difference between H1 and SEO title

What's the difference
between an H1 heading and the SEO title?

What’s the difference between an H1 heading and the SEO title?

Writers tend to put some real thought into their title. For online content, titles are important for both readers and search engines. That makes them double important! If you use WordPress and our Yoast SEO plugin, you insert the post’s title in the post title input field. Your title will appear as an H1 heading on top of your post. But Yoast SEO also offers possibilities to edit and improve your SEO title separately. Why is that? What’s the difference? And how should you edit your SEO title? I’ll explain it in this post. 

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Two input fields

For some of you this will be obvious, but let’s take a look at where to find the input fields for the post title – the same as the H1 heading – and the SEO title. The post title input field can be found on top of the page or post editor in WordPress.

You can find the input field for the SEO title in the Yoast SEO metabox, which appears underneath the post input field. To edit the SEO title, you need to click on the edit snippet button. The snippet preview will then open. The snippet preview offers you three input fields. The first one is the input field to edit your SEO title. Beneath the input field you’ll – hopefully – see a green bar. That’s to say, it will be green if your SEO title is well-optimized. If it’s orange or red you should put some effort in improving it. As you can see, the SEO title has all kinds of weird %-signs in it. Don’t let this scare you off, I’ll tell you all about it later on in this post.

Purpose of the post title and the SEO title

It is important to realize that your SEO title doesn’t have the same purpose as the title of your post or page. Your post title is meant for people that are already on your site. It’s telling them what your post or page is about. Your SEO title, on the other hand, is meant for people who are not on your website yet. It will be shown to people in the search engines. It will be the title of your snippet in Google – that’s why it’s in the snippet preview. The purpose of your SEO title is to make people click on the snippet, come to your website and read your post or buy your product.

What does Yoast SEO automatically do?

Without doing anything, Yoast SEO will generate an SEO title based on the title of your post, the H1 heading. It will also put your site’s name in the SEO title. If you don’t put your site’s name in your SEO title, Google will do this for you. Yoast SEO will make sure your title isn’t too long – you’ll get a notice if your title is too long. At Yoast, we use a small bullet to separate the post title from the site name, but you could also use a dash, for example.

At Yoast we use a bullet to separate the title from the site name. Note that in this example we choose to create a short phrase instead of just our site name after the bullet.

You can set the way you want to generate your SEO title in the Search Appearance section of Yoast SEO. If you do that, all your post titles will be generated in the exact same way. But, as described above, you can also edit the SEO title separately for a post. In the next paragraph we’ll explain in which cases you’d want to do that.

Should you edit the SEO title?

Personally, I never edit the SEO title of a separate post. I write a post and choose a title which is suitable for people who are already on our site, as well as people who see the snippet in the search engines. The settings to automatically generate titles in our own Yoast SEO install are – of course – totally fine.

If I want to adapt my title, maybe because I forgot to use the focus keyword in the title of my post, I always alter the title of the post. The SEO title will change along with that. For posts like this, this works fine. However, if you sell a product for example, the post or page title might not be the best SEO title. Perhaps you would like to mention the price of the product in your SEO title, but not in the H1 of your page. In these cases, editing the SEO title is necessary.

How do you edit the SEO title?

How do you edit the SEO title? And what are these weird %% signs in the input field? How can you use these?

The SEO title template

As described above Yoast SEO automatically generates SEO titles for you. That’s what the %% signs are about. We call these %%title%% signs, magic variables. These magic variables take certain pieces of information and put them together to form the SEO title. So, if you type %%title%% in the SEO template input field, the title of a post or page will appear. The %%sep%% will take the separator sign you’ve chosen – like the small bullet we use – and put it in the SEO title.

You can adapt this title template to your liking in the Search Appearance section of Yoast SEO. Go to the tab ‘Content Types’ and scroll to the content type you’d like to change the title template for, for instance posts:

set template for titles and meta descriptions

You can find all about setting these title and meta variables in Edwin’s post. For an overview of all the magic variables, you can check our knowledge base.

For a separate post

If you’re working on a post and you want to change the SEO title, you can just click on the SEO title in the Yoast SEO meta box beneath your post. The magic variables will disappear and you’ll be able to edit the SEO title for just this post. Note that you can still use the magic variables for a separate post! For example, if you want to just amend the first part of the title, but keep the separator and the site name, you can create an SEO title like: ‘[customized post title] %%sep%% %%site name%%’. 


