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Should you put an H1 tag on an image?

Last week I came across another client’s website that was using an H1 tag on an image file. I did some research on the topic and I was surprised to see that many people are actually following this practice. As it’s not the first time I see this, I decided to write a short blog post to explain why I believe it is a BAD idea to put images in the <h1>. in this article, I’ll discuss the disadvantages and drawbacks of using h1 tags on image, and I’ll provide alternative practices that align with SEO best practices.

So if this idea has ever crossed your mind, keep on reading.

The importance of the H1 tag in SEO

First, let me remind you that the Heading 1 tag, which is written as <h1>…</h1> in the HTML code of a webpage, is one of the main on-page SEO elements.

According to the latest studies, Google’s search engine algorithm weights it as heavily as the meta title tag. Therefore, it’s in the best SEO practices to have your targeted keywords in the Header H1 tag.

 Each page should have only one <h1> tag.

What happens when you put an image file in an H1 tag?

In my experience, people would put an image in the h1 tag when they can’t put more text on the page or when their website template doesn’t allow them to easily apply the tag on the title they want.

So they assume that applying the tag on an image file that has an Alt text, would do the job and that the search engine bot will consider the text in the alt attribute as a header tag.

In the HTML source code, the final result would look like that:

<h1><img src="/images/image-file.gif"
width="300" height="30" alt="Can I Use An Image as a
H1 Tag?"></h1>

Another reason people do that could be that they want to “hide” the content of the tag from the users and they’ll do keyword stuffing in the tag.

Why you shouldn’t put an image in an H1 tag?

No matter the reasons, placing an H1 tag is not a good idea for several reasons:

H tags are meant for text not for elements

The Header tags are meant to hold text that describes the main topic of the paragraph they introduce. And the text is more accessible, file size, and SEO friendly.

So the text from the alt attribute inside of an H1 tag won’t carry the same SEO weight as a textual H1 tag.

In its official guidelines, Google recommends to

“avoid embedding important text in images for elements like page headings and menu items … To ensure maximum accessibility of your important text based content, keep it in regular HTML”.

Google Webmasters Guidelines

It doesn’t make sense for a search engine bot to put an H1 on an image

Header tags help search engines to “understand” the structure and the content of a specific webpage.

It’s possible that a “false” H1 may confuse the robots on the structure and on the content of the page, and eventually misrepresenting your content or miscategorizing it in aggregators elsewhere.

Bots are using Header tags as a table of contents of a specific page. The image is not relevant information about the content of the page.

You are missing on an important SEO opportunity

As I wrote in the beginning, the H1 tag is one of the main SEO elements of the page. In addition, being an on-site SEO element, it’s entirely in your control. So why put it on an image, instead of following SEO best practices and place it on a descriptive, keyword-rich page title?

“If you have an image as the page’s H1 tag, keep in mind that the H1 is one of the most important clues for a search engine to determine what the page is about, so consider using text instead of an image or at least using descriptive ALT text.”

Vannsa Fox, an ex-googler.

10 FAQ Regarding the Use of H1 Tags on Images

Understanding the nuances of using H1 tags on images is crucial for maintaining SEO best practices and ensuring enhanced accessibility and user experience. While the initial article provided valuable insights, these additional FAQs aim to address specific queries not covered comprehensively. By exploring these FAQs, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the implications, alternatives, and best practices related to using H1 tags on images, ultimately empowering them to make informed decisions that align with SEO guidelines and user-centric design principles.

How does using an image in an H1 tag affect SEO and accessibility?

While using an image in an H1 tag may visually enhance a webpage, it can negatively impact SEO and accessibility. Search engines rely on textual content within H1 tags to understand the primary topic of a webpage, and using an image in this context can dilute the semantic understanding of the content. Additionally, for users relying on screen readers, an image within an H1 tag may not convey the intended message, reducing accessibility. It’s advisable to reserve H1 tags for text-based headers to maintain SEO relevance and ensure accessibility for all users.

Is there a recommended alternative to using an image within an H1 tag for SEO purposes?

An effective alternative to using an image within an H1 tag for SEO purposes is to employ CSS techniques to overlay text on an image. This method allows for the visual presentation of text on images while ensuring that the actual H1 tag contains relevant textual content, thus maintaining SEO integrity.

What are the potential implications of placing an H1 tag on an image for the overall user experience and search engine indexing?

Placing an H1 tag on an image can impact user experience by potentially confusing visitors relying on screen readers or those experiencing slow loading times for images. Search engine indexing may also be affected as the semantic relevance of the H1 tag’s content may not be accurately interpreted when presented within an image.

