How to improve your subheading distribution

One of the aspects of the SEO analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin is the subheading distribution check. This check provides you with feedback on how well you’ve made use of subheadings throughout your text. Do you use enough subheadings? Are they distributed effectively? In this article, we’ll explain why subheadings are important, and how you should use subheadings effectively while writing copy.

Why is it important to use subheadings?

There are basically three reasons why it’s important to use subheadings:

  1. Headings guide your readers through your text
    It’s hard to read a piece of text with no headings to break it up. This is even more true for web copy, as reading from a screen is difficult. People get easily distracted and lose track of the story you’re trying to tell. Headings and subheadings are the most important signposts for the reader. People tend to read headings more carefully, using them to work out what an article is about. So, subheadings should indicate what a paragraph is about, or people won’t know what to expect. Headings will help people stay on track and grasp the message of your post.
  2. Headings affect SEO
    Although it’s probably not a ranking factor, headings do affect SEO. That’s because headings are important to help users understand the subject of an article. If readers use headings to figure out what an article is about, Google will too.
  3. Headings make your text more accessible
    A third reason why it’s important to use headings is because heading structure is important for accessibility as well, especially for people who can’t easily read from a screen. Because headings are in HTML, a screen reader can understand the article structure and read all the headings out loud.

How to use subheadings effectively

So, headings are of great importance to the structure of your text. They allow your readers to quickly scan through your text and to decide whether they would like to read your article (or: which parts). That’s why headings should be attractive and should clearly state the content of the paragraph below it.

But how should you distribute your headings? We would advise you to put a heading above every long paragraph, or above every group of paragraphs that is thematically similar.

Structuring your headings

You might have heard of heading tags. These are HTML tags that are used for the creation of headings. The most important tag is the H1 heading tag, which is usually the title of a post. Heading tags have a top-down hierarchy from H1 to H6.  

So, your text should start with a main heading H1, and this heading can only be used once per article. Other headings can be used multiple times, as long as they follow a hierarchical structure. H2 is for subheadings of H1, H3 is for subheadings of that H2, et cetera. Let’s take a look at an example:

H1: Potato chips are awesome
 H2: Why potato chips are awesome
  H3: Potato chips come in a lot of different flavors
  H3: Potato chips are crunchy
  H3: Potato chips are cheap
 H2: The best potato chips ever
 H2: Where to buy potato chips
  H3: Online stores
  H3: In your hometown
 H2: Wrapping it up

Adding headings

But wait, how do you add headings? If you’re using WordPress, there are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Via the editor
    The easiest way to add headings is through the editor. If you’re already using the new Gutenberg block editor, you can simply click the +-button and select ‘Heading’. Then, you can select which heading you want to add.
    Adding a header in Gutenberg

    If you’re still using the classic editor, it’s easy too. Make sure you’re on the visual tab of the editor, and then select ‘Heading 1’ or another heading from the dropdown menu.
    Selecting a header in the classic editor
  2. Using HTML
    It’s also possible to add headings using HTML. Make sure you’re on the text tab (or directly in the code), and use heading tags <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc. to specify each type of heading. End each heading with a closing tag like </h1>. Like this:
    Header tags in an HTML editor

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

How to improve your subheading distribution

So, what to do if you get an orange or red bullet in the Yoast SEO plugin regarding your subheading distribution? Well, first of all – and this is quite obvious – don’t forget to use subheadings! In addition, you should try to create a subheading for every separate topic in your text. This could be for every paragraph, but also for a couple of paragraphs discussing the same topic.