How to Leverage H1 Headers and Title Tags for SEO

How to Leverage H1 Headers and Title Tags for SEO

When you develop online content, your HTML coding behind the scenes plays a big role in your search engine rankings, making Title Tags and H1 Headers all-important for SEO. Used correctly, they can increase your position in search engines. Used incorrectly, however, these tags can negatively impact rankings and even lead to penalties.

That’s why we’re dedicating an entire post to the topic. By the end of this brief explanation, you’ll know the difference between Title Tags and H1 Headers, and how to use them.

First, Let’s Define Title Tags & H1 Headers…

To be sure we’re on the same page, here are the actual HTML codes we’re discussing:

  •       Title Tag: <title>
  •       H1 Header Tag: <h1>

In a broad sense, the Title and H1 Header tags share a similar function, which is why confusion often stems between the two. The purpose of both is to contain the title of your webpage, but the two tags can contain two different titles.

The key difference between these tags is where their content appears. That difference impacts how search engines and web surfers analyze your page.

Title Tag: The Title Tag is known as a meta tag. For a quick refresher, check out “How to Write META Tags Properly”. This meta tag displays as the title of your webpage when a web surfer searches for a relevant keyword and then your page is listed in the results. It serves as the hyperlink that surfers will click on to visit the page.

Additionally, when a user visits your page, this title appears in the title bar at the top of the Web browser. Lastly, when someone bookmarks the page, the Title Tag provides a default bookmark title. Note that the Title Tag does not appear in the body of the webpage.

H1 Header: Conversely, the H1 Header does not typically show up in search engines, and instead appears within your webpage. Because it displays the largest text, the H1 Header tag is often used to create a title at the top of the page.

Title Tags vs. H1 Headers: Commonalities & Differences

Both tags should provide titles that represent the overall message of your webpage, so the best way to optimize Title Tags and H1 Headers is to write for your readers, while following SEO best practices.

Main Differences:

  •       Title Tags appear in search engines and the Web browser’s title bar
  •       H1 Headers appear within the body text of the webpage
  •       Search engines give more weight to Title Tags than H1 Headers

Common Best Practices:

  •       Use only one Title Tag and one H1 Header per webpage
  •       Include the page’s primary keyword in both tags
  •       Try to place the keyword early in both tags
  •       Use the keyword only once within each tag
  •       Keep both titles short (55 characters or less recommended)

How to Write Title Tags & H1 Headers

Ask yourself, when web surfers search for my keyword, what does my page title need to express in order to assure them that my page contains related content? Put that title in the Title Tag.

Now, when a user actually lands on your webpage, how will you introduce the page’s content? Put that title in your H1 Header tag. Title your essay, if you will.

Do this while following basic SEO best practices, and your HTML tags will please Google the way you want them to. To learn more about optimizing HTML header and title tags for SEO, look over the Content Optimization Services that we offer here at Volume Nine. If you have SEO questions, we have answers!


  • So, to make sure I understand. The Title tag refers to the site title – appearing at the top of every page or post – and the Header tag is the title of the content for each page or post?

    Is that correct?

    • Ahmed Y. AlGhatam

      No, the Title tag is what will appear on Search Engines (for each page). Header is what will appear inside that page as the Head of your content. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks Ahmed. Appreciate the response and the information.

  • Tabitha Hewitt

    Hi Ennis,

    Great question! The title tag refers to the name of the page you are on, not the entire site. For example, the title tag of this page is “Title Tags vs. H1 Headers: What’s the Difference | Volume Nine SEO ?” Title tags appear in search results when you Google something. See this example: The H1 tag is very similar to the title tag, and in some cases might even use the same exact wording as the title tag. H1s are just in a different place, and are looked at a little differently by Google. H1s don’t show up in a search result, but rather can be found in the page content itself. See this example: You do want to use the keywords you want to rank for in both title tags and H1s – and should be relevant to what your page is about. There are other types of header tags as well. H2, H3 H4 etc. All of these different types of header tags give Google more clues as to what your page is about, so it can display your page when people try to find content similar to what your page is about. See this example: You can also think of these differences as an html thing. You might notice that H1 and H2 are different size fonts. This is because it is programmed to look this way. I hope this explanation makes sense!! Please let us know if you have other questions.

    • I only just saw this but thanks for answering the question. Very helpful.

  • Andri Sepvhia
  • Heather Shoning

    Looking through a handful of your posts, it doesn’t look like you often use a separate H1, if ever. Is that because the blog automatically pulls the title as an H1, which would then create conflict if you used an H1 in the body of the post? I’m trying to find out if there’s a way to set up WP so that doesn’t happen, creating the opportunity for a true title and (different) H1 structure.

    • Sofie Predikaka

      Install the plug-in YOAST to your WP-account. That way you can write unique page titles and meta descriptions for all of your pages and posts in WP.

  • attached you image I think that let in h1 would be good since it would be the header?

  • Parrack

    I understand how to write a title tag. On my website I have a sub-page

    I’m having trouble writing an H1 tag for this page.

    The title tag is on line 19 and is: IRS Substitute Return

    Where should my H1 tag be placed and how should it be written? Something like: IRS Substitute Return (SFR) Problems? We have answers. (I cannot locate your own H1 tags to view as an example)

    Should the H1 be similar to what I have on line 282?

    This is tough for an old rookie like me. I’m already behind schedule with my content and H1/H2 changes for my SEO guys.

  • Lalu Irwan

    I have problem to write description and title tag is look like site title + tagline, how to edit manually the description in my theme without plugin? thanks my site

  • AB

    Hi Barb – great resource, thank you for posting it.

    I’m working on a website refresh for my current company and I’ve noticed we don’t have any H1 or H2, only Page Titles. I’ve heard many recommendations that we should add H1’s but when I did a competitor analysis for the top SEO websites such as MOZ, Search Engine Land etc. I found that none of them have H1 or H2.

    Our site brings about 15k users a month – do you think adding H1 & H2’s will impact our traffic or it will it just impact our user experience? And are there any % increase estimations that I can share with my team to support or reject taking on such a project?

    • Barb Dittert

      Hi AB,

      Yes, we absolutely recommend implementing h1s and h2s. MOZ and Search Engine Land use both. To find how they use theirs, go to a page, right click, and Ctrl+F for “h1” or “h2.” You’ll see that they do, in fact, use these across their sites.

      It’s difficult to give you a percentage of traffic increase, but we have seen rankings jump 1-3 places from implementing strategic H1s and H2s. So if your page is currently, #7, you could see some serious moment (assuming you other on-page elements are clean and optimized).

      Best of luck!

      • FMT Consultants

        Thank you Barb. I used a software called Screaming Frog for the analysis and also checked manually opening the source code using Ctrl+U

      • Adrian B

        Thank you Barb for the estimation and recommendations. As far as H1,2 tags for Moz, I did an analysis using Screaming Frog, also double check manually looking at the source code ctrl+u and could not find any H1 tag description, just an H1 class. Here’s a pic below:

  • So we can put The Page Title and The Punch Line . #Justasking

  • Charles Davis CEO Rescue Rehab

    One of our companies, Behavioral Health Network Resources specializes in addiction treatment marketing. We are seeking info on how to write hyper-local tags. More specifically on where and what info should be placed on H1, H2, and H3 tags. Do you have any knowledge you could share on this?