out for as you begin your journey, check out our 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Beginning Your SEO Journey.

Making Images Searchable

 

Having pictures and videos on your page is crucial. Readers are more likely to remember information that is presented to them in picture format and photos increase dwell time on your page. Dwell time, as you can probably guess, is the amount of time that people spend on your page. This is important for Search Engine Optimization because the longer the dwell time, the higher the page is ranked on the results page of a search engine. Images themselves can also be optimized for search engines. Yoast’s article on image SEO, is a bit dense for beginners so we will simplify some of the most important tips here.

 

Two adorably tiny precious kittens sitting in coffee mugs
This picture has nothing to do with Search Engine Optimization. Source

The Perfect Picture

Unlike the picture for this article, your image should be relevant to your post. Although pictures of kittens are cute, readers may feel cheated if you can’t deliver the “aww” factor they were looking for. Any diagrams, photos, or videos should serve to enhance your point, not distract from it. You may be tempted just to slap a stock photo in your article, just for the sake of having a picture, but this is not the greatest idea. Stock photos are boring and impersonal. Try to use your own high-quality photos, if you can. If not, try and use stock photos that are engaging rather than boring.

 

Use Your Words

Search engine crawlers have access to a behind-the-scenes layer of information that goes unseen to readers. Search engines use this information to rank results. Computers can’t see pictures the way we do (yet), so we have to describe them. The first way to do this is, admittedly, a bit of a drag, but will help you and the crawlers. When you transfer images from your smartphone or computer, the filename is usually a number. “1286.jpg” doesn’t help you, or the search engine, know what’s inside the file. File names should be brief and descriptive such as, “cupofkittens.jpg”.

 

ALT Text Is Your Friend

ALT text is another way to tell search engines, and people, what your picture is about. When people who are visually impaired use the internet, the text on the page is read to them via computer. Unfortunately, the computer doesn’t have the imagination to describe the picture in the same way a human would. In order to make sure that the visually impaired can enjoy your website, use ALT text to describe the image. Good ALT text also helps crawlers know what the image depicts, which can help you get to the top of the search engine results page. The alt text for the picture above is “Two adorably tiny precious kittens sitting in coffee mugs.” In an SEJ.com article about optimizing photos, Jean Dion stated,

Verbosity might be your friend here, if it helps your readers to understand what the image is about.”

 

Descriptions AKA The Title Tag

According to Yoast’s article on images, the title tag is a good place for “nonessential information.” While it might not be vital for Search Engine Optimization, the proper use of the title tag is vital for your successful integration with social media platforms. Jean Dion notes in her article that the title tag contains the words which are displayed when Pinterest users pin your image. Title text is also the little box of information you see when you hold your mouse over a picture. Unlike ALT text, these descriptions should be succinct i.e. “kittens in mugs.” Be sure to check out Yoast’s ALT text and title tag article for more in-depth information. 

 

Great Captions

The use of captions isn’t just for witty Instagrammers. The combination of useful images with helpful captions arguably makes or breaks an article. Crawlers move through a page similar to a college student. They quickly skim for titles, headers, hyperlinks, images, etc. in order to get a general understanding of what the page is about. It’s important that the items that make up this summary are an accurate depiction of the content. Students and crawlers aren’t the only ones guilty of skimming. In 2012 KissMetric wrote that

“Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.”

 

Until computers catch up with us, we’ll have to continue to do some of the hard labor ourselves. Luckily, there are hosting services, such as WordPress which simplify optimizing your images. For those of you brave souls who do the coding themselves, there are plenty of tutorials like this one from w3schools to help you along the way. Please feel free to leave a comment, we’d be happy to answer any questions!

 

 

5 Tips to Help Google Find Your Website

It’s easy to get so caught up in Search Engine Optimization that you forget your target audience-the customer. When optimizing your website it is important that your content is easy to navigate for both crawlers and consumers. This article is going to give you the highlights of Google’s very own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, plus a few examples to help you get a headstart.

 

Tip # 1: Use descriptive titles!

The title of your page is the first line of a search result, make sure it is descriptive and concise. Readers don’t need a bulky 20-word title, but they do need a title that explains what the page contains. Make sure that your page titles are unique and specific. While the title to our article, “Spiders on the Web,” is clever, it does not specify what the article is really about. The title to this article is more helpful for crawlers and people alike.

Search engines look at page titles before they crawl through the content. Titles and headers are not the same and thus need to be coded differently.Titles are different from headings in that there can be multiple headings but there’s only one title. You can signal to a search engine that a heading is a heading by using the appropriate html coding.  There are plenty of tutorials online that will help with formatting headers and titles in html.

html_heading_tags

Image Source

 

Tip #2 : Use Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are a chance for you to advertise to potential customers and are incredibly important in generating click-thrus. This article by MOZ explains meta descriptions in more depth. Sometimes, search engines use meta descriptions as part of a search result. These meta descriptions should be short, about the length of a tweet, and compelling. Similar to titles, it is best if you do not use the same meta description for multiple pages.

meta-description-serp

Image Source

Descriptions are not the only meta tag you can use to specify information on your website. If you want to learn more this tutorial on author and keyword meta tags is quite helpful. In-depth explanations of Google’s meta tags can help you better understand all of your options.

 

Tip #3: Navigation

Make it easy for both users and crawlers to find content. If you use Searchable as an example we have a home page. This is the most visited page on our site because it is (usually) the first page people see. If you look up towards the top we have a menu bar, each item in a menu bar connects to a parent page, within those parent pages there are ‘child’ pages. This clear hierarchy helps search engines (and humans) identify the main themes of your website. It also helps consumers find more information relevant to those themes.  

 

Tip #4 : Hyperlinks

In our previous article about how search engines work, we mentioned that hyperlinks are crucial for your page’s visibility on search engine results pages. Search engines don’t just look at where you are linking, but also how you are linking. Anchor text is incredibly important when creating a hyperlink. The anchor text is the words that are underlined in blue. Try to make sure that the anchor text describes what information you are linking to. Google says to avoid using vague anchor text like, “this article” or “click here.” Don’t hyperlink a paragraph for your anchor text either. A few words should be enough for the crawlers to make the connection. It’s also important to remember that your real target audience is your customers, so anchor text should flow with the sentence instead of hindering the reader’s understanding. To learn more about how to take advantage of hyperlinks, read our article on link building campaigns.

 

Tip #5: Content is king

In their Search Engine Optimization guide, Google states, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factors.” Spelling and grammatical mistakes make it difficult for users to understand your content. That being said, proofreading is key. Clarity and simple sentence structure help readers of varying experience levels enjoy your website. Make your content worthy of  a “share” because the more links you get, the higher up you move on the search engine results page.

 

If you know of any websites that have utilized these tricks paste a link in the comment section below!