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February 27, 2023
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Why are Title Tag and H1 essential for SEO? Best Practice and Pitfalls

The Title Tag and H1 are essential for SEO and how Google will display your page in its search results.

Why are Title Tag and H1 essential for SEO? Best Practice and Pitfalls

Including the proper elements and headings on your website can greatly improve your SEO ranking.

One of the most essential elements is the H1 and the Title Tag.

Understanding how to use it correctly and avoid pitfalls is essential for SEO success.

In this article, I will explore why H1 and Title Tags are so important for SEO and the best practices and pitfalls to look out for. 

And review Google's guidelines for influencing the titles in the search results.

What are the Title Tag and H1?

Title tag and H1 are two critical elements of HTML used in web design and development.

Title Tag 

The title tag is an HTML tag that specifies the title of a web page. It is typically displayed in the browser's title bar and is also used as the title of the page in search engine results.

The title tag is vital for both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and user experience, as it provides a brief summary of what the page is about.

The title tag should be concise and accurately reflect the page's content.

It is recommended to keep the title tag under 60 characters to fully display it in search engine results.

Title Tags are not something that is visible to the user on the actual webpage, but they might appear in the browser tab name. 

From a technical perspective, the title tag element code is started with <title>

H1 

The H1 tag is an HTML tag used to define the main heading or title of a web page. 

It is typically the largest and most prominent text on the page and is used to convey the main topic or theme of the page.

The H1 tag is also vital for SEO, as search engines use it to understand the content of the page and its relevance to specific search queries.

From a technical perspective the H1 code is started with <H1>

In short, the H1 is what the users see in the actual webpage content. The title tag is something the users (besides in the browser tab) do not see and is more for search engines.

Google’s use of the term ‘Title’

And to make things even more confusing, Google uses the term “title” for the overall heading/titles of your page and calls the blue links in the search results “title links”. 

Title Links in Google search results

The title displayed in the search results is based on a combination of the “title tag”, “H1” and other elements on your website. More on this later in the article.

Aligning the title tag and the H1

While it is not strictly necessary for the title tag and H1 tag to be the same, it is generally recommended to make them closely related in order to provide consistency and clarity for both search engines and users.

Having the title tag and H1 tag be similar can help search engines understand the content of the page and improve its relevance for certain search queries.

It can also provide users with a clear and consistent message about the page's topic and what they can expect to find.

That being said, the title tag and H1 tag serve different purposes and have different lengths, so it is not always possible or practical to make them identical. 

It is more important to ensure that both tags accurately reflect the content of the page and provide users with a clear and compelling reason to click through to your website.


Examples of H1 and title tag

Still confused about the difference between the H1 and the Title tag?

Let's look at a couple of examples;

Example 1

Title Tag: Best Chocolate Cake Recipe | Delicious Desserts

H1: The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Recipe

In this example, the title tag provides a brief summary of the page and includes the website or brand name "Delicious Desserts".

The H1 tag is more specific and defines the main heading of the page as "The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Recipe". It provides more detail about the content of the page and what the reader can expect to find.


Example 2

Title Tag: Buy Shoes Online | Discount Shoes for Men and Women

H1: Shoes for Every Occasion

In this example, the title tag is more focused on the purpose of the page, which is to sell shoes online at a discount.

The H1 tag, on the other hand, is broader and defines the main heading of the page as "Shoes for Every Occasion".

It suggests that the page will offer a variety of shoes for different occasions and provides a more general overview of the page's content.


Our classic yoga example

If you want to go to a live website and see this in practice, you can visit Daily Burn and their page about yoga poses

Here the Title Tag of the page is “7 Beginner Yoga Poses | Daily Burn”.

The H1 is “7 Beginner Yoga Poses to Get You Through Your First Class”.

Google displays the H1 in the search results when searching for “yoga exercises”.

The Role of Title Tag and H1 in SEO

The title tag and H1 are two key elements in SEO.

The title tag helps search engine crawlers understand the context of your page, while the H1 helps readers quickly find the content they are looking for.

Example of titles being displayed in Google search results among the classic “10 blue links” we SEOs thirst for


By crafting concise, descriptive, and unique title tags and headings, you can help your website get found by more potential customers and have a better user experience overall.

A. Improving Rankings

As mentioned a couple of times already, the title tag and H1 play an essential role in improving the rankings of your website in search engine results.

By including relevant and targeted keywords in your title tag and H1, you can help search engine crawlers understand the context and relevance of your content, which can lead to higher rankings and more visibility in search results.

B. Increasing Relevance of Content

Both the title tag and H1 help to increase the relevance of your content by providing a clear and concise description of what the page is about.

