Since the inception of SEO, H1 tags have been thought to be an important factor for Google rankings. This is why you would always see keywords stuffed into titles. Google would recognize that the keyword was in an H1 title, and deem that website relevant to the search term.

Today I’m going to try and find out whether or not this has changed. I’ll be looking through the top results of 3 search terms, and see whether or not the H1 tags contain the keyword. Although we won’t be taking the off-page optimization into account, we will see the effect that H1 tags exclusively have on the rankings.

#1: How to Deal With Stress

After looking through the top 5 results of this competitive search term, I didn’t find the exact match “how to deal with stress” on any of the top 5 websites, except for the 5th result, which was an exact match. There was however, several partial matches of the keyword in headings. So if I didn’t find stuffed headlines, what I did find? Long, quality content. Hmm, it’s like Google wants quality content more than to see the keyword in a title.

#2: What to Do if You See a Bear

This search term isn’t quite so competitive, which means maybe these sites aren’t optimized quite as well as the “How to Deal With Stress” articles. But it doesn’t matter, because we are comparing apples to apples, and oranges to oranges. Anyways, ignoring the top result (which is a YouTube video), the #1 result does not include the keyword, or anything that close to it. It does however, have more than 1k backlinks. The next 3 results (#2-4) include a partial match of the keyword; What You Should Actually Do If You See a Bear, What Do You Do if You See a Bear, and What to Do (And Not Do) if You See a Bear. The 5th result is another result with not even a partial keyword match, other than mentioning bears.

#3: How to Invest in Stocks

The search results for this extremely competitive term is really interesting. After analyzing the top 5 results, it would seem that H1 tags still play a big role in search engine results. From #1-3, the exact keyword “how to invest in stocks” is in every H1 tag. Don’t get me wrong, the content length and quality of these 3 articles is absolutely supreme. That’s part of the reason why they are ranked so highly in the SERPs. For results #4 and #5, they use almost the exact keyword; “How to Start Investing in Stocks”.

Conclusion

So what have we learnt today? This information could be interpreted in several ways. If you’re trying to rank for a difficult search term, and you don’t have a DA95 website, it’s good practice to include either the exact keyword in your title, or a partial match. (e.g. if you’re trying to rank for how to play the flute, you could title your blog post How to Learn to Play the Flute for Beginners).

Are H1 Tags Still Important for SEO?

As we know, Google cares for the consumer the most. If you tailor your blog post for the consumer, Google will take note and reward you with rankings. As always, ensure you are writing quality, digestible content that people want to read first, and worry about on-page optimization second. I hope you’ve learnt something actionable today, and can use it to create great content that performs well in Google results.

As always, if you have questions, please head over to my homepage and fill out the contact form to get ahold of me.