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Why Keywords In Meta Titles And Headings Are Important

July 31, 2019
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written by Amber Dawson
Copywriter

Adding keywords to meta titles and heading tags is still important in SEO and could make a difference to your rankings.

TL;DR

  • Meta titles and H1 tags are easily confused because they share the same broader purpose.
  • A meta title is the hyperlinked text that you click on in the search results.
  • An H1 tag is the largest text you’ll see on a page so typically the headline.
  • 80% of the first-page search results in Google use an H1.
  • Getting them right will help improve your performance.

Paying attention to your HTML tags can improve your SEO performance.

But advice on whether you should add keywords to headings and meta titles has been misinterpreted in the last couple of years. Here’s a quote from Roger Montti for Search Engine Journal’s Complete SEO Guide 2018:

“It’s a fact that keywords are no longer necessary or mandatory to be present in the title tag or in heading tags (H1, H2, H3) in order to rank in the top five of the search engine results pages.”

And here’s John Mueller saying a similar thing:

“Your site is going to rank perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags.”

Whilst this may be technically true, it doesn’t mean it’s good practice. In fact, we’ll go ahead and say it’s a pretty terrible thing to do.

Of course, John wasn’t advocating to use five H1 tags as a practice (or none at all) but the point of keywords is to quickly and easily tell whoever’s looking, whether it be a human or a bot, what your page is all about. By taking them out, you make things harder for everyone, and why would you want to do that?

If you want a broader overview, you may want to read what SEO is and how it works first.

For now, let’s get into the difference between a title and heading tag and why keywords are important.

The Difference Between A Meta Title And An H1 Tag

Meta titles and H1 tags are easily confused. They share the same broader purpose: to describe what the webpage is about.

This also isn’t helped by the fact a lot of content management systems are set up so that they automatically match the title and H1 tags. This is often because it cuts out a step and helps streamline the SEO process.

But, if you’re paying attention to SEO to compete in the rankings, making the most of the subtle differences can play to your advantage.

Heading and title tags offer valuable space for you to answer the questions people are searching for. By making them the same, you’re limiting what you rank for. Let’s clarify what’s what before we go any further.

What is a meta title?

A meta title is the hyperlinked text that you click on in the search results. It also shows at the top of a tab and it’s used as the default text when you save a page as a bookmark. Check below for a meta title example.

Also, if you look at the HTML source code, you’ll find it at the top between two <title> tags. Try it now!

Title tag

What is an H1 tag?

An H1 tag is the largest text you’ll see on a page so typically the headline (for this article, it’s “Why Keywords In Meta Titles And Headings Are Important”). It should explain what your page is about. It doesn’t appear in search engines.

The main reason it’s important to have keywords in titles and headings is so that both Google and your users know what it is they’re looking at. Googling something wouldn’t prove all that helpful otherwise; you’d be faced with a lucky dip results page where you couldn’t be sure what you were clicking on.

Why Keywords Are Important

80% of the first-page search results in Google use an H1.

Why?

Because they make it clear what your page is about. And that’s exactly what top-ranking pages tend to do.

When it comes to SEO, your main focus should be providing good user experience. Optimise for users rather than the search engines, and you’ll be doing things right anyway.

Readers need to know what they’re reading about. Search engines need to know if they’re relevant. So using keywords in your tags is an obvious way to be clear what’s going on.

Your meta title should answer a user’s intent: what is it that they want to find out?

If your result often gets clicked and then the user bounces back to the search engine results page (SERP), this indicates that your page hasn’t fulfilled their intent and so you’ll get pushed down the rankings.

Moreover, Google bots will expect your H1 tag to contain the keywords of the page. Google may rewrite your meta title if it doesn’t suit the content, but this will impact negatively on your SEO.

What Should My Keyword Density Be?

Putting your keywords in your meta title and H1 tags also help with your keyword density without it looking like you are keyword stuffing. They’re a natural, helpful place for you to put them to signpost users to your content.

There’s much speculation over what percentage your keyword density should be. You shouldn’t worry. If your content is focused and valuable, you should naturally use the keywords anyway. As a rough guide, you should aim for between 0.5 and 3% (according to Yoast). But you should pay attention to this figure after writing it so it doesn’t look like you’re saying it for the sake of it.

Similarly, you should use synonyms of your keywords. This will not only avoid you looking like you’re overusing keywords to rank higher, but it will help you rank for similar terms which is just as valuable.

Change Up Your H1 Tag

Just changing your H1 tags can make a big difference.

You wouldn’t think this would be the case, but it’s surprising how many people use H1s incorrectly. So, by optimising them correctly, it’s one more reason for you to rank higher than your competitors.

You can often find websites that have tags that don’t describe anything about the page. For example, an accountancy page that has ‘Welcome to Leo’s’ as it’s H1 isn’t really helping anyone.

Who’s Leo? Even if the page is full of this keyword (doubtful) and it explains how Leo is going to help with your accounting, is anyone going to be searching for that? An H1 that answers user’s intent such as ‘Qualified Accounting Services In Nottingham’ would make a lot more sense. After all, you can guarantee people care more about their accountant being qualified than their name.

Best Practices For Meta Titles and Heading Tags

So now it’s clear that your meta title and H1 tags aren’t the same, you should make the most of it. Optimise them separately. It’s two different opportunities to provide the best information to the search engines and users. Here’s a quick overview of how to get the basics right:

1. Front-load your keywords

If it naturally fits to do so, lead with your keywords. Not only will this tell users and Googlebot straight away what your content is about, but will avoid the key parts getting cut off if it goes over what gets displayed.

2. Aim for between 50 and 70 characters (including spaces)

Following on from point 1, this character length will ensure you’re providing enough information without it your title going over what gets shown on the SERP. Too short, and you’re wasting valuable space.

3. Get experimental

Don’t stuff your keywords in, and don’t settle for boring titles. Experiment with the length of your titles and see what results you get.

4. Get a tool to do the hard work for you

A tool we use for our posts here at Adzooma is Yoast. The Yoast plugin analyses your article and quickly breaks down how search engine friendly things are. The feedback is specific to a wide range of things such as whether you’re using your keywords too much or not enough, whether your content is the right length and if you need more links or not. It makes it easy to make changes without disrupting the flow of your original work.

Write For People

Looking back at this:

“It’s a fact that keywords are no longer necessary or mandatory to be present in the title tag or in heading tags (H1, H2, H3) in order to rank in the top five of the search engine results pages.”

You might not have to include keywords in your meta title and heading tags, but you really should. You’ll have to work a lot harder to get to the first page without using them. In fact, you might as well be writing with handcuffs on. Write for your users and to answer what they’re searching for. You can guarantee they’ll be using the keywords, so you should too.

(image courtesy of https://www.tvorbaweb-stranok.sk/)

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Author
Amber Dawson

I’m the Creative Content Strategist at Adzooma and spend my time coming up with ideas and writing about Digital Marketing. My work features on the likes of Marketing Donut and PPC Protect. I studied English at Exeter University and have a Creative Advertising Masters from Falmouth. In my spare time, I like to read, draw and get taken for walks by my German Shepherd.
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