Multiple H1 Tags Trigger Automated Google Penalty20
I watched another Google video on YouTube recently where Matt Cutt’s discusses when Google penalties are lifted. During the video there are certain parts of what he said which really made me think more in depth about how Google deals with the sheer number potential penalties. Matt mentions (0:30) that there are automatic methods of detection and processing, which include content spam and keyword stuffing etc.
Hearing this made me think of one of my affiliate websites I had setup a few months ago and a problem I had encountered. The website has 100% unique content, affiliate products from TradeDoubler and a premium CSS template to make it look a little fancy with minimal effort. Now the website in question is an exact match domain and I was specifically targeting a keyword group with around1-2k monthly visitors, using just unique content and a few directory links I’ve found this method to work extremely well in the past.
I’d used this particular premium CSS template 2/3 times before for other very similar products but had customised ever so slightly (i.e. different colurs + logo). The problem however was that although my other affiliate sites ranked in the top 3 continually for the target keywords this particular site was not. In fact it was bouncing in and out from position 4 to position 93 – bit strange..
I’d not bought any links for the site in question so I knew that things were all “white” externally so thought there must be something within the site causing one of these automatic penalties. Looking at the code I noticed 2 H1 tags, one being highlighted below as an image:
The other H1 was just highlighted in a standard way – this was the only element I could think Google would pick up on as potentially “Stuffing” or something similarly nagitive. I proceeded to remove the text in the code and waited, anticipating a return to index in a high position.
As predicted a few days after I’d removed the second H1 tag the site moved from position 90+ into the top 5 . Bear in mind I’d changed absolutely nothing else at this point and just to proove it was the H1 tag causing a problem I added it back, then removed (see second arrow). As well as rankings increasing to a position I thought it should be at the traffic also duplicated the rankings:
Although this is only one site and I’d like to test more it seems quite certain that either having 2 H1 tags triggers an automatic Google penalty or the method of using <h1 id=”logo”><span></span></h1> is not liked by Google.
Some might argue that it’s just common good SEO practice to have only 1 H1 tag but if this test is anything to go by it culd be more costly than you first think!
If anyone else has any more data on this I’d be interested to hear?