Header and Subhead Tags
Header tags (for example, H1s, H2s, etc.) serve an important function for search engines and users alike. They outline the content on a page in an easy-to-read structure.
Our SEO Office Hours notes below compile Google’s own advice, explanations, and SEO recommendations for dealing with header tags on your website.
Learn more about SEO best practices for website content in Lumar’s Website Intelligence Academy.
Google doesn’t have set restrictions on page title length
John confirmed that Google doesn’t have a strict character limit for page titles — or even any guidelines on title length from a ranking perspective. Google may choose to truncate or even alter the page title you provide, but this has no impact on rankings themselves. It’s also recommended to include relevant words from the title in your URL string, but again this is more for the user experience and isn’t taken into account as part of ranking algorithms.
Bolding important text in a paragraph does help SEO
This point came up from a recent discussion about whether using bold text in a paragraph can help SEO. John confirmed that, essentially, this is true (and mentioned that Matt Cutts made a video about this back in 2012). Google tries to understand the content on a web page and, as part of that effort, tries to understand what is being emphasized through elements such as headings or emphasized text elements on a page.
Bold text has a little bit more value than plain text because it’s a clear sign that you think this word or paragraph is key for the page’s topic. But the bold text included on pages normally aligns with what Google finds out from the content itself anyway, so ultimately it likely doesn’t have a big impact. When using bold text, you are essentially marking out important points of the page and using semantic HTML to give more meaning to certain words by using the proper markup. While it may not have a major impact, John says yes, using bold text can help SEO insofar as it helps Google to better understand that paragraph or that page.
Including meta name=”robots” content=”follow” Has no Impact on Search as it is the Default Value
Using meta name=”robots” content=”follow” has no impact on search as this is the default value and Google essentially ignores it. Apart from adding a very minimal amount of additional HTML to the page, there is no value in removing it apart from avoiding running into the same question again in the future.
Using Noindex Header Tag Will Not Prevent Google From Viewing a Page
Including a ‘noindex X-Robots-Tag’ HTTP header directive on a sitemap file will not affect how Google is able to process the file. You can also include this directive on other documents such as CSS files, as it will not affect how Google views them, instead it will just prevent them from showing up in a web search.
Heading Tags Are Not a Critical Ranking Factor
Headings are used to help Google better understand the context of pages and are not something John sees as a critical ranking factor, particularly for the homepage as this will usually rank for the brand name anyway.
Multiple H1s Shouldn’t be a Big Issue if You Are Using HTML5 Specification
As multiple H1 tags is a normal element found in HTML5, Google will try to take this into consideration and John doesn’t think it would be a huge problem. It’s more important for Google to be able to identify which parts of a page are primary content and which parts are more secondary.
Website Owners Don’t Need to Specify What Google Should & Shouldn’t Render
Website owners don’t need to implement anything on their sites that would tell Google what is unnecessary to render, as it should be Google’s job to figure this out. Being selective and not rendering particular elements can also cause problems for a website.
Use X-Robots-Tag HTTP Header to Noindex Indexed Sitemap Files
If sitemap files are indexed for normal search queries, then you can use the X-Robots-Tag HTTP header to noindex all pages ending in .xml or .gz.
Google Only Accepts Rel Alternate Links in Head Section
Google doesn’t accept rel alternate links returned in the response header, they are only accepted in the head section of a page.