SEO basics How to use headings on your site

It’s hard to read a piece of text with no headings to break it up. Headings and subheadings are the most important signposts for the reader, and people tend to read headings more carefully, using them to work out what an article is about. This makes headings essential to help people figure out whether or not they want to read an article. So how do you use headings effectively on your site? And are they important for SEO? Find out here.

Headings and text structure

Headings are signposts that guide readers through an article. Because people tend to read them carefully, they should indicate what a paragraph is about, or people won’t know what to expect. Also, headings may help them get back on track if they get lost in (poor) writing.

Reading from a screen is difficult. People can easily get distracted and lose track of the story you’re trying to tell, but headings will help people stay on track, and to grasp the message of your post.

For web copy, I’d strongly recommend writing headings that are informative to the reader. Some people like to tease their audience in the headings, trying to entice them to read further. While that can work very well, it’s easy to get wrong. Remember that the main focus of headings should be on the content – and the main purpose of headings should be to make the text easier to read and understand.

Read more: Why text structure is important for SEO »

Headings and SEO

People like putting their focus keywords in headings and some believe it’ll directly result in higher rankings, but I’m not so sure about that. Still, if you’re trying to rank for a keyword, you’ll have to write about it, so it only makes sense that you should mention the main topic of a blog post in one or more of your headings. It shouldn’t feel unnatural or weird using your focus keyword, but if it does, that’s probably because you’re trying too hard, or over-optimizing.

Although not a major ranking factor, headings do affect SEO. That’s because headings are important to help users understand the subject of an article. And if readers use headings to figure out what an article is about, Google will too.

Use of headings

Sometimes developers also talk about headings, usually <H1> and <H2>, <H3>, <H4>. To translate: H1 is the title of the page or the blog post, and you should only use it once per article. Other headings can be used multiple times, as long as they follow a hierarchical structure – so you should use H2 before you use H3 within a topic. But you can go back and use H2 again after you’ve used H3. Here’s an example of a heading structure:

H1: Ballet shoes are awesome

H2: Why ballet shoes are awesome

       H3: Ballet shoes are pink

H3: Ballet shoes are flexible

H3: Ballet shoes are cheap

H2: Where to buy your ballet shoes?

H3: Online stores

H3: In your hometown?

H2: Wrapping it up.

You can use H4, H5, and H6 if you want to, as long as you make sure to use H4 before H5 and H5 before H6, and so on, but I usually stick to using just H2 and H3.

Headings and accessibility

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.

By reading or listening to the headings in an article, visually impaired people can decide whether or not to read an article. Screen readers also offer shortcuts to jump from one heading to the next, so headings are used for navigation as well.

Don’t forget your headings!

Using headings well is helpful for your users, increases chances of people actually reading your article, improves accessibility and might even contribute to SEO. So add them into your copy – just make sure you use them correctly!

Keep reading: Headings and why you should use them »

15 Responses to How to use headings on your site

  1. Erin
    Erin  • 2 years ago

    Good article for beginners. I notice a lot of people think heading tags are just for design, but they don’t realize the SEO impact they can have.

  2. Adrian
    Adrian  • 2 years ago

    An informative article here thank you! Heading structures are very important for every website not only to the reader but for optimisation purposes as well. Definitely keeping these tips in mind when working on my own site.

  3. Natur
    Natur  • 2 years ago

    Great text. Thanks for a very thorough analysis.

  4. Needhi
    Needhi  • 2 years ago

    Perfect Yoast This is really informative and worth for me. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Ahmad al-tarifi
    Ahmad al-tarifi  • 2 years ago

    can i use H1 more than once in blog and how can get best use in google?

    • Marieke
      Marieke  • 2 years ago

      Hi Ahmad, we always advise to just have one H1 on your page. It should describe the main topic of that page, and by just having one, you can’t confuse Google. On top of that, it could cause problems for some screen readers as well.

  6. Naveen Prakash
    Naveen Prakash  • 2 years ago

    Very nice article for beginners, should understand the importance of sub-heading. Now I can use these tips for my health website and my so on ranking article i. e “How to get rid of heart palpitations”

  7. Joe Albert
    Joe Albert  • 2 years ago

    Do you need and in articles, would it be wrong just to have one main heading at the start of paragraphs and have that labeled as

  8. Jorinde
    Jorinde  • 2 years ago

    Thank you for this great and clear article about the use of headings in online content. I completely agree that reading a text without headings is terrible to read, as well as articles with headings which are over using focus keywords. Its key to find the right balance. What do you think about the structure (and length) of text in headings?

    • Marieke
      Marieke  • 2 years ago

      Hi Jorinde, thanks! We always try to keep the texts in headings on topic – without stuffing keywords in it – and preferably on one line, as that’s just easier to read and scan for the user.

  9. diya verma
    diya verma  • 2 years ago

    Give a great information about a heading (h1,h2….h3). and from my side one qeustion about heading H1 tags can improve your search engine ranking. But may don’t know what that means, or even how to tell if our website is using the H1 tag properly.

  10. Shaurya
    Shaurya  • 2 years ago

    Great explanation of using Headings correctly. One tip I would like to add is using different LSI variations of the main keyword to the h2 and h3 tags to improve the onpage seo and get traffic from longtail traffic.

    • Marieke
      Marieke  • 2 years ago

      Hi Shaurya, thanks for the addition! Don’t forget to add and link to articles about those long tail topics too then. That will greatly enhance your site structure.

  11. Roxana
    Roxana  • 2 years ago

    Hi Marieke! thanks a lot for your valuable content!
    My question about headings is related to the use of capital letters.
    When I combine capital letters or when the heading is all in capital letters, the Yoast plugin for wordpress seems not to realize that I am talking about the same thing. I mean, do Yoast and Google itself consider in the same way when the keyword appears in capital letters or a combination using capital letters (for example “conservación” and “Conservación” or “CONSERVACIÓN”?)?
    Thanks a lot in advance for your attention!

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