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Are CSS class names a good substitute for H1?

     
11:36 pm on Sep 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hey Guys,

Just wondering if Google gives the same weight to a CSS class name as it does to a H1 ie.

<p class="p_Heading1"><span class="f_Heading1">Blue Widgets</span></p>

as apposed to

<h1> Blue Widgets</h1>

What is the recommended way if you had to use CSS? Would google see that this is the primary heading?

Thanks.

Xraps

11:55 pm on Sept 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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No, it would be seen as just another paragraph of no importance.

The HTML elements: headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, forms, convey meaning to search engines as they try to understand the importance and relationship of all of the parts of your content.

If you need to style the heading just use the h1 selector to do that, or give the heading a class name and style that class.

[edited by: g1smd at 11:58 pm (utc) on Sep. 28, 2008]

11:57 pm on Sept 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The W3C standards [w3.org] state otherwise.

Why are you looking to not use the H tags?

12:00 am on Sept 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Otherwise of who? Me or OP?
12:32 am on Sept 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks to the both of you for the answer.

The reason is I have a help file with some great information in it which we wish to webarise. The program we use to create the help file has a default HTML output, but its output far from clean.

We want the pages to be as Google friendly as possible so we are starting to rewrite the way the application does the generation. The H1 issue is one of the harder ones to fix, but I think it would be worth the time spent getting it right now.

Regards,

Xraps

12:38 am on Sept 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Otherwise of who? Me or OP?
The op, you type faster than I do.
1:00 pm on Sept 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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People who design web pages, but don't know anything about SEO, never use any of the "H" elements. They seem like relics of the old-school 1990s web.

The purpose of Google is to not reward SEO tricks, and the use of "H" elements seems more like an SEO trick than a legitimate design practice.

1:20 pm on Sept 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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One's tool is another's trick.

I would think that missing <h> tags would be a flag of auto-generated content.

3:04 pm on Sept 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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*** use of "H" elements seems more like an SEO trick than a legitimate design practice. ***

Huh?

Headings are a core part of the HTML specification. Content is is supposed to be Marked up (that's the M of HTML by the way) as headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, and forms. That's the whole basis of HTML.

There's no trick, only those that would seek to stuff all their content into headings in some belief that that stupid "trick" would score the content higher.

A heading sits above, and introduces, the following paragraph, list, table or form, or several of those.

Why else would the W3C, of all people, have several articles about the correct usage of headings, and why would their HTML validator include an option to check the nesting and priority of your headings for you if it wasn't important?

Heck, W3C even have a semantic data extractor tool that parses headings and extracts data.

1:01 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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What about using heading tags as an alternative to alt= or info= in a <span> to place a keyword phrase describing an image in the CSS layout code?

What if this practice was used site wide?

The reason I ask is because I 'adopted' 2 websites where the developer implemented that practice. It just so happened that one of the sites dropped completely off the radar for the keyword that was in the behind-the-scenes heading tag (pretty much site wide) and I was wondering if that could be the explanation. The site still holds positions for other keywords, other than the one in the H tag appearing across the site.

At minimum, I realize it is not using the H tag as intended, at maximum, it is 'deceptive' and might warrant a penalty. What do you think?

Thanks,
Greg

5:26 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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At minimum, I realize it is not using the H tag as intended, at maximum, it is 'deceptive' and might warrant a penalty. What do you think?

I think you're right. There was a period of time about 6 years ago where the H1 tag was abused so widely that it became too noisy a relevance signal for Google to rely on. At that time, the H1 element counted the same as any other text - but the H2 tag still had some pop!

Google's algorithm has become much more sophisticated today. Properly used H1 tags can apparently be a good relevance signal. But misused or abused H1 tags are detected and ignored or even worse. I've seen sites put their Home link with an extra keyword inside an H1 tag sitewide - and then go missing in the SERPs for that keyword.

5:38 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Ted,

Does the H2 tag have good value with Google?

5:56 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Properly used, I'd say it still does. Always a good idea to code by the standards, any way.
6:01 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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you mean not putting in too many heading tags on a page?
6:07 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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""A heading sits above, and introduces, the following paragraphs, lists, tables, or forms""

-- Me, 2002.

9:42 pm on Oct 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Tedster - your experience with the keyword in the H1 tag to 'Home' site wide is exactly what happened (inadvertantly) with one exception...it was an H2 tag.

Interestingly, the site popped from #18 for months/years to #4 - 7 for a 3 week period for THE biggest keyword (which happened to be the one in the H2), and then completely gone. Now the page (homepage) is not in the Top 1,000, although it is 2nd/3rd page for the singular version of the keyword.

Thanks for the feedback guys. Looks like I have some re-coding to do.

Thanks,
Greg

1:34 am on Oct 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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This discussion prompted an idea about why one of my web sites, recently redesigned, had suddenly dropped in the SERPS and why an unlikely page with almost no content was the main page returned by google (Yahoo & MSN, no drop - still well listed). From the time of redesign to the time it dropped out was a few months.

The H1 and H2 tags has BR's inside to split the text (about 12 words in H1, about 25 in H2) into smaller lines to fit a small-ish niche in the site's header.

In order to colour the first line differently, to give more visual emphasis to it, I'd wrapped the first line in a span. The page that did "well" in google did not have a header, so no h1 tag, no span.

I've now removed the span. Hopefully this will boost the site back up the charts. If that IS the reason for failure then it seems odd, since span is usually allowed in block containers.

Does anyone know if BR in an H tag could cause a similar problem?

1:46 am on Oct 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Did it pass HTML validation?
7:26 pm on Oct 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Yes it passed. And I don't see any reason why it shouldn't.

If it makes a difference it's using DocType HTML 4.01 Transitional.

8:02 pm on Oct 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Using HTML 4.01 is good. There's rarely a need to use XHTML.
8:30 pm on Oct 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Does anyone know if BR in an H tag could cause a similar problem?

No, it doesn't. It gets indexed much like any word separator - space, dash, etc.

9:48 pm on Oct 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, Tedster. Very reassuring! :)