This can help users quickly find the information they are looking for and reduce bounce rates, which can improve the overall relevance and authority of your website.

C. Increasing Click-Through Rates

Crafting compelling title tags and H1s can also help to increase click-through rates (CTR) from search engine results pages.

By providing users with a clear and relevant description of what they can expect to find on the page - and maybe even teasing a bit - you can encourage more clicks and drive more traffic to your website.

What does Google recommend and display?

Google also has some recommendations on best practice regarding titles and H1s.

In their Google Search Central they outline how best to affect how your page is being displayed in the search results.

Initially, Google used to rely on the Title tag when showing search results.

And as they started to switch to display H1s instead back in 2021 [link], it created a stir among SEOs.

Today the titles being displayed in the SERPs are dynamic and something Google created based on a range of different factors. 

They outline these as;
 

  • Content in <title> elements
  • Main visual title shown on the page
  • Heading elements, such as <h1> elements
  • Other content that's large and prominent through the use of style treatments
  • Other text contained in the page
  • Anchor text on the page
  • Text within links that point to the page


So if you want to influence the title links that appear on Google search results you should follow the best practices like writing descriptive and concise text, avoiding keyword stuffing, and branding your titles concisely.

Let's review these a bit further.

How to Optimize Title Tag and H1?

Here are some of the elements you need to consider to make your title tag and H1 as good as possible.

A. Write a Unique Title for Each Page: Creating unique and descriptive title tags for each page on your website is essential. 

This can help search engines understand the content and context of each page, which can lead to better rankings and visibility. It also helps users to quickly identify the purpose of each page and decide whether to click through to learn more.

Avoid non-descriptive titles like “Home”. 

B. Use Primary Keywords in Title: Including primary keywords in your title tags can help improve the relevance and visibility of your website in search engine results. It is vital to choose targeted and relevant keywords that accurately reflect the page's content and provide value to the user.

In most cases, you will actually start the other way around, with the keyword you have found through your keyword research and now wants to make great content for.

But even when adding keywords, it’s important that you do not keyword stuff as Google might consider it spammy;

Title text like "Foobar, foo bar, foobars, foo bars" doesn't help the user, and this kind of keyword stuffing can make your results look spammy to Google and to users.

C. Keep H1 Per Page: Each page on your website should have only one H1 tag, which should be used to define the main heading or title of the page.

And although John Mueller has added some confusion to this when he some years ago answered a question and stating that a page can have multiple H1s, the consensus among SEOs is still that you should only have a single H1 tag on your page for optimal optimization.

Having multiple H1 tags can confuse search engines and make it more challenging to understand the page's content.

Using the same title tag and H1 on multiple pages can lead to duplicate content issues.

D. Make Them Visually Appealing: While the primary purpose of the title tag and H1 is to provide relevant and descriptive content, it is also important to make them visually appealing and easy to read. Using appropriate font sizes, colors, and formatting can help make the tags more eye-catching and engaging. And ensure that Google also sees it as the main title.

If you make changes to your existing content and its title tags you can request that Google recrawl your site

E. Use the same language in both title and H1: Do not use English in the title and then another (Danish, German, etc) in the actual content. Even if you use non-Latin characters like Japanese or Arabic in your content, your titles should use the same.

F. Keep main keywords (we call it the “target keyword”) early in the title and close together as possible: This is good SEO practice and also ensures that it’s not cut off if the title is too long. 

As part of creating our title optimization tool, we evaluated hundreds of thousands of page titles and can confirm this is also apparent in rankings if this is followed.

G. Keep the title tag between 45-65 characters; Although Google states you can make them as long as you want, you want to make sure they are not cut off when being displayed (although this can sometimes be a tactic for teasing the user. This will be the topic for another post).  

And as some languages and characters differ in width it would be more appropriate to talk about pixel width, but we find it’s easier to provide guidance based on characters.

In our platform, you have a built-in tool for assisting and benchmarking titles from an SEO perspective [link]. It uses AI and is based on evaluating more than 300.000 titles.

Does the H1 title tag always have to be first on a page?

No, the H1 title tag does not have to be the first element on a page. It is important that it is used appropriately and placed in a prominent position on the page, but the exact location of the H1 tag is not necessarily important.

Generally speaking, the H1 tag should be the most prominent heading on the page, so it makes sense to place it at the top of the page for maximum visibility. 

Does Google show the Title Tag or H1?

Depends on the content and the search query.

Where Google earlier mainly relied on the Title Tag, it today uses a combination of factors to create a dynamic title to show in the search results.

Why are Title Tag and H1 essential for SEO? Best Practice and Pitfalls

+20 years of experience from various digital agencies. Passionate about AI (artificial intelligence) and SEO

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