Your SEO title and your post title both serve a different purpose. In many cases, however, you can use your post title as the base for your SEO title. Yoast SEO will generate a nice SEO title based on your post title. In some cases, you’re better off customizing the SEO title. You can use the magic variables to create that awesome SEO title. We’re currently working on a new and improved interface for these magic variables. In the future, it will become much easier and more intuitive to edit your title. Just a little bit more patience!

Read more: ‘Crafting a good page title for SEO’ »

19 Responses to What’s the difference between an H1 heading and the SEO title?

  1. Joyita Paul Chowdhury
    By Joyita Paul Chowdhury on 13 February, 2018

    Hi Marieke,

    Really well explained the difference between H1 and the SEO Title Tag. Many in our industry are confused with understanding this small but crucial difference. With these two I love the SEO title very much especially using in Yoast because it gives me the opportunity of playing with words, mincing it to create a catchy SEO title which ultimately helps in increasing the CTR on SERPs.

  2. NogenTech
    By NogenTech on 12 February, 2018


    A major confusion cleared after reading this valuable post. Yoast is making life easier for bloggers by offering amazing SEO features. Thanks for sharing

  3. Zaman
    By Zaman on 11 February, 2018

    I was wondering if there was a conflict between SEO title and h1 title. Thank you so much for clarifying how the two differ.
    Informative read.

  4. Off Page SEO
    By Off Page SEO on 11 February, 2018

    Even after making many attempts, the site tells H1 Not Available when auditing. Please help me why my blog does not have H1.

  5. nexvan
    By nexvan on 9 February, 2018

    Should the title of the site be in the title of SEO?

    • Leonard Parker
      By Leonard Parker on 10 February, 2018

      It’s best to have your taget keyword in the title of the site. You may also want to include your brand’s name.

  6. Broker
    By Broker on 7 February, 2018

    I’m a big fan of yoast plugin and whenever I create a new blog post I’m using this “hint” how to create a goooood seo title :)
    And of course, I’m waiting when this new feature will be available! :)

  7. Nicholas Orr
    By Nicholas Orr on 7 February, 2018

    Seems most useful for the Pages of a wordpress site.
    Homepage is a lot easier to find in the list of pages vs whatever the SEO title would be :)

  8. Sunil Tiwary
    By Sunil Tiwary on 6 February, 2018

    I think the title of post is automatically given H1 heading. So, what’s the difference here?

  9. mchallice
    By mchallice on 6 February, 2018

    Great article. This is one of Yoast’s big strengths. It just makes it so much easier.

  10. Chesney
    By Chesney on 6 February, 2018

    Clear explanation. I’ve noticed with some themes, sometimes there is a title tag hardcoded above the Yoast plugin. That way, the SEO title isn’t used by Google. Just removing that title tag in the template did solve that problem for me.

  11. Digital Marketing
    By Digital Marketing on 6 February, 2018

    I need small clarification, what happens when the same phrase is given as Post Title and H1 tags? Will that be effective? Or it’s an overdoing?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 6 February, 2018

      Hi! Nothing bad will happen. You just have to think about if you want to show people the same thing on top of your post as what they see as the title of your page in the search engines.

  12. adm99domino
    By adm99domino on 6 February, 2018

    I Still didn’t get about SEO Title and also H1 , is H1 is Title of our post ?

    • Trending
      By Trending on 6 February, 2018

      H1 is a post title or page title of your post.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 6 February, 2018

      Hi! H1 is indeed the name – or title – of your post or page. It’s what you insert first on top of the post editor when you create a new post. The SEO title is the title you’ll see in search engines. Hope this helps!

  13. wilim orcdie
    By wilim orcdie on 5 February, 2018

    awesome SEO Title can be easily created inside YOAST meta boxes no matter what is in h1 . This certainly helps to rank website higher. great article post Marieke .

  14. اجاره خودرو
    By اجاره خودرو on 5 February, 2018

    Should seo title same with post title or not ?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 6 February, 2018

      No, they can be, but they don’t have to be the same. See my reply to Digital marketing’s question.

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