Why you should use your keyphrase in subheadings

In the SEO analysis in our plugin, we tell you to put (part of) your keyphrase in some of your subheadings. But why is this important? Should you always put your keyphrase in every subheading? And if not, how do you decide when to add the keyphrase and when not to? That’s what we’ll explore here.

Why subheadings are important

Subheadings play an important role in your text structure. They help the reader quickly understand what a paragraph or group of paragraphs is about. This improves the readability of your text. Some claim they influence SEO directly, but we’re not sure they do. If you want to learn more about the importance of subheadings and how to use them, check out our article on subheading distribution. In this article, we’ll focus on the relationship between subheadings and your focus keyphrase.

Subheadings, focus keyphrases and SEO

It’s unclear whether using your keyphrase in subheadings influences your SEO directly. Like with subheadings in general, there are some who say it does help your rankings. We simply don’t know for sure.

At Yoast, we like to focus more on the indirect effect. Your subheadings are prominent parts of your article. They stand out more than your body text. By adding your focus keyphrase to your subheadings, you stress the importance of your keyphrase. Moreover, if you’re trying to rank for a keyphrase, you’ll have to write about it. If none of your paragraphs address the main topic, you’ll probably have a hard time ranking.

It simply makes sense to mention the main topic of a post in one or more of your headings. Readers will understand what the paragraph has to do with the topic of the article. And Google may as well. Still, just like keyphrases in general, it’s important not to overdo it. Add your keyphrase where it makes sense, leave it out where it doesn’t.

Learn more about this check in Yoast SEO in our explanation of the keyphrase in subheading assessment.

Choosing whether to use your keyphrase in a subheading

Whether you add your keyphrase to a subheading depends on the paragraph(s) it’s connected to. Every paragraph in your text should tell the reader something about the topic at hand. In addition, your subheadings are nothing more than a very short outline of what you are going to say in one or more paragraphs. Therefore, it should always be possible to add your keyphrase to one or more subheadings. If you’re still struggling to achieve this, ask yourself a couple of questions about the structure of your article.

  1. Does my text discuss the topic described in the keyphrase? If not, should I pick another keyphrase?
  2. Do my current subheadings accurately describe what I discuss under them?
  3. What paragraphs are most closely connected to the topic and the keyphrase?
  4. What questions do these paragraphs answer concerning the topic and the keyphrase?

Most of the time, you’ll find that answering these questions helps you add the keyphrase to one or more of your subheadings. If you can’t, you should probably consider question number one again. If that doesn’t solve your problems, consider educating yourself on copywriting and text structure, to get a clearer view of how a good piece is structured. Your keyphrase should be central to the topic. Therefore, you should be able to add it to at least one subheading.

Are you testing the new Yoast SEO analysis? Then adding your keyphrase just once is not always enough. You’ll now get a green bullet if you use the keyphrase in 30 to 75% of your subheadings. Keep in mind that we’ll only check your H2 and H3 subheadings. Wondering whether you should use all the words of your keyphrase in your subheading to get positive feedback? Well, that depends. If you write in a language that has function word support, you need to use all content words. The order of the words doesn’t matter. For example, if your keyphrase is [puppy training in Bakersfield], a good subheading could be [Take your puppy to Bakersfield for a dog-friendly training program]. If your language doesn’t have function word support, you’ll have to use at least half of the words from your keyphrase within a subheading.