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H1s and SEO: What’s Changed and Why

Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, recently made headlines in the search engine optimization community with remarks on H1 tags:

You can use H1 tags as often as you want on a page. … Especially with HTML5, having multiple H1 elements on a page is completely normal and kind of expected. …Your site can do perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags. 

These comments generated chatter because, for a long time, SEO professionals recommended using a single H1 heading on each page to help search engines understand the content on the page.

Part of the reason things have changed is HTML5, which introduced new ways of tagging content that make it easier for search engines to understand pages with multiple H1 headings.

At the same time, Google’s machine learning algorithms can now better understand the semantic content (the meaning) of a web page even if H1 headings are absent. But that doesn’t mean you should stop using H1s.

Two Reasons to Keep Using H1 Headings

Here’s why recent changes should not deter content and web developers from using H1s:

1. H1 headings help people visiting your website understand the main topic or topics of your content. It’s important to have proper H1 headings and — when needed — H2, H3 and H4 subheadings on your pages. Even if search engines don’t rely as much on these heading tags to understand the meaning and hierarchy of content on your page, people still will.

2. H1 headings and other heading tags (H2, H3, etc.) are very important for web accessibility and compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Screen readers use heading elements to understand the beginning and end of content on a web page. Without these headings, screen readers will not properly interpret the content on the page.


If you have any questions about Google’s latest updates or would like to optimize your site for SEO and ADA accessibility compliance, we’re happy to talk. Please contact Glen Doss, VP, Strategy and Business Development, at