JavaScript: Extracting all Headings from Raw HTML

Updated: January 31, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


Navigating through the vast structure of a webpage can be daunting if you don’t have the right tools and knowledge to parse HTML effectively. In this tutorial, we will focus on JavaScript, one of the most popular languages for web manipulation and scraping, and explore how you can extract all headings from raw HTML data. Headings, as indicated by the <h1> to <h6> tags, structure the content and give us an overview of the topics covered in a webpage.

Understanding the Document Object Model (DOM) is crucial before we start extracting elements. The DOM is a programming interface provided by browsers that allows scripts to update the document’s content, structure, and style. JavaScript can query and manipulate the DOM to achieve dynamic content interaction on webpages.

Let’s dive into extracting headings step by step with practical JavaScript code examples.

Getting Started with the DOM

First things first, we need to get our HTML document available for manipulation. Whether you are working with a static HTML file or fetching content dynamically via an API or web scraping, make sure that you have the raw HTML content available as a string.

const rawHtml = '<!DOCTYPE html>\n' +
                 '<html>\n' +
                 '<head><title>Example Page</title></head>\n' +
                 '<body>\n' +
                 '  <h1>Welcome to the JavaScript Tutorial</h1>\n' +
                 '  <h2>Extracting Headings</h2>\n' +
                 '  <h3>What is a Heading?</h3>\n' +
                 '  <h4>Understanding the DOM</h4>\n' +
                 '</body>\n' +

Once you have the raw HTML, you will need to convert it to a DOM object that can be manipulated. The easiest way to do this in a non-browser environment like Node.js is to use a library such as `jsdom`.

Here’s how to install `jsdom`:

npm install jsdom

And here’s how you can use it to parse the raw HTML:

const { JSDOM } = require('jsdom');
const dom = new JSDOM(rawHtml);
const document = dom.window.document;

Extracting Headings Using JavaScript

Now that a DOM object is at our fingertips, we can use various methods to navigate through the content and extract the data we need. JavaScript provides us with several methods to get elements from the DOM:

1. getElementById(id) – retrieves an element by its ID.
2. getElementsByClassName(className) – retrieves a list of elements that have the specified class name.
3. getElementsByTagName(tagName) – retrieves a list of elements with the specified tag name.
4. querySelector(selector) – retrieves the first element matching the specified CSS selector.
5. querySelectorAll(selectors) – retrieves a list of elements matching the specific group of CSS selectors.

Since headings are defined by their tag names (<h1> to <h6>), the best method to use in this case is getElementsByTagName.

const headings = [];
for (let i = 1; i <= 6; i++) {
  document.getElementsByTagName('h' + i).forEach(h => {

Above, we’ve created an array to hold our headings and then looped through numbers from 1 to 6, representing each heading level. For each level, we select all the headings and push their text content to our array.

Note that in the JSDOM environment, we may need to convert HTMLCollections or NodeLists into arrays to use array methods like forEach. One way to do this is:

Array.from(document.getElementsByTagName('h' + i)).forEach(h => {

Handling Complex HTML Structures

In more complex HTML structures where headings may have nested elements or you want to preserve attributes, you must handle these cases carefully.

for (let i = 1; i <= 6; i++) {
  Array.from(document.getElementsByTagName('h' + i)).forEach(h => {
    const headingData = {
      level: i,
      content: h.textContent,
      id: || null,
      class: h.className || null

In the code snippet above, instead of directly pushing the textContent of each heading, we create an object containing the heading level, its text content, and, if present, its id and class attribute values.

Using QuerySelectorAll for Headings

An alternative approach is to use querySelectorAll with a CSS selector that matches all the headings:

const allHeadingsSelector = 'h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6';
const headingsElements = document.querySelectorAll(allHeadingsSelector);
const headingsList = Array.from(headingsElements).map(elem => elem.textContent);

Here, we have used a single CSS selector to grab all heading elements, then we use map to create an array of their text contents.

Extracting Headings with Regular Expressions

Although using the DOM is the most reliable method for extracting elements from HTML, in some cases, you may not be able to use a DOM parser. In those cases, you can use regular expressions to extract headings directly from a raw HTML string. However, this is not recommended because it is error-prone and can fail with complex HTML or unusual edge cases.

const headingRegex = /<(h[1-6])(.*?)>(.*?)<\/\1>/g;
let matches;
const headingData = [];

while ((matches = headingRegex.exec(rawHtml)) !== null) {
    tagName: matches[1],
    attributes: matches[2],
    content: matches[3]

If you opt for this approach, be warned that HTML parsing with regex can lead to many issues and is generally not recommended for critical applications.


We have covered various methods to extract all headings from a raw HTML in JavaScript. Whether you have a complete Document Object Model (DOM) ready or just a string of raw HTML, these techniques allow you to retrieve important structural information from a webpage. Tools like JSDOM offer a flexible and powerful way to parse and extract this information in environments outside of the browser, like Node.js.

While this tutorial only focused on headings, similar techniques can be applied for extracting any type of data from HTML, such as links, images, paragraphs, and more. Adapt and expand on these examples based on your own scraping or data extraction needs, always keeping in mind relevant copyright and ethical guidelines when scraping content.

In any web development or data mining scenario, being able to interact with the DOM and extract information efficiently is an invaluable skill. As you continue to work with JavaScript and HTML, mastering DOM manipulation will certainly open up new possibilities for developing and enhancing your web projects.