We have been asked to h1 tag something by our SEO agency, and I just wanted to sanity check it as it feels very much on the darker side of content management to me (as someone with less experience of this).

They have asked for the phrase 'exclusive games' to be on the site, but the ranking keyword to be an H1 (as per the below markup)

<div class="seo-welcomepage-h1">exclusive <h1>ranking keyword</h1> games</div>

(the outer div we added to ensure that formatting was consistent across the three words)

This troubles me - it's not semantic content, and it feels like we're trying to rank on a keyword without actually pushing the whole phrase as the 'heading'.

Obviously with CSS, I can make it all 'look' correct, but it just feels more underhand than just making the whole thing an h1.

Thoughts on this? Is it an acceptable SEO practice? Is the semantic nature of the content secondary to getting that single keyword ranked?


  • 2
    This is over-optimization and useless. I hate hearing that "SEO companies" still peddle this nonsense..
    – John Conde
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 13:09
  • 1
    Terry, fire the SEO immediately! You are exactly right. There is no semantic meaning. Search is about whole language and not about keywords. The proof is in the original research paper written by Brin and Page where they clearly state that term matches yield poor results. Google was intended to be a search engine based upon linguistic semantics. Any appearance that keyword matches are made are purely incidental. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


“Keyword stuffing” might not be the only problem here, to me it looks more like a formatting issue than a markup issue as well. Following your example, is really hard to determine, if in fact there is a semantic content problem, but let’s assume there is.

For this case, Google is concern about the negative impact a piece of content has over the user experience, in terms of keywords use we don’t know how many is too many but you had really have to go to extremes to cause this penalty to kick in.

This guidelines show that the way these keywords appear and it’s context is important. You should not feel that the keyword you are trying to rank for is out of context in the main heading of your page.

Most people believe that HTML markup is not important because Google is supporting structured data. HTML elements serve a purpose, it might not be an strong ranking factor such as links, but each element conveys a purpose. There are rules or conventions for the use of <p> and <div> and their relative position, for example, you can not position the footer element in the head section of the document. In your case, we can technically approve the way the markup is being used, there is no problem to use a <h1> inside a <div>. A <div> is considered to be a container element. However I will rather use <span> inside <h1>.

<h1 class="main heading">exclusive <span>ranking keyword</span> games</h1>

A side note: I always expect to see a p or paragraph element after a heading.

In terms of formatting, there are certain rules that suggest quality content, for example, the size of the text, the color contrast, and of course the style you apply appropriately to the HTML elements. Also the World Wide Web consortium maintains a standard that governs the aspects and content of web pages to be presentable and in a sequence order. This is another reason why I suggest using <span> inside <h1>. I have witnessed websites ranking for very competitive keywords using this approach.

  • As I suspected, and I feel that with this and the other comments above (which I've upvoted) I'm justified in my concern. Your example is exactly how I would have gone about had someone just asked me semantically to represent the content as a semantic main heading for the page as opposed to trying to fluff around it as we've been asked to do. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 7:51

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