If you aren’t sure what header tags are, these are tags in HTML used to create…well…headers. They have a range in size, and can be used for header and sub-headers. Header tags are signified by the <hx> syntax, ‘x’ being a number from 1 – 6. Example as follows:
Please note: I used an image instead of actual header tags because the header tags are changed for my blog with CSS.
As you can see, the largest of the header tags is the H1 tag, and the smallest the H6.
Normally, we would use these at the top of pages to let our visitors know what the page is all about. And so, the thought is, if we have a header, explaining what a page is all about, then a keyword in said header would count for a lot in our on-page SEO efforts. The debate comes from those that believe that abuse of the headers, much like the keywords tag, has forced the search engines to discount the keywords in them. There are even some who say the use of headers is needless in any fashion. I strongly disagree with this thought due to a little experience.
Long before I was an SEO, and before I realized I haven’t the talent needed, I aspired to be a writer. I wasn’t sure of what type, but I loved to write. It was common to use a larger header at the top of a paper to signify what the paper was about, and further use the sub-headers to describe the coming paragraph or section. It only seems logical that we should do so for our websites, to help our visitors navigate.
That being said, SEO isn’t an afterthought for me with regard to headers. But because I believe in quality content, I don’t even have to put much thought into “SEOed” headers. Think about it. If you are writing about a certain subject, and you are creating quality content, and you make use of headers in the way we were taught in school, wouldn’t you end up naturally using keywords in your headers? (the answer to that question is “yes”).
Now, this isn’t to say we won’t tweak header now and then to target the right term with a little more specification, but it is to say we don’t stress over them. As for their SEO benefit?
Sure, they may not be the number 1 factor in on-page optimization efforts (that I can certainly agree with), but in this field, every point counts. If we are going to be creating quality content, and we will likely be making use of headers anyway, might as well give them an SEO eye real quick.
The thing to remember is this. Headers (and any other element on your page) will work because they stand out against the rest of the text on that page. If we over-do it, then the headers will mean less.