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H1 Headings: Over 50% of SEOs Doing it Wrong?

Half of SEOs screw up H1 headings.
Are H1 headings being used wrong?

There is disagreement regarding how to use Headings (H1, H2) elements, although Google guides about using headings, no one agrees on how to use headings. One informal poll on Twitter with nearly 2,000 votes showed that over half of SEOs do not know what Google recommends for headings.  @CyrusShepard conducted a poll asking what Google’s advice on multiple H1 headings was. Nearly sixty percent of the respondents stated that Google recommends only one H1 heading for a web page. In an office hours hangout, Google’s John Mueller said that publishers can use as many H1 headings as they want. He stated: “You can use H1 tags as often as you want on a page. There’s no limit, neither upper or lower bound. Your site is going to rank perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags.” “Our systems don’t have a problem when it comes to multiple H1 headings on a page. That’s a fairly common pattern on the web.”

Anecdotal evidence of heading use:

Anecdotal evidence suggested that there are also a lot of differences online regarding how headings should be used. Some of the SEO industry’s ideas have been around for quite some time. Others argue that John Mueller’s statement may not be entirely true. Some in the SEO industry will admit that Mueller said you can use more than one H1, but they will also still insist that an H1 Heading Over 50% of SEOs Doing it Wrong?is more important than an H2. That’s not true anymore. Early in the 2000’s, Google used headings to suggest what a website was about. Google also regarded the content at the top of the page as being more interesting as it gave another clue what the page was about since that was where writers usually made this statement. In the early 2000’s, words that were bold, italicized, and in bigger fonts (using the old HTML 4 Font tag) were also viewed as clues as to what the page was about. These ranking factors were part of the Google PageRank research paper published back in 1998 and in subsequent papers and announced by Googlers in statements.

Past and present Google practices:

 In the past, headings and other elements looked for clues as to what a web page was about. Google arguably began moving away from looking for such clues in 2012. A couple of years ago, Google announced the launch of Hummingbird, a more natural language search engine, that enabled users to compare objects by talking with the Google Search App and that relied more on real-world knowledge than clues. Google has advanced natural language processing so much that it doesn’t rely on clues to guess what a page is about anymore. In 2021, Google can comprehend what a page is about and relate it to a search query. That’s much more sophisticated than matching search query keywords to keywords on a web page. And that’s why Google’s Mueller has been telling the SEO community that it doesn’t matter how many H1 Heading Over 50% of SEOs Doing it Wrong?’s you have. Headings have only the function of communicating what a section of content is about. That’s it. This old 2001 method of giving Google a clue with keywords is not used anymore. Google does not use exact match keywords now, and natural language and artificial intelligence technologies help it understand what a page is about, especially if it’s well structured with heading elements.

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