Header Tag Sculpting – An SEO Content Theory from an SEO Lamp

Posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, SEO

OK, I know I'm only a lamp, and a previous black hatter, but I do have some theories on optimizing on-page content that ARE quite white hat AND based in logic. This one theory I have is called Header Tag Sculpting. It’s nothing “official”, as in something that’s widely discussed in the SEO industry (mainly because it's really just common sense), but when I say “Header Tag Sculpting”, I mean utilizing the various Header tags in way that lines up the content areas of your page in order of broadest to most specific from a topic standpoint. And although it's just plain common sense, you'll quickly see how when it comes to page text design, the logic CAN fly out the window.

AN EXPLANATION ON HEADER TAG SCULPTING

Let’s say you have a website that deals with discount cat, dog, and bird medications….so in other words, you offer discount pet medication. Let’s also say your home page is structured in a way where you have introductory paragraphs to all three of your main categories (cat, dog, bird). You have headers for each one of these intro sections. Let’s also say that in addition to your main categories and intros, you have featured articles per category with titles and intros. (e.g. how to shop for cat meds online, how to give your dog medication, medications for sick birds).  So the content on the page that can naturally be tagged as Headers are the following:

Discount pet medications (site-wide focus)

Discount Cat Meds (category-specific focus)

Discount Dog Meds (category-specific focus)

Discount Bird Meds (category-specific focus)

How to shop for cat meds online (category-based, topic-specific focus)

How to give your dog medication (category-based, topic-specific focus)

Medications for sick birds (category-based, topic-specific focus)

As you can see, the topical focus of the Headers gets smaller….so….the header tags you use should follow this order. So, the Header tagging would look like this (not actual size):

H1) Discount Pet Medication

H2s) Discount Cat Meds / H2s) Discount Dog Meds / H2s) Discount Bird Meds

H3) how to shop for cat meds online / H3) how to give your dog medication / H3) medications for sick birds

You wouldn’t tag it like this:

H1) Discount Pet Medication

H2) Discount Cat Meds / H2s) Discount Dog Meds / H2s) Discount Bird Meds / H2) how to shop for cat meds online / H2s) how to give your dog medication / H2s) medications for sick birds

This all sounds pretty simple and makes logical sense….however…the execution of this logic isn’t always seamless.

LOGICAL AND LESS-THAN-LOGICAL HEADER TAGGING...EXAMPLES

Let’s take a look at how a home page, or even a high-level page, should be tagged with Headers when following a content hierarchy:

header tag sculpting-bp

Now let’s look at it how it could very easily be tagged, just based on the styling of Header tags, but without consideration of the content hierarchy:

header tag sculpting-NOTbp

As you can see, the second Header tagging example is a bit disjointed. Although it’s great to have the titles of the articles tagged as Headers, there is the possibility to sculpt them so they truly flow from broadest to most specific.

QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE ON HEADER TAG SCULPTING:

#1 Since the SEO Lamp Peru Trip is the most featured article in Recent Trips, why shouldn’t it be an H2 tag?

Although you are giving the SEO Lamp Peru Trip more prominence on the page, the only difference from that article and the other three headlines is the size. If you were to fit the 4 headlines within the topic hierarchy, they’d all be equal…specific articles found within the Recent Trips section. SEO Lamp Peru Trip is not a category, or a sub category…it’s a specific article. Now I’m not trying to say that H2 tags should only be used for categories, but when you build your content hierarchy on a home page where you highlight specific categories, H2s make sense. Let’s look at it visually. Here’s an ideal Header tag content hierarchy using the example above:

H1) Travel Blog by SEO Lamp

H2) Recent Trips

H3) SEO Lamp Peru Trip

H3) SEO Lamp London Trip

H3) SEO Lamp Spain Trip

H3) SEO Lamp Riverside Trip

Here’s how it would look if you tagged the featured article title as an H2:

H1) Travel Blog by SEO Lamp

H2) Recent Trips

H2) SEO Lamp Peru Trip

H3) SEO Lamp London Trip

H3) SEO Lamp Spain Trip

H3) SEO Lamp Riverside Trip

As you can see, when you tag the featured article as an H2, you’re giving it equal value in your content hierarchy as your Recent Trips section when in reality, its not.

