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Imagine you could not touch the H1, what restraint would that be?

 2:46 pm on Jun 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have the odd situation that I may not be able to change the H1 at all on pages on site I am working to get better ranked.

I can still change the title, meta description, H2, H3, and body text etc.

So how much damage might there be if I cannot make the H1 relevant?



 4:49 pm on Jun 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

here's the thing. "most" (using the term loosely here) blogs have the same site-wide H1

the consensus seems to be that if you have a site-wide H1, then G' moves to the H2 to find relevant info. I have even seen figures towards the effect that if you apply a category-wide H2 G' will take the H3 as a signal (or used to, the tests i am referring to are pretty old).

My personal opinion is that you shouldn't worry too much about not being able to change the H1. Just pretend it doesn't exist.

The only thing I have been able to show that google will actually use the H1 for is adsense - when it finds nothing else on the page to display ads for it goes straight to my H1 (which is also site-wide).

Just make sure that if the H1 is site-wide, let it be the same for the whole site and not change anywhere, otherwise you are going to have consistency issues, and I'm not sure googlebot is into that ;)


 6:47 am on Jun 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi gn_wendy, I didn't know that about blogs.

Well I have an interesting situation regarding the H1s on the site. I kind of thought that I cannot touch them, because they are placed in such a location that they only appear as mousover text to the Logo.

Why the site builders put them there I have no idea. And they are the same site wide. Incidentally, we rank very well for that term but unfortunately it is not relevant to our business.

However, just because they are "hidden" does not mean that I cannot change them. Perhaps a decent H1 might be all I need to get from page 2 SERPS to page 1. I am investigating changing them and unless it will break the page I will probably try it because it is logical to have meaningfull H1 statements and because it could help the terms on which I want to rank.


 7:01 am on Jun 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

In fact, we have a sitewide H1 and it says for example, "blue green widgets" which is actually not very useful for our business. But, we are in position 2 in the google serps for "blue green widgets" against About 7,320,000 results.

Perhaps I really should think of the killer term I want to rank for and sitewide change the H1 to that, instead of having each page a different H1.


 7:25 am on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ok, What are the risks ..

At the moment I have a sitewide h1 that says "blue green widgets". The H1 is not visible on the page, rather it is seen as you mouseover the logo. At the moment we rank #2 for "blue green widgets", there seems to be no penalty.

But we do not want to rank for "blue green widgets"

We want to rank for "yellow, red & orange wodgets"

What risk is there of a penalty if I change the sitewide H1 to a new sitewide H1 and that results in us ranking for what we want to rank for. Could we be reported? could there be some auto penalty?

What are the risks?


 8:03 am on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's what I see - the H1 element has very little extra punch today, whether it's used properly or not. It has been too severely abused by too many for Google to give it much power as a relevance signal, at least on its own.

If there is a strong semantic relationship to the title element, an H1 can act as a reinforcing signal but it is not a primary signal any more, it's just more visible text on the page. It still makes good sense to use it properly - it gives the page structure.

If I were frozen out of changing the H1, then I'd probably use the H2 for a visible heading and make it coordinate beautifully and uniquely with each page's title element. But not until I raised all kinds of trouble to get access to the actual H1 -- and even then, under very strong protest.

What are the risks of hyour plan? Probably nothing major, just a missed opportunity to create a properly structured website and sending the signal that says "hey, we're a technically casual bunch over here at example.com - you can't really take us too seriously". However site-wide changes can sometimes trigger a penalty, or at least a temporary filtering, depending on how strong the established trust is for the site.


 8:10 am on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi tedster, thanks for coming back on this. I could modify all pages on the site to move the H1s from where they are out into the visible text of the page where they should be, but for this site I am tied to a developer who wants to charge quite a lot for doing this, as we are considering a new site, we are not overly keen on spending lots of money more on this old one.

My alternative (to make progress in rankings) is to sitewide change the H1 where it is and hope there is no penalty. We do rank very well for the terms in the H1 at the moment against 7million other pages, but they are not terms that are important to the business.

