The use of header tags to create headings in your content is a powerful SEO tool that aids users and search engines to identify, read, and understand your copy. When you have well-written and formatted SEO titles, these headings act as signposts, making it much simpler for readers (and Google) to figure out exactly what the copy is about. 

Headings also define which areas of your content are important, and display how each section of text is interconnected. In this blog, we will provide you with pointers and top tips on how to think about headings and the most effective way to use them to improve and optimize your content. 

What are header tags?

Header tags are a type of HTML tag used to format your content into main titles (H1 tag), subheadings (H2 tags), and sub-subheadings (H3, H4 tags, and beyond). Your content can be broken down into subheadings as far as a H8 tag – but it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to go that deep. (If you do, that might be a sign you should restructure your content.)

Heading tags look like this: <h2>This is a H2 subheading<h2>

However, if you use a CMS for your content, such as WordPress, you don’t need to use any HTML at all. You will be able to select the heading type in the formatting drop-down menu, which will usually look something like this:

Why Use Headings?

Headings show text structure 

One of the main purposes of headings is to guide readers through an article or a particularly long piece of content. Therefore, they should clearly indicate and signpost what a section or a paragraph is about. Without clear headings, readers won’t know what to expect. 

The majority of readers like to scan over content to get a grasp of what the text is about and to decide which particular sections they’re going to read and give the most attention to. Headings aid in helping readers do so. Scanning over text becomes a lot more difficult for readers if there are no headers to signpost each section. It is also difficult when long stretches of text are added after a heading. 

It’s very good practice to ensure that your headings are informative to the reader, especially when it comes to web copy. Some content creators like to tease their readers in each heading by trying to entice them to keep on reading. As well as this can work and be very effective, it can also go wrong. The main thing to keep in mind is that the main focus of headings should be on the content, and the primary purpose is to make the text simpler to read and understand. 

Headings improve accessibility 

Using headings in your text is also important for accessibility. This is especially important for readers who can’t easily read off a screen. Headings are in HTML, meaning a screen reader can very easily understand the article structure and read each heading out loud. 

This means that visually impaired people can quickly decide if they want to read the article or not by reading or listening to the headings in the article. Headings are also used effectively for navigation as they offer shortcuts for screen readers who want to jump from one heading to the next. 

And don’t forget, in several cases, whatever improves accessibility also improves SEO!

Headings improve SEO 

Generally speaking, how you use headings in your text doesn’t specifically have an impact on your SEO. Making the minor tweak here and there won’t have a major impact on your performance. There are indirect benefits to using headings in your copy, however, as headings create texts of much higher quality that are a lot easier to read. This creates a better user experience for your audience, which in turn is beneficial for your SEO. 

Usually, visitors that come to a webpage are in a hurry and want to find what they are looking for quickly. If they can’t find the relevant information on your website, chances are they are going to leave your page and look for the answer elsewhere. Search engines are very alert to the number of people bouncing off of your site. If you end up with a high bounce rate, search engines will conclude that your page doesn’t give searchers the information that they are seeking. This may result in lower ratings for your website. 

Always keep the user at the forefront of your mind when using headings. They are best used to add structure and signposts to your copy, and to give a description of what each section is about. When your headings help users understand and know what your article is about, they will also help Google to do so too. 

How to Use Headings

When thinking about the best ways to use headings in your content, there are two main things to keep in mind. Firstly, think about structuring them well, and secondly, try your very best to include your keywords in them. Now, you may be wondering what we mean by “structuring them well”, don’t worry, we will take you through this process so you leave this blog a heading structuring whizz. 

Structuring your Headings

When you upload a piece of copy onto WordPress, you’ll notice various ‘levels’ of headings in the text editor section. It goes from ‘Heading 1’ to ‘Heading 6’. H1 is usually known as the main heading, while the rest are called subheadings, or sub subheadings. These are ordered by size and importance. For example, ‘Heading 2’ is more important than ‘Heading 4’. 

Behind the scenes, all of these headings are converted into HTML heading tags, from <h1> to <h6>. This is the main reason as to why when we talk about structuring headings and content well, we refer to ‘H1’ tags, ‘H2’ tags, and so on. The underlying HTML code is being referred to. 

How to Structure your Headings 

The best place to start is right at the start of your content (naturally) with your H1 heading. Now, you are limited to only one H1 on each of your pages, and it should be the title/name of the page or post. As you can see on this page the H1 is “How To Use H1/H2/H3 Headings”. A simple way to think of your H1 is to think of a name for a book. For example, your H1 would be the name of a category on a category page or the name of the product on a specific product page. 

Now that you have your H1 nailed and in place, it’s time to think about the rest of the headings in your copy. You can use H2 and H3 subheadings to introduce different sections of your text. Just like the “How to Structure your Headings” section that you are currently reading, which sits within the “Structuring your Headings” section. The best way to think of H2 headings is to think of them as chapters in a book, and those individual sections may require specific headings (H3 tags, H4 tags, etc.) to introduce sub-sections. 

It’s quite rare for the majority of content to get ‘deep’ enough to need H4 tags and beyond unless you are writing a very long, or very technical piece of content. 

An example of heading structure 

Let’s say that we have to write a blog post about electrical gates. Our main keyword is “electrical gates” and we have written an article about why every house should have an electrical gate. Without the use of headings, there is a great risk that we may just end up writing a very long, rambling piece of text that is difficult to understand. By structuring things logically with headings, we not only make it much easier to read, but we also help focus our writing. 

Here’s an example of what the structure of the post may look like:

  • H1 – Electrical gates should be part of every house 
    • H2 – Why we think electrical gates should be part of every house 
      • H3 – They add security to your home 
      • H3 – They add aesthetic value to your home 
      • H3 -They may be more cost-effective than you think 
    • H2 – Where should you buy an electric gate from?
      • H3 – The 10 best warehouse stores for home security 
      • H3 – Our favourite online sites for home security 

As you can see above, we have created a logical structure using H2 tags to plan out the different sections and H3 tags to cover specific topics in greater detail. 

This is a good example of how to use headings to clearly structure a medium-length article. In shorter pieces of copy, try to use fewer headings or more general high-level headings. For longer pieces of content where you are going into much more detail, there is nothing stopping you from using H4 tags and so on to create even ‘lower-level’ sections. 

SEO Title Examples 

Here are a few SEO title examples where a brand has effectively used headings to clearly structure and explain its content. 

As you can see here, Craftsy has used a clear H1 heading to explain what this particular article is about and what the reader should expect. 

They then go onto explaining the “best type of paint” with “acrylic” being introduced and explained as a H3 sub-subheading within the H2 subheading.

They then go on to do the same with the “so-so paints” as the next H2 subheading, with the various paints listed and described as H3 headings. A very clear and simple structure for the reader to follow. 

The same can be seen here in this blog post by Miingle, where the main H1 tag is clearly signposting what this particular piece of content is about at the beginning of the copy.  

The H2 tags give structure to the copy by explaining what cohabitation is and the pros and cons of it. 

H3 tags and H4 tags are then used to provide a listicle of each benefit and risk, explaining them in further detail and sectioning off the content to make it much more readable and understandable.  

Want help with how to implement headings effectively into your copy? Get in touch with our expert team.