Do headings actually have an effect on rating?
They say in SEO you have to use headings.
These can be H1, H2 or even H3 tags.
But do they really affect your ranking?
Sure, many CMS systems put headings on each of your websites by default. They do this with the title of the page (or blog post) and sometimes with sections within a page.
But the real question is, do they help with rankings?
I decided to do a fun experiment to find out if they really help.
How the experiment worked
Similar to previous experiments I did, I contacted part of my email list to ask if they would like to participate. Just like I did with the blog comment links and the link building.
4,104 of you answered and wanted to participate. In contrast to previous experiments, we only ran them on websites that generated at least 100,000 visitors per month through organic searches.
We chose larger websites because you can easily tell if a change has affected traffic. For smaller websites, external factors can easily distort results, especially if a website only has 100 visitors per month. A simple thing like a PR push could double visitors in this case.
We also removed seasonal sites and sites that were not at least 3 years old. Here, too, we just wanted to reduce everything that distorted the results.
For example, young organic traffic websites tend to grow faster than established websites. Even if they do less SEO work because they start from a smaller base.
In the end, 61 locations met our requirements. It wasn't a large number, but each website has an average of 426 pages.
With a traditional A / B test, you would show 50% of your visitors one version and the other half a different version. But when it comes to SEO, you need to make a change, and once Google indexes the change, you have to compare the results to the previous 30 days.
That's why we ran numerous tests at each location to determine the impact of headlines. With each site we took their websites and divided them into 4 groups:
- Control group – We have left these pages unchanged. Regardless of whether they used headings or not, we wanted to see what happened to their organic traffic over time, as this would give us another basis for comparing the results.
- headlines – In this group, we used H1 tags for the page title, H2 tags for the page subsections, and even H3 and H4 tags if the subsections had subsections.
- With normal
text– For all pages in this group, we have ensured that no headings are used. In addition, we have ensured that all font sizes are the same size.
- With normal
Text and adjusting font sizes– We did not use headings for this group. Instead, we made sure that different parts of the text have different font sizes. For example, the title of the page was the largest font size.
Before we look at the results, the experiment should last for 90 days. Although we compared the results of the pages, we made changes to the use of data 30 days before and 30 days after. However, keep in mind that Google needs to index the change so you have to take that into account as well.
The control group saw a 2.89% increase in traffic.
As mentioned above, no changes were made to the control group. But it shows that they have naturally grown in rankings and searches over time.
This wasn't a big shock either, since 2.89% is not big
Now when I saw the results of the group they used
Headlines, the results were pretty much what I expected …
As you can see from the graphic above, the results before and after the comparison with the control group hardly changed. Instead of an increase of 2.89%, they had an increase of 2.72%.
Note that some pages in the control group naturally used headings and others did not. We have not made any changes in this group either.
But now, if we dive into the next two experiments, you'll see
that the data will be interesting.
The interesting thing about this group is that no headings were used. In addition, we have ensured that all font sizes on these pages are exactly the same size.
What we saw was a 3.53% decrease in traffic.
That doesn't seem like a big swing, but when you compare it to the control group, that's a 6.42% difference.
Now I wanted to see if the decrease in traffic was due to the use of headings or ease of use. Because you have to keep in mind that if you resize all the text on the page to the same size, it will also affect usability.
This makes the page less readable. And we saw that the average time on the page decreased by 12%. We didn't see a big change in bounce rate.
Text and adjusting font sizes
This group did not use headings, but used different font sizes on the page to keep the pages usable.
The graph shows that this group saw a 2.85% increase in traffic.
While headlines may not be the biggest SEO factor, usability seems to be.
When the font sizes on a page are larger, users and potential search engines can determine which part of a page and even which keywords are more important.
If you compare all 4 groups, control had the greatest gains. But it was insignificant, and you have to keep in mind that many pages in the control group also use headings. This group simply had no changes.
According to the data, headings have no major influence on the ranking.
If I had done the experiment longer the data might have shown something different, but my guess tells me the data would be similar.
We have not attempted to remove headings from all pages of a website or to add headings to all pages of a website that did not have any. If I ran the experiment again, I would add these two tests.
According to the data, Google takes care of the user-friendliness. If you have different font sizes on a page, you can tell the reader which elements are more important than others. This also makes reading the page easier.
Whether you leave certain elements or words on the page
Large font sizes or headings make it clear that it is good
If I were you, I would still use headings as this can be useful for accessibility aids that allow users to navigate a page. It can also help other search engines like Bing.
Also, with SEO you won't see massive profits from a single tactic like you used to. It's about doing everything right. For this reason, I recommend that you guide your website through this audit and fix any errors.
Do you use headings on your website?