This data is for a keyword that is in an ecommerce niche. It is a keyword that you would target to a category product feed page. This is the correlation data over the course of a week for a stable SERP. Remember that correlation does not equal causation!

As you can see from this set of data, there is no correlation or an inverse correlation (lower rankings) for websites using the target keyword in the h tag. This is where I think “SEO experts” would argue that the sites ranking for this keyword are ranking because of links or domain authority.

But that’s not the case either. 3 of the 10 domains ranking for the keyword are less than a year old and they are all outranking Amazon and other big brands.

The data shows either no correlation or inverse correlations for having the target keyword in the H tags. We also see websites outranking big brands like Amazon while having low domain authority and less than a year of age. Keep in mind that there is roughly a 1 in 200 chance that a domain ranking on page 1 or 2 of Google will be under a year old.

What the “SEO Experts” Say About H Tags

So what do you do? Do you model your H tags (or absence of H tags) after the sites that are actually ranking at the top of page 1—beating sites like Amazon? Or do you follow the advice of the experts below?

“a few other tags are nice to have in 2018 still. Those include: Headline tags (the H1, the H2)” Rand Fishkin, What Does It Mean to “Write for SEO” in 2018?

“But, you also want to SEO-optimize these. So, the best way to do that, obviously, to include your target keyword in one of your h2 or h3 tags, depending on which ones you choose, OK? So, you can use h2 or h3 to break up your content in sub-headers, but in general, h2 is better, because that’s considered more important by Google, OK?” – Brian Dean, How to Use Heading Tags to Get More Search Engine Traffic

Use a focused long-tail keyword in your h1.
Believe it or not, some SEOs do not recommend using keywords in your h1.
Why not?!
Keyword stuffing, that’s why.
I think we all agree that keyword stuffing is a thing of the past. We used to do it. We don’t do it anymore. We’re sorry. We forgive you. Life goes on.
Are there SEOs still doing keyword stuffing? Maybe. But it doesn’t work. Google penalized that a long time ago.
But there’s nothing keyword-stuffing at all about using a keyword in an h1. To the contrary, Google wants you to use a keyword in the h1.
Why? So their crawlers can understand better what the page is all about!” – Neil Patel, How to Create the Perfect H1 Tag for SEO

tl;dr (paraphrasing the quotes):

  • “h1 and h2 tags are nice to have for SEO in 2018” – Rand Fishkin
  • “Use your target keyword in your H2 or H3 tag. I use H2 cuz it’s more important to Google.” – Brian Dean
  • “Google wants you to use a longtail keyword in your h1 tag” – Neil Patel

Is this a joke? What does “nice to have for SEO” even mean?

What does “more important to Google” mean? Is he trying to say that it’s a stronger ranking factor? Based on what evidence? Same with Neil claiming that Google wants to see a longtail keyword in the h1 tag. What is the evidence?!? Maybe I’m asking too much.

What the Data Says About the H Tags

The data that I collected shows that the H tags either have no correlation with higher rankings or a correlation with lower rankings.

When you investigate the top 5 URLs that have been outranking big brands like Amazon for the last 2+ months, you see that they don’t even have htags or—when they do—they’re misused around a logo image.

What would you do?

Given the data and the expert advice, what would you do? Would you put the target keyword in your h tags or would you remove all of the h tags from the page?

This client’s site hasn’t been ranking in the top 100 and we just made changes to the page based on the data. We have changed it to only have one h tag on the page (the h1) and made some other adjustments based on the data. I’ll check back in with the results and update this post.