How to Add Keywords to Headings for On-page SEO Success

By Kristen Geil

Recently, one of our clients asked us about how to best use keywords in page headings and subheadings. They were worried that they weren’t using enough keywords in their headings, but at the same time, they knew that “keyword stuffing” in headings could backfire. Just like Goldilocks, they needed to find a balance that was just right.

When strategizing how to best use keywords in headings, we have a few best practices to assure headings are optimized for on-page SEO:

 You should only have one H1 tag

Although it may be tempting to use the eye-catching H1 tag throughout your page, hold yourself to only one H1 tag. An H1 tag is usually the title of your page or blog post, and it’s the most emphasized text on the screen). Headings descend to H2, H3, etc., with each subsequent heading a little less visually significant than the one before it.

From an SEO perspective, it doesn’t hurt to have multiple H1s, but it can be confusing to both users and search engines. For example, if you have one H1 about “Deep Dish Pizza,” and additional H1s for sections about side dishes, Google will have a hard time identifying what the page’s primary topic is. 

From a user’s perspective, the H1 is supposed to be the title of the page. If there are multiple H1 tags, you might inadvertently confuse the user as to what the page is about. Remember, Google favors websites that optimize for user experiences. As such, we recommend formatting your site with 1 H1, and multiple H2s to separate subtopics and titles.

Aim to include a keyword in the H1 Tag- but put users first

You should try to include target keywords in your H1 tag to signal the page’s topic to both readers and the search engines. However, one of the big SEO trends this year has been “users first,” and this area is now different.

If it doesn’t make sense to include a keyword in your H1 tag, or if the keyword sounds awkward, you should reconsider. Keep in mind that anyone who visits that page will see the title. You’ll want it to read naturally, and as if a human wrote it- which hopefully, they did!

The keyword you use should be a variation of the keyword you’re targeting in the title tag and/or URL

Variety is the spice of life, and keywords too. The keyword you use in your H1 tag should be slightly different than the keyword you’re aiming for in the title tag and/or URL.

Focus on a message that will lead to conversions over rankings!

Once again, “users first” should be your motto. Write your content so that your H1 emphasizes a persuasive, user-friendly message, instead of keyword-stuffed headline that’s too many characters to be easily scanned.

Curious for more on page SEO tips? Check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, specifically Chapter Four: The Basics of Search Engine Friendly Design and Development.