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<H1> is the most important thing you want people to know about your site.
<H2> is a topic heading, like a chapter in a book.
<H3> to <H6> highlight important points that you want indexed.
They actually want you to pay? This should of been part of any developers proposal.
Sometimes people use <H> tags just for styling purposes. Their main use is for indexing. The styling goes along with the content (<H1> big ,bold, most important thing on the page)
They don't play as big a roll as they used to.
That's definitely true, especially on Google.
There are other reasons to have H1 tags - Google is not the entire internet (at least not so far ;) H elements ARE a part of the HTML spec after all. Long term, I think it is a good goal to get the modification made, but not to make an urgent need out of it.
However, Google and other search engines as well, are always testing to see what signals they can take from a page that are helpful. If they find that H1 returns to being a useful relevance signal, it can always make a comeback. In fact, that cycle did happen earlier in this decade.
h1=title of the specific page/document
h2=major section (you can have several)
h3=sub-section (of any major section)
and because some are really gabby and convoluted:
h4=sub-sub-section (of any major section)
h5=sub-sub-sub-section (of any major section)
h6, h7, etc.
I know I'll get arguments, but that's okay. The above is the way I do it... doesn't seem to bother our standings in the SEs...
The h tags lend themselves to easy css font styling and are often used in that regard. I don't, but many do. And the SEs have learned to ignore the original semantic reasons behind the h tags. Which only makes it more difficult these days. <h1> does not have the power it used to have as an SEO hint. Just my 2 cents.
But in the past they have also been abused for SEO purposes.
Because of that history of abuse by others and the possibility that Google may be on the lookout for seemingly aggressive changes for SEO purposes you might want to go slow on making the change.
Maybe just add the H1 tag to a page as the page requires other updating rather than add them to the whole site at one time, especially if it's a larger site.
At a 2002 conference, a Google engineer told me that H2 was still considered a good signal for relevance, even though H1 was not. Since then, the H1's value to SEO has been up and down, but never again as strong as it was in the early days.
As I said above, search engines will use any factor that works for them. Right now, H1 is not working all that well, and keyword in filepath is also not as good as it was. However, there is still reason to use these best practices. Your document may be online for a long time, and having those signals present if they ever become useful to some search engine can't hurt.
If a site's CMS and development architecture make it a major project to add H1 tags to the template, then it may not be worth the effort. But it still is good HTML, and the addition is worthwhile if it can be done without being a major resource drain.
But search engines have moved far beyond the old text match algorithms, so any punchlist forumula approach to SEO (one of these, two of these, etc) is not close to top shelf for today's SEO game.
What I don't get is why a developer (paid employee) would turn in incomplete work...unless they aren't all that in the first place! Just a reminder if you outsource code... get a resume and referrals from other customers of that developer before investing any money with that developer.
One of those live and learn experiences...