H1 headings are important – or are they?

Some days ago, Google’s John Mueller published a video that created a lot of confusion about H1 heading tags. In the video, John Mueller said that Google can handle websites that contain multiple H1 headings, or no H1 headings at all.

Are H1 headings still important?

What exactly has John Mueller said?

John Mueller answered a question about website accessibility in the video:

“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.

We use headings to better understand the context of different parts of a page. Having clear semantically understandable headings is useful in understanding any given page.

However, we have to work with the web as we find it and a lot of it isn’t semantically structured at all for users. The difference is minimal. Both kinds of pages can be extremely relevant […]

Our systems aren’t too picky and we’ll try to work with the HTML as we find it. Be it one H1 heading, multiple H1 headings, or just styled pieces of text without semantic HTML at all.

In short, when thinking about this topic SEO shouldn’t be your primary objective. Instead, think about your users. If you have ways of making your content accessible to them – be it by using multiple H1 headings or other standard HTML constructs – then that’s not going to get in the way of your SEO efforts.”

Are H1 headings still important?

John Mueller has not said that H1 headings are not important. He said that Google can handle websites that have multiple H1 headings, and websites that do not have H1 headings at all. He also said that they were not ‘going to get in the way of your SEO efforts’.

John Mueller should have said that omitting H1 headings is not going to get in the way of your SEO efforts as long as your web page has other strong ranking signals.

Webmasters reported that removing H1 headings resulted in major ranking drops for them. Our own research confirms this. Having related H1 headings on your web pages increases the chances of getting high rankings for your keywords.

Hierarchical headings also make it much easier to parse the content of your pages. They also improve the accessibility of your web pages.

What should you do now?

H1 headings aren’t a secret weapon that will get your website on Google’s first results page. However, good headings contribute to the overall relevance of your web pages.

The other elements on your web pages also contribute to the Google rankings of your website. Use the Top 10 Optimizer in SEOprofiler to check if your web pages contain the right elements:

Check your web pages

Johannes Selbach

Johannes Selbach is the CEO of SEOprofiler. He blogs about search engine optimization and website marketing topics at "http://blog.seoprofiler.com".