Improving the search engine visibility of your website for more favorable page rankings involves many interrelated factors. As introduced in Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Optimization, the criteria by which search engines rank webpages is very complex. Search engine algorithms consider dozens of factors as well as the importance of each factor to determine the relevance of any particular search term.

Along with the quantity and quality of inbound links, keyword text is among the most important factors, giving search engines a direct means to analyze and understand your site’s content. Including plenty of useful and keyword-rich text on your website is a good start, but you can maximize the impact of important keywords by placing them strategically within certain elements of your website’s HTML code structure.

It All Starts With The Code
HTML code forms the foundation of your website and HTML tags are the building blocks of that foundation. HTML tags function as containers for segments of content and the resulting structure of tags helps to make the content of your website meaningful to visitors and search engines alike.

Each type of HTML tag represents a different type of content. Some tags are for general text content, some are for links, some are for images and some tags are generic containers for just about anything. Headings are commonly used HTML tags and are particularly important for search engine optimization. Just as the headlines of a newspaper present a clear description of an article’s main topic, heading tags indicate the main topic of a section of content, ideally using relevant keywords.

Heading Structure
Together with heading keyword content, heading structure is important as well, reflecting the relative significance of each heading to the page or section as a whole. Proper heading structure requires that headings (both code and content) form an organized and logical sequence of topics and subtopics, each describing a subset of the preceding heading. As part of a cohesive sequence, each heading contributes to a complete and detailed outline of content.

Keyword Impact
It’s easy to see why search engines lend additional weight to keywords in headings. Used correctly, HTML heading tags are a reliable indication of words and phrases relevant to your site’s content and search engines use that to formulate more useful search results. Optimizing your website’s code to include properly structured heading tags often requires only small changes, making it an easy but effective way to boost search engine visibility. While reorganizing entire heading structures can become more involved, in many cases it’s simply a matter of changing the tags used around existing heading text.

Keep in mind that attempts to artificially inflate the search engine visibility of your website’s headings with gratuitous keyword content can actually have a negative effect on search engine page rankings. Your best bet is plenty of good quality text content using naturally occurring keywords in headings tags as part of a logical content structure. As with the rest of your SEO campaign, this will make your website more useful to visitors and in turn, highly visible to search engines.

New Rules For HTML5
Traditionally HTML documents have been limited to a single heading hierarchy - one <h1> tag with further content structured under appropriate <h2> tags, <h3> tags and so on. As the highest level heading on the page, the <h1> tag often became a duplicate page title, describing the overall topic of that page. Acknowledging the need for more flexibility and detail, the current HTML specification (commonly referred to as HTML5) allows not only multiple uses of the <h1> tag but a variety of organizational configurations.

HTML5 now allows multiple separate heading tag hierarchies on each page and even heading hierarchies nested within one another. This new structure opens use of the <h1> tag to the main topic of any major section of content, including the page as a whole.

These new options reflect the ongoing evolution of the way we use the web and are particularly useful for major pieces of content that are equally relevant on their own or as part of a larger composition. A blog for example, might include several articles on a single page. With the more flexible heading rules of HTML5, each article or blog post can be structured with it’s own internal heading hierarchy. This creates a more readily portable code structure that’s ideal for commonly syndicated content.

If you’re curious about more on search engine optimization and coding for SEO, check out our blog posts Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Optimization and Coding For SEO - Search Engine Visibility From The Inside Out.