Are there specific guidelines or best practices for using H1 tags to maintain accessibility while incorporating images as headers?

To maintain accessibility when incorporating images as headers, it’s best to ensure that the textual content within the H1 tag is not solely embedded within the image. Using CSS to overlay text on the image or ensuring that the H1 tag contains actual textual content can help maintain accessibility standards.

How can the use of H1 tags on images impact the overall structure and hierarchy of a webpage for search engine bots?

The use of H1 tags on images can distort the structure and hierarchy of a webpage for search engine bots. Search engines rely on the hierarchy of HTML elements to understand the content’s importance and topical relevance. Placing an H1 tag on an image can disrupt this hierarchy, potentially impacting how search engines interpret and rank the content.

 

What are the potential SEO drawbacks of using an image with an H1 tag compared to using textual content within an H1 tag?

Using an image within an H1 tag can have drawbacks for SEO as search engines may not effectively interpret the image’s content for indexing and ranking purposes. Textual content within an H1 tag provides clear semantic signals to search engines, aiding in understanding the page’s primary topic and relevance. However, an image within an H1 tag may visually enhance the page but could dilute the semantic relevance of the header for SEO.

How does Google and other search engines interpret and index content when an image is used within an H1 tag?

When an image is used within an H1 tag, search engines may encounter challenges in interpreting and indexing the content accurately. While search engines can understand and index images to some extent using alt text and surrounding contextual content, the use of images within important HTML header tags like H1 can potentially hinder search engines’ ability to comprehend the textual content’s relevance and context.

What are the implications of using an image as an H1 tag in terms of keyword relevance and semantic understanding for search engines?

Using an image as an H1 tag can have implications for keyword relevance and semantic understanding for search engines. Search engines rely on textual content to understand the context and relevance of a webpage. When an image replaces text within an H1 tag, it may reduce the clarity and specificity of the keyword signals that search engines use to determine the page’s topical relevance.

Are there specific cases or scenarios where using an image in an H1 tag may be acceptable or recommended for SEO and user experience?

Using an image in an H1 tag is generally discouraged for SEO due to its potential drawbacks. But in certain creative and design-oriented scenarios, we may find using an image in an H1 tag acceptable for enhancing user experience and conveying the page’s primary message. For exemple, in the designs of some landing pages, visual portfolios or art-focused websites, we may be forced to use the <alt> texts of an image for <h1> tag. However, in such cases, it’s essential to ensure that the image is supported by clear textual content elsewhere on the page to maintain SEO relevance and accessibility.

6 thoughts on “Should you put an H1 tag on an image?”

  1. John Mueller says images in h1s are fine, as Google uses the alt text for the h1. It makes perfect sense to wrap a logo in an h1 tag for a home page.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thank you for your comment. I’ve also seen sites doing that, but I recommend against it for several reasons:
      1. It creates a problem with duplicate content (h1 tags) across your entire website: usually websites display the same logo sitewide
      2. It creates multiple h1 tags across all pages: usually website templates automatically apply an h1 tag to the page titles.
      3. HTML headings should be used for headings only because search engines use them to understand the structure and content of pages.

      I recommend putting the logo in a div class, like this:

      ”My
  2. Today, we have access to lots and lots of web fonts. That was not the case 15 years ago, and font licensing was often not covering the case of font use on a website. So in order to be able to use other fonts than what your OS manufacturer supplied as standard, it was common practice to render headlines as images, provide alt text and wrap that into h-elements. Cufón was one tool among others that did this. Googlebot never had any issues with my websites built that way.

    I prefer not having to resort to this anymore today, but I would not confirm that “h1 on img is bad”.

  3. In my case the heading has to be the logo of the product, and I can’t imagine there’s a penalization for this.

    I have a several products pages, each product has an easy to read SVG logo. Best approach in my opinion is to use it in a H1, with the logo text as an alt attribute.

    Otherwise, I’ll have to place the logo in a div and, underneath, an H1 with the same text. Resulting in repeated content. That doesn’t make sense!

    1. Hi Marc,

      The bottom line of my article is not that a website might be penalized or suffer from the use of heading tags on images, it’s just that applying an h1 an on an image is not the optimal use of the tag.
      In your case, and without checking your product pages, I would have advised to place the logo in a div and the h1 on the product name.
      Is there a technical reason that made you decide to put the product names in an SVG file instead of using styled text?

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