#2 What about tagging all navigation with appropriate Header tags?

Based on the logical Header structure, it seems like tagging your navigation with H2s and H3s is the most logical way to go…and from a Home Page perspective it DOES make sense; however, when you carry over the navigation into category-specific pages, this is where things start to break down. For example, if you have a News website and you tag your Sports, Entertainment, Health, and Blogs navigational links as H2 tags on your home page, and you have an H1 tag like “News Online”, all the header tags naturally line up like this:

H1) News Online

H2) Sports

H2) Entertainment

H2) Health

H2) Blogs

Everything lines up perfectly. However, if you carry everything over into your Sports category page, things get out of line and end up looking like this:

H1) Sports

H2) Entertainment

H2) Health

H2) Blogs

Because you tagged all the main Navigational elements as H2 tags, BUT the H1 tag changed to reflect the specific category (this is a MUST as you wouldn’t want to have the exact same H1 tag on all pages), you end up with H2 tags that aren’t true sub categories of Sports. Now if you actually had a Sports Entertainment section, a Sports Health Section, and Sports Blog section, then those H2s would make sense. However, since the H2s are links that take you to very general category pages (e.g. general Health section), it’s clear that the H2 Health is not specific to Sports.

#3 If there’s a preferred way to use Header tags, why is it not an SEO standard best practice?

The reason it’s not a primary SEO recommendation is because Header sculpting is more of a theory rather than proven fact. It’s based on various facts we know in regards to H1 tags and how the search engines view and value Header tags in general, but the sculpting aspect of it is pure speculation. However, it’s speculation based on traditional content structures. It’s how any basic college essay is structured and how you would classify topics from most general to most specific. It just makes sense.

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15 Responses to “Header Tag Sculpting – An SEO Content Theory from an SEO Lamp”

  1. Can you get Matt Cutts to verify your theory? :D

    • SEO Lamp says:

      I wish! If I could, it wouldn’t be a theory (and I wouldn’t be a lamp!)

      I’m open to being shot down on this theory. so tear it apart.

  2. Erik says:

    This makes perfect sense. Why not structure your pages in this way? At a minimum it will ensure that your content is more readable and well-ordered. Perhaps also it will be the tie breaker that helps you rank above the competition.

    SEO Lamp? You’re hired!

  3. Caryn Campo says:

    Great tips and I will start by leaving a comment here! Thanks stumbled!

  4. Velma Fasula says:

    Meine Couch ist jetzt über 10 Jahre alt und denke jetzt ist es mal an der Zeit eine neue zu kaufen. Mein Hund knabbert leider auch gern mal an meiner Couch herum, deshalb bin ich auf der Suche nach einem strapazierfähigen Material. Hat hier vielleicht jemand Erfahrungen mit Haustieren und kann mir bei der Wahl des Materials weiterhelfen?

  5. I agree your article points. My reading has shown your ideas to be true, then again, I have also heard the opposite from different posts like this one. Do you have any recommendations for getting more quality info on natural health or related topics? I would definitely appreciate it!

  6. Long time reader, 1st time commenter. I just want to say I appreciate all you do with this website. This is one of the first sites I visit each morning.

    • Alex says:

      Hey there I only watned to let you know, I really love the written content on your website. But I am using Chromium on a device operating version 9.04 of Ubuntu and the look and feel are not rather enjoyable. Not a powerful deal, I can still essentially look over the posts and look for info, but just watned to inform you concerning that. The navigation bar is kind of difficult to use while using config I’m running. Keep up the superb job!

  7. o yeah…great article
    i like this blog

  8. I was a dog in a past life. Really. I’ll be walking down the street and dogs will do a sort of double take. Like, Hey, I know him.

  9. Evette Krumrine says:

    The canonical tag used incorrectly can definitely be black hat. I have seen companies try and canonical all their pages to their home page….basically giving all link juice to the home page. This is one thing I have seen TANK your rank on Google. Bad Bad Bad.

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