Are H1 Tags Critical for SEO?

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In a recent “Google Webmaster Central office-hours” video John Mueller weighed in the subject to say that your site will be fine without H1 tags or with many H1 tags. Basically, they are not critical for Google Search.

However, he did say he would use them in the “proper” way on a page. As per usual, this sounds rather cryptic.

At 23:47 in his video from last Friday, he was asked:

” Is it mandatory to just have one h1 tag on a web page or can it be used multiple times?

This is how John answered:

So we we get this question multiple times as well. You can use h1 tags as often as you want on a page. There’s no limit. Neither upper nor lower bound. H1 elements are a great way to give more structure to a page so that users and search engines can understand which parts of a page are kind of under different headings. So I would use them in in the proper way on a page.

And especially with html5 having multiple H1 elements on a page is completely normal and kind of expected. So it’s not something that you need to worry about. And some SEO tools flag this as an issue and say like ‘oh you don’t have any H1 tag or you have two h1 tags.’ From our point of view that’s not a critical issue. From a usability point of view, maybe it makes sense to improve that. So it’s not that I would completely ignore those suggestions but I wouldn’t see it as a critical issue.

Your site can do perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags.

John Mueller

Basically what I take away from this; While H1 tags are not necessary for search ranking, using them to break up sections of text is a good practice. This is true for both search engines and for your readers as well.

If your content is structured in a way that is easily digested by visitors they will be more likely to read and engage with your content.

When we work with clients, follow best practices for all our onsite SEO, including H1 Tags. So, even though they may not be a critical issue, we recommend using them in the proper way as well.

After all, you’re not writing content just for search engines, you’re writing for the people that visit your site. If your content is structured in a way that is easily digested by visitors they will be more likely to read and engage with your content.

Here’s the video so you can hear John’s answer for yourself.

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