You go to the bookstore, and you pick up a book. It’s titled, Migratory Patterns of Birds in Eastern North America.
So you’re a bit of a nerd if that’s what you bought, but so far so good. You get home and leaf through it. There are various chapters with titles such as “The North American Thrush” or “Great Blue Heron.”
You’re interested in the chapter on “Great Blue Herons.” You already have the book in your hands, you know it’s about migratory habits, and what you want to know about is the migratory habits of Great Blue Herons.
What you get instead is information on how to identify these birds. But you can already do that! Reading further, you get more pictures and then information on their mating habits. Somewhat related to migration, but it doesn’t go into any detail about migratory flight patterns.
Welcome to the Internet at its worst, and the world of bad header <H1> tags: the basic html tag that visually defines the title of a page or post. It usually appears at or near the top of a webpage as the largest text. If you don't work in HTML but use a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal, no worries. It is the page's headline, and you've probably seen it referred to as <h1>.
Now open a newspaper. Any newspaper, it doesn’t matter what title or what town because it’s filled with AP and API stories. Instead of chapters, you now see headlines.
And the headlines tell you exactly what the article is about. Whether it’s the Dallas Sunor the Backwater Daily, the headline now reads: “SpaceX makes aerospace history with successful launch and landing of used rocket.” Grabbed that one today and exactlywhat I was looking for.
Welcome to the Internet at its best, and the world of great header <H1> tags.
It comes naturally to us when writing a news headline or blog. But we often still think in terms of books rather than newspapers when building a website.
That is, our Main/Home/Front/Index page gives the title and subject matter. Supporting pages go into detail. Our home page makes clear we sell shoes. Supporting pages might be titled and have the header, “Platforms.”
But guess what? In 2017, when content marketing is no longer a catch-phrase but a reality, few new users are entering your website through the front page.
Whether through search engines or social, new users are skipping past the obligatory nonsense and going straight to what they want to know.
Your page "titles" (referring here to the header or <H1> tag, not the meta tag) should be limited to one per page and as explicit and attention-grabbing as a great headline.
Where I work, we have a product called the HP XX, the Xs standing for numbers. I Googled it. I came up with printer cartridges made by Hewlett-Packard. Note: I don’t work for Hewlett-Packard.
But that’s what I found even though we don’t make printer cartridges. We make Widgets. So Widgets should be in our headlines, no matter how many pages deep.
Stop thinking of your website as a book with chapter titles. Every page is a landing page with unique and useful content. Every page's <H1> is your headline.
Bryan Lindenberger is not a guru and this article does not link to a “Read the Full Article” page with a self-published book to sell.
But he has worked in digital communications since 1996. He caught the bug for entrepreneurialism and assisting small business while at the Arrowhead Entrepreneurial Institute at NMSU, and for community service while with the National Science Foundation. His clients have ranged from Disney Television to small farms in New Mexico. He maintains a hobby website and portfolio at bryanberg.net and invites open correspondence and connections.