A recent commenter mentioned that they didn’t ever use more than one H1 tag per page. This is something that I’ve typically done as well, but as I thought about why that was I realized that I didn’t have a good answer.
One H1 to Rule Them All?
So, is there the rule of one when it comes to using H1 in your content or doesn’t it matter how often you use it on a page?
I tend to use H1 for the main heading on the page, which typically equates to the page title. I wouldn’t use it for subsequent headings within the content of that page.
However, although the W3C is rather vague on this issue it does say that
Some people consider skipping heading levels to be bad practice. They accept H1 H2 H1 while they do not accept H1 H3 H1 since the heading level H2 is skipped.
Clearly this implies that you could use H1 more than once in an article. Unfortunately, I don’t really follow how you would implement this in a way that makes sense semantically — perhaps someone can advise me?
Interestingly, in the above quote the W3C seems to be impartial regarding the practice of skipping heading levels. I always thought it was a no-no. I guess it’s up to the individual.
Of Sidebars and H1s
When it comes to sidebars — for example, the lists of links in my right-hand sidebar — does it matter what level heading you start these with?
If you use an lower-level heading — say, an H2 — does it imply from a structural standpoint that this content is related to and subordinate to your main content?
Andy Budd seems to think so and I’m inclined to agree with him from a semantic standpoint. This is despite the fact that I haven’t followed this through in practice as my sidebar link lists start with H2s.
On the other hand, from an SEO perspective, do you want to use H1 for headings that are essentially unimportant.
Taking the SEO view, I should really be using H1 more in my content in order to apply more importance to certain headings (which I could then -stuff with keywords- optimize for search).
Of course, this raises the question of how many H1s you could have on a page before the Googlebot starts to think “hang on a minute…”?
H1 and Site Names
Many people (myself included for this site) use H1 for their site name. I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that, but I would certainly disagree with the notion that this means you can’t use H1 in your content thereafter.
Using H1 solely for your site name seems like a waste of this important tag, both from a structural standpoint and an SEO one.
Further Reading About Coding Headings
The proper use of headings — and H1 in particular — was a big topic a couple of years ago, (frankly, it started to seem a little like navel gazing), but nothing has been written about it more recently.
Here are a few articles to dig deeper into this topic: