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Some background: I am a rank amateur, an adminstrative asst. working for a very small consulting firm that has a nice simple website.Our site is rich in content, with many helpful articles related to our field, but we are not ranked on Google. So I am trying to figure out why and learn what we are doing wrong. H1 tags have been mention on Google and here, but I don't know what they are.
So can anyone help me understand what H1 tags are and how to employ them effectively (and properly?) Or direct me to a text or site that explains them?
Thank you so much.
Now the keyword phrase is huge, and google knows that huge things are pobably titles, and titles have what the page is about, so it adds more weight to that title and the keywords in it. (FYI< bold, italic, and other modifiers are weighted as well).
BUT, H1's are huge, and usually to big for my designs. when you add that code, you'll see what I mean. But, by adding a css class to it, you can make it whatever you like. Then your lead H1 tag will look like this <h1 class="title">keyword phrase</h1>. The title class should be defined somewhere else. For more on that search for CSS on this site, or for "CSS tutorial" on the web... there's tons of them out there.
<font face="verdana" size=+1>Title</font>
Size=1 through 3, then +1, +2, etc for large text.
And as deft_spyder mentioned, if you use bold or italics, there is a slight edge as well.
I'm trying to figure out what exactly are H1 tags?
They're for marking section headings. <h1> </h1> normally enclose the document title, <h2> </h2> normally enclose titles of major sections of the document, <h3> </h3> normally enclose titles of sub-sections, etc.
At least, that's what they're *supposed* to be used for. Some people use them purely for emphasis type effects, which is misusing them in my opinion.
<h1> </h1> in particular come into play with optimizing for search engines, because Google (and probably other search engines) tends to favor keywords inside those tags. The principle here is that words in the title of a document are likely to be particularly significant as indicators of the content of the document. After all, if you've written a report about potatoes, you're not likely to call it "All About Carrots". :-)
I think Google also gives some extra weight to keywords in the section headings <h2> </h2>.
I am not convinced that Google would use such a visual approach. It seems much more sensible for Google to just look for H1 [w3.org] elements and assign them a higher value.
And just because most browsers display h[1-6] elements in a larger font as a default is no sufficient reason to claim that it has to be this way.
HTML is about structure not about style. Any claim to the contrary is plain rubbish.
I you follow the guidelines for proper use of html you will find that you have created an optimal document for Search Engine spidering. Creating a document that works well for the sight impaired can help as well (I think I read that over at Inktomi).
Yes, I was following the path she would take as a beginner in using the H1. Shes going to add it, cringe at what it just made her page look like, and ask what she can do about it. I aticipated her dilemma.
"And just because most browsers display h[1-6] elements in a larger font as a default is no sufficient reason to claim that it has to be this way."
Right after I said what H1 looks like by default, I explained how it "doesnt have to be this way" by using CSS.
"HTML is about structure not about style. Any claim to the contrary is plain rubbish."
HTML is structuring style elements. If you think that the method in which you display just text isnt a style in the first place, you're mistaken. Modifiers like font, size, color, are all style tags. Even term papers fall into style forms. Heck, C. Style S. wouldnt have been created if someone didnt want more control of the styles in their HTML... the trick is using html, structuring good UI, and style style style (because users notice (buy) style, use UI, and never the two shall be reversed.)
Now, google viewing HTML is another thing. But, by adding weight to H1, they admit they are taking into consideration style and style tags, whether we make the H1 1px or not.
HTML uses tags such as <h1> and </h1> to structure text into headings, paragraphs, lists, hypertext links etc.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a simple mechanism for adding style (e.g. fonts, colors, spacing) to Web documents.
Markup is not style. It's structure.
Any thoughts? Are there any ways to optimize the headings ethically?
Most certainly not. All they are taking into consideration is structure and structural markup.
>>Modifiers like font, size, color, are all style tags
If that were true then there would have to be font, size, and color elements. But with the exception of the deprecated FONT [w3.org] element these do not exist since HTML is about structure not style.
>>Heck, C. Style S. wouldnt have been created if someone
>>didnt want more control of the styles in their HTML
I donīt think so. CSS [w3.org] was created to have more control over the style of a document marked up in HTML.
You seem to imply that creating CSS [w3.org] proves that HTML is about style. Quite the contrary is right though. Had the W3C [w3c.org] percieved HTML to be about style they would just have added more style elements to the language. However, as we all know, they developed a separate language: CSS [w3.org].
OMG Google what have you done? - This is ridiculous, you've got everyone and his dog so scared of being penalized that they're questioning valid markup and style! (nothing personal intended)
Ethical? - Ethics don't even come into it.
You've got the wrong end of the stick. If your worries were justified I'd be just as worried about changing the font face, the font size, putting stuff in tables, using lists and hell, writing html.
Take a trip round the w3c, the browsers and css forums here and ditch these concerns of yours, they'll kill your work and ruin your sites.
And try not to let the Google paranoia machine swallow you up ;)
edit - Nick you posted just as I did. Do I have this right? I should forget worrying about H1 tags and just go with the CSS.
[edited by: annej at 8:59 pm (utc) on April 1, 2003]
andreas - I understand what you mean by html being structural, but with the font, color, size, and all other tags that control how it appears, I believe some attention to style was there.
I think CSS was the successful attempt to keep html out of the style arena, and the deprecation of font as the reversal of style infecting html.
But the real point I was making is that even in a format where structure is the only focus, style still pervades in whether you chose to use a certain nav, how big your headers are on each page, do you use sub headers, how you anchor things.... this I consider style. perhaps our differences are in our definitions of the word.
Then again, I'm a graphic designer first, so you know my world skew... I mean view.
[edited by: deft_spyder at 9:00 pm (utc) on April 1, 2003]
A pages header is important enough to have weight in any SE's algo, as it does on a term paper. Making that look right is a webmasters job, and should never be penalized.
I just had an aha! moment. I can see now your differentiation between the style and structure. I think I had in incorrect understanding of what exactly the different headings are for. Thanks. . . Im still learning.
>>This is ridiculous, you've got everyone and his dog so scared of being penalized that they're questioning valid markup and style!
Thanks for your input (nothing personal taken) and I totally agree, we shouldnt let the google paranoia rule, but my concern is not about being penalized so much as the ethical considerations of what I do on my site. I can see now that what I was concerned about was based on an incorrect understanding of the structure vs. style thing, but I do believe that ethics play a role apart from simply being penalized for something. I know we all wish other sites would play by the rules, so Im just trying to make sure I do too!
[edited by: killroy at 11:22 pm (utc) on April 1, 2003]
The purist, academic approach says that one, single HTML document has one, single H1 tag -- and that this H1 is always the FIRST H tag on the page.
Now whether the Google algorithm considers this an error, who knows. But sound document structure does DOES consider it an error. And statistically, if you use more than one H1 tag on a page, then you're undermining the force of your MAIN heading for the page. You're competing with your own content and saying that the page is about two different things.
If you really feel a page needs two H1 tags, then that content probably needs to be two different pages.
Another error that the W3C test suite underscores is improper nesting. The next H tag in a document (after an H1 tag) is an H2 tag, and nothing else. As the subscript numbers of your H tags increase, they should always increase by 1. They can decrease by any amount, except that returning to H1 is not good document structure.
At any given time, it may be possible to cheat an algorithm somewhat by using structurally incorrect markup. In years past, there were all KINDS of holes like this. But those cheats eventually stop working and some may even end up penalized. Proper document structure should always help, and in the future, it should help even more than it does now.
Sometimes I think the W3C should issue a formal apology to the world for HTML 3.2. That version was the source for much of this chaos involving presentational, style mark-up within HTML.
With HTML 4 the error began to be corrected, but many people picked up the impression that HTML was supposed to be (or was going to be) a layout program/language.
As many have stated so well above, presentation and structure can now be elegantly separated. If Google or any other search engine wants to consider presentational elements in their algorithm, then they do so at their own risk.
I say, make your document's structure communicate what your page is about. Use true <p> tags, true <li> tags, true <h1> tags, and so on. Style your content in whatever way helps the document communicate to the User Agents you are targeting. You will succeed, and there's no cheat about it.
Run your page through [validator.w3.org...] making sure that you tick the Show Outline option first. Scroll down past the error list and then inspect the results under the Outline title. If it does not look like a structured and condensed summary of your page, then you are abusing the tag.