If you found another site outranking yours by using a keyword stuffed sitewide hidden H1 tag, would you report them?


 9:17 am on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

If there is a strong semantic relationship to the title element, an H1 can act as a reinforcing signal but it is not a primary signal any more,

Just to interrupt quickly...

Tedster: Would you have the H1 tag the SAME as the title tag, or would you have a "semantic variation" on the title tag? (Understanding that you already said the H1 has lost a lot of its punch already)?

So if the title were:

Black Sandstone Imported Widget

What would you use for the title?


 9:17 am on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

I meant, "what would you use for the H1 tag?"


 12:44 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi Planet13, perhaps tedster will come back but I would say that I usually have the important key terms in the title and would usually want to reinforce them in the H1 being as the H1 is usually the visible title to the page, except in the odd incident I am referring to above.


 1:47 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Perhaps I really should think of the killer term I want to rank for and sitewide change the H1 to that

Tweaking a sitewide term that is a link to the home page has proved to be disastrous in the past in terms of Google penalties. You might face similar problems changing an unlinked h1. You might not.

When you don't know exactly where the line is drawn you're guessing as to whether you'll step over it. With these penalties in the past it was the CHANGE that made Google suddenly take notice, not the fact that you had a sitewide SEO-d element.

If the ranking you have isn't much use then I personally woudl play it safe and properly structure the pages with the aim of achieving more relevance to multiple related phrases across the whole site, and put your new trophy term on the home page only.


 1:58 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi FranticFish, you are making me a tad nervous. The sitewide H1 does not link anywhere but it, to a knowledgeable observer, is not where it should be.

Thus my tweaking it to my advantage could be deemed as cheating, and perhaps my competitors might report me if I / when start appearing above them.

I think I would prefer to restructure the page, I would prefer to be whiter than white, but my boss does not really want to put more money into this site.

Don't quite know what to do. At one point it looked the obvious most logical next step to take (the sitewide change) but now I may have to find some other way to boost my rankings.


 4:25 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Probably you could try having a new h1 for the new set of pages that you may release going forward while you retain the current h1 for existing pages.


 5:13 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Forget being reported for outranking someone by tweaking your text. It's your site, it's your text. You're not thinking of keyword stuffing / hiding... and even if you were, Google says that they never act on reports individually, only use them to tweak the algo.

The risk is the algo slapping you. An algorithm doesn't judge intent. That can work against you. Sitewide changes are flagged. Home page link? Definitely. Footer links? Definitely. h1? I don't know, but personally I'd not risk it.

The sitewide change could work out fine; just be aware that for some, they haven't. Even other people's experiences can't help you much here IMO because I often get the impression that two sites could do the same thing and see different results because of differences in things like on-page KWD, number of pages, link profile. I believe that Google weighs many factors even when considering what is over-optimisation.


 5:15 pm on Jun 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't understand what the issue is, technically. Do you not have access to the CSS file?


 7:16 am on Jun 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

tedster: I don't understand what the issue is, technically. Do you not have access to the CSS file?

Unfortunately on this site I don't have access to anything. An original builder, made the site some years ago and now we are working with a web company who want quite a lot of money to change pretty much anything.

The pages seem built from a series of SSIs, one of which for the top of the page (the header bit) includes the H1 in a position where it acts as mouseover text for the logo. Effectively it is keyword stuffing (or could be) for the logo image. Hence also, because it is an SSI, it is the same sitewide.

I have no idea why the original site builders did this.


 1:00 pm on Jun 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

We have decided due to the importance of google to our website traffic and resulting business that it is not worth the risk to play about with what is effectively hidden key word stuffing on our site.

We will leave the hidden H1 tags as they are and I will have to find other ways to improve the rankings.


 8:08 am on Jun 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Same sitewide = credited on one (or a handful at most) page. I think Google is good at extracting what's different on every page and ignoring the rest. You're probably getting no value whatsoever from the H1 tag as you describe it.


 7:14 pm on Jun 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

You're probably getting no value whatsoever from the H1 tag as you describe it.

Except that we rank #2 out of 7 million pages for the phrase that is currently the sitewide H1.

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