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

Writers tend to put some real thought into their titles. 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 can you edit it? I’ll explain in this post.

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 both titles. The input field for your post title – the same as your H1 heading – can be found on top of the page or post editor in WordPress.

Example of H1 heading or post title

You can find the input field for the SEO title in the Yoast SEO meta box, which appears underneath the post input field. To edit this title, you need to click on the edit snippet button. The Google preview will then open. The Google 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 this title is well-optimized. If it’s orange or red you should put some effort into improving it. As you can see, the input field shows the various variables (in purple) it will use to create the eventual title that will show in the search engines.

You can find the SEO title in the metabox

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 H1 heading). 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 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 this title. If you don’t (or our plugin doesn’t), 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.

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 this 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, the post or page title might not be the best title to adopt. 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 this title is necessary.

How do you edit the SEO title?

The title template

As described above Yoast SEO automatically generates SEO titles for you. It uses snippet variables (in purple) to do so. 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. You can use the plus on the right side to select which variables you’d like to use:

You can find all about setting these snippet variables in Edwin’s post. For an overview of all the snippet 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 it in the Yoast SEO meta box beneath your post. You can choose to write an exclusive text for it, use certain snippet variables or a combination of both. 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 a title like: ‘[customized post title] – Separator – Site title’. 


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 title based on your post title. In some cases, you’re better off customizing the SEO title. You can use the snippet variables to create an awesome title that will be shown in the search engines.

Read more: Crafting a good page title for SEO »

Coming up next!

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

  1. Joyita Paul Chowdhury
    Joyita Paul Chowdhury  • 5 years ago

    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
    NogenTech  • 5 years ago


    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
    Zaman  • 5 years ago

    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
    Off Page SEO  • 5 years ago

    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
    nexvan  • 5 years ago

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

    • Leonard Parker
      Leonard Parker  • 5 years ago

      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
    Broker  • 5 years ago

    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
    Nicholas Orr  • 5 years ago

    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
    Sunil Tiwary  • 5 years ago

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

  9. mchallice
    mchallice  • 5 years ago

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

  10. Chesney
    Chesney  • 5 years ago

    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
    Digital Marketing  • 5 years ago

    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
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      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
    adm99domino  • 5 years ago

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

    • Trending
      Trending  • 5 years ago

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

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

      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
    wilim orcdie  • 5 years ago

    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
    اجاره خودرو  • 5 years ago

    Should seo title same with post title or not ?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 5 years ago

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