When it comes to SEO, most small businesses know at least one thing for sure: that content needs to be optimized.

And if they do some research, they’ll know what keyword tools to use, how to conduct keyword research, and even how to optimize pictures on web pages. While this covers much of the on-page SEO process, a lot of business owners don’t realize that they’re missing out on another important element that needs to be optimized: meta tags.

A meta tag is, quite literally, the first thing that shows up on SERPs like Google when a prospective customer runs a search for something specific—such as something you’d have a separate regional or service page for.

And while you may have optimized these pages to perfection, if you missed out on the meta tags—you’ve got some work to do.

Why HTML/Meta Headings Matter

HTML headings highlight information that’s useful to prospective customers, bringing this information to the top. Optimizing these tags is important because user engagement is directly dependent on these tags/headings.

Most importantly, HTML headings are important in terms of pointing out the content hierarchy on your page, which SERPs like Google pick up on.

If you’ve written blogs, you know why sub-headings are used. They’re used to help bring structure to content pieces. That is also what HTML headings do, but for your web pages. There are 6 of these headings or less, running from H1 to H6. The topmost—that would be H1—is obviously the most important in terms of hierarchy.

Browsers, when displaying headings in the order of their hierarchy, use the difference in size to highlight which headings are more important. H1 headings, therefore, are the biggest in size. H6, likewise, is the smallest.

This code— <h1>Heading level 1</h1>—is generally used. And the end result is usually this:

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Heading 6

Note that you should never use HTML headings just to make text look larger—that might grab a prospective viewer’s attention, but will also add to your bounce rate if no valuable information is presented in the heading.

How SERPs Use H Tags/Headings

Google uses H tags to index and understand the structure of a page’s text. If it’s all a blob of text—not separated or differentiated—your chances of being indexed and ranking high are low.

Remember that Google (and other SERPs) are algorithms after all. They can’t very well guestimate the quality of your content without (a) quantifying it and (b) reading its structure and form. This is why SERPs rely on long-tail keyword optimization (quantifying) and on H headings (studying its structure).

Not only this, but the more well-structured and well-differentiated your content, the greater your web page’s chances of showing up in results on Google’s prized positions are. Let’s say, for example, that an internet user looks for:

And this article by The Guardian will show up:

And for good reason. Not only is the long tailed keyword perfectly optimized in the title, but the article itself (which you can read here if you want to) is well-structured, almost like a detailed FAQ page. Notice, for example, the difference in the size of the headings:

What the HTML Headings Do for Your Readers

As is the case with all SEO strategies for 2020 and beyond, Google’s algorithm isn’t the only thing you should be concerned about. Equally important—in fact, more important—is the reader. The audience has an attention span of a goose, and this structural strategy can help you make (a) user experience far easier for audiences since important information is in bigger and prominent text and (b) helps hook your reader’s attention to where you want it.

For example, let’s say an internet user is looking for car parts, and ends up on a website, but doesn’t have quite the time to read through all the content on the web page. A website like this one:

is sure to hook the reader’s attention immediately where it says “Warranties!” and “We Buy Cars!” Not only have you told the readers that you buy “new or salvaged” parts, you’re also giving them more important information: that you offer warranties and you also buy junk cars.

HTML headings, therefore, help your readers skim through your web page, and they might come back later to read in further detail. This is also, of course, productive in terms of boosting conversions and getting your prospective customers, not just in terms of organic traffic, but in real life.

Google has made a shift toward user engagement and experience as one of the major indicators of good SEO—and if small businesses get this right, they’re walking the right path.

What to Do

While, yes, it’s important to get your H headings right and to optimize them (especially for Google’s coveted rank zero), it’s also important that you:

  • Use them only where necessary. If there is no need for all 6 H headings, don’t use them. Don’t force hierarchies. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
  • Perform a full keyword research using a reliable keyword tool and use the best ranking keywords in your tags.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing. Google—and other SERPs—can pick up on mindless keyword stuffing. Not only will you not rank, but you might also be blacklisted as a spammy website.
  • Keep the headings relevant. Ensure that your headings are about what you have talked about.
  • Keep them simple and natural. Remember that you’re going for optimal user experience and ease here—overcomplicating them might add to an unwanted bounce rate. Readability is an important factor for high quality content.
  • Don’t use BOLD—instead, use heading tags to make headings stand out.
  • Don’t skip levels—it can confuse both the algorithm and the user.

Joseph Dyson is a small business SEO specialist for leading SEO services provider Search Berg, the author is an expert on SEO strategies, PPD and social media marketing for small businesses. He has helped several small businesses reach the heights of success through his insightful SEO strategies.

Html meta stock photo by photovibes/Shutterstock