See all Insights

The Use of the URL and H1 Tag in SEO


The URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is the page’s link, and the URL is one of the opportunities you have (in addition to the <title> and <H1> tags) to let Google know what the page is about.
Too many URLs go wholly unconsidered in terms of their role in the page’s SEO. URLs like october/11/showdetails.php?access=1x23f4rIII are perfectly valid, but perfectly useless for anything but file management. Instead, your URLs should be friendly. A friendly URL looks something like this: products. Assuming we are talking about the same page as our title tag example, this URL is, once again, concise, keyword-rich, expertise-based, and related to the content of that page. Ask your developer to allow you to have full control over every URL on your site through your CMS and to make sure that the pretty URL is properly paired with its more programmatically useful but less attractive counterpart through 301 redirects.

A 301 redirect is a way for your site to tell search engines that a page at a certain URL has been permanently moved to another URL. For example, when you create a new site, you may switch from an HTML or Flash site to a CMS-based site. This type of switch would most likely mean that all of your pages will have new URLs. might become http://www.AgencyWebSite. com/about.php. The difference between those two links may look minimal,but the fact that there is any difference at all means that you need to alert search engines that the content that was on about.htm is now on about.php, and 301 redirects are the way to do that.


The H1 tag is one of the first things one comes across when beginning to learn HTML. H1 stands for Heading 1 and is intended to be used to define the topic of the page to the site visitor. These intentions were created long ago when the web was a very different place, but Google follows these basic rules and looks to the H1 tag in part to initially ascertain what the page is about. The problem is, most developers do not think of the H1 tag in this way. Instead, they often think of it as a really big headline, and therefore, the H1 tag rarely makes it onto the page; when it does, it is usually misused.

The first thing to do to ensure that you are rolling out the red carpet for Google is to verify that the title on each of your pages that your site visitors read is wrapped in an H1 tag. This title is an important design element since people can look to it to figure out where they are on the site. Designers tend to make this title an image so that they can have unlimited font and styling choices. If the titles of your pages are images, you are missing the boat on a significant SEO opportunity. Font replacement (explained in the Visual Design chapter) makes it easier than ever to use indexible HTML text for your page titles without having to sacrifice font choice.

Of these three Google-facing elements, you may take the most liberties with the H1 tag, as long as you are using the <title> tag and URL effectively. The main reason for this is that the H1 tag is the most conspicuous of the three. People tend to pay less attention to a page’s URL and title tag, but everyone sees the title that is on the page. Even though you will use these page elements in part to entice search engines to grant your site preferential rankings, the ultimate point of your site’s pages is to serve your visitors well. This distinction is important because it is all too easy to build a site that is so focused on SEO that you lose sight of the fact that the reason you want it to be optimized is to bring the right visitors to your site. If the page in question is about your firm, then “About Us” is a fine H1 tag, even though the title tag is “package design for high-end culinary goods and products” and your URL is /package-design-for-culinary-products.

The advantage of having three opportunities to describe every page on your site to Google is that you can mix things up. On any given page, you might use the same basic phrase in each of the three elements, you might use a different phrase for each element, or something in between. As long as each phrase is relevant to the content on that page and is considered from the perspectives of both the searcher and the visitor, the page’s SEO will be effective.

These tags are your three best opportunities to pique Google’s interest in your content. If you craft these elements properly, and the page has at least three hundred to five hundred words of content, chances are good that Google will find the page attractive. If you implement the sort of content strategy I outline later in the book, including adding two thousand words of unique, expert content to your site per month, your site will develop a close and rewarding relationship with Google.

This post is an excerpt from my book, “A Website That Works.”


Related Posts