I fondly recall my time living in Teton Valley, Idaho. I was doing the mountain-lifestyle thing and publishing a tourism magazine for the Yellowstone region. I used to receive tons of compliments on the design and content of the magazine. It felt really good but, after a couple of years of stagnating ad sales, the compliments began to ring hollow. I knew I was failing at getting the magazine in front of the audience that advertisers were expecting me to reach. But what does this have to do with maximizing SEO using the <H1> Tag?
I learned, then, that design and content are just two of the steps towards the goal. Build it and they will not come. Trust me.
Today, websites with great-looking design and great content are essential for success. Clients love them. Your team loves them. Even the gal who waters your office plants loves them.
However, what good is a great site if nobody can find it doing a web search? Failing to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is like listening to a joke without a punchline.
Failing to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is like listening to a joke without a punchline.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to improve SEO for your client Web sites. As a bonus, if you use this advise, you’ll avoid branding mistakes and improve your messaging at the same time.
There are many other ways to improve your SEO, but properly utilizing the <H1> header tag is one of the simplest to get results.
Maximize your SEO potential with the H1 Tag
One of the biggest mistakes made during the initial planning is not considering what the <H1> header tag should be. Ask your self, “What is the one keyword phrase your prospective customers might ask before searching for you or your services?”
What is the one keyword phrase your prospective customers might ask before searching for you or your services?
When you have the answer to that question, you will be better-equipped to come off with a strong visual concept that works with your H1 text. This should be addressed when you are working with the client to develop a plan for the site.
Without considering what the <H1> header tag should be, designers are often asked to drop a large client logo on top of, or adjacent to a hero image. This is very common with political clients.
Visually, this seems like a good way to introduce the candidate. But there are significant problems with this approach because you cannot apply the <H1> header tag to a logo.
The <H1> header tag is simply HTML text, formatted as a title or primary headline for the page. The <H1> header tag provides contextual information of your site to Google (and other search engines). When Google bots attempt to figure out the purpose of your page, and what types of keywords apply to it, they look to <H1> tags. The earlier in the page that <H1> tag is, the better.
When Google bots attempt to figure out the purpose of your page, and what types of keywords apply to it, they look to <H1> tags.
When your Development team codes a website design that has the client logo in the hero image header, they are forced to look farther down the page for headline text they can set as the page’s <H1> header tag. That secondary headline often does not include optimal keyword phrases. For example, that secondary headline might be “ABOUT John Smith”
In the case of sites for political candidates, the <H1> tag should include the candidate name, the seat they are running for, the state or district, and possibly even a key issue (e.g., “Introducing John Smith, Alabama’s Next Conservative Republican Governor,” or “As Attorney General, John Smith Will Restore Law and Order in Arizona.”)
If you are interested in a primer on writing good <H1> copy, check this post on how to write good SEO for <H1> tags.
Improve branding and messaging
By not including client logos in that hero space, you avoid the dreaded stacking logo affect. This occurs in a mobile environment when the logo in your main menu appears right on top of the logo you placed in that hero space. This ends up looking like a mistake to the user.
Being faced with this dueling logo dilemma, I’ve also seen some designers recreate the logo type with Google fonts, and applying the <H1> header tag to that text. You still might end up with stacked logos, except one of them would be a bastardized version of the real logo, which is a major brand faux paus.
Using the hero space to present an <H1> header tag allows you to improve your SEO, avoid visual branding mistakes, and present a strong brand statement that quickly implants the right message in the mind of the users.
Following this simple approach does not guarantee you will end up with good design and content, but it does ensure good SEO results. If you also want good design and content, I suggest contacting Arena!:-)
Scott Cullins began working for Arena as a contractor during the 2012 election cycle, and joined the company full time in 2020 as Creative Director, Special Projects.