how to use headings

SEO basics
How to use headings on your site

SEO basics: How to use headings on your site

July 05th, 2017 – 15 Comments

Text without headings is terrible to read. Headings and subheadings are the most important anchor points a reader has in the text. People tend to read those more carefully and use headings to determine what a text is about. This means headings are essential to help people figure out whether they want to read a text. So, how do you use headings properly on your site? And are they of any importance for SEO? I’ll tell you all about that here. 

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Headings and text structure

Headings are anchors that guide readers through a text. People tend to read those headings carefully. Headings should therefore indicate what a paragraph is about, otherwise people won’t know what to expect. Moreover, if they get lost in (poor) writing, looking back to the heading may help them to get back on track.

Reading from a screen is hard. People easily get distracted and loose track of the story you’re trying to tell in your blog posts. Headings will help people to stay on track, to grasp the message of your post.

For web copy, I’d strongly recommend to write headings that are informative to the reader. Some people like to tease their audience in the headings, trying to seduce them to read further. That can work beautifully. However, the main focus of headings should be on the content. And the main purpose of headings should be to make the text more readable.

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. I’m not sure about that. Still, your focus keyword should definitely be in a subheading. If you’re trying to rank for it, you’ll have to write about it. It only makes sense that you mention the main topic of a blog post in one or more headings. It shouldn’t feel unnatural or weird using your focus keyword though, then you’re probably trying too hard – or over optimizing.

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

Use of headings

Sometimes developers also talk about headings. They usually talk about <H1> and <H2>, <H3>, <H4>. Just to translate a little: H1 is the title of the page or the blog post, and you should only use it once. The other headings can be used multiple times, as long as it makes sense. It’s a hierarchical structure, so before you use H3, you should have used H2. But you can go back and use H2 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. I usually stick to using H2 and H3 though.

Headings and accessibility

The heading structure is important for accessibility as well, especially for people who can’t read well from a screen. Because headings are in HTML, a screenreader can make an outline and read all the headings out loud.

By reading or listening to the headings online, visually impaired people can make their decision whether to start reading an article. In addition to that, screen readers offer shortcuts to jump from one heading to another, and this way, 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 in your copy, the right way!

Keep reading: ‘Headings and why you should use them’ »


15 Responses to SEO basics: How to use headings on your site

  1. Erin
    By Erin on 15 July, 2017

    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
    By Adrian on 15 July, 2017

    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
    By Natur on 13 July, 2017

    Great text. Thanks for a very thorough analysis.

  4. Needhi
    By Needhi on 13 July, 2017

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

  5. Ahmad al-tarifi
    By Ahmad al-tarifi on 10 July, 2017

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

    • Marieke
      By Marieke on 12 July, 2017

      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
    By Naveen Prakash on 7 July, 2017

    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
    By Joe Albert on 7 July, 2017

    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
    By Jorinde on 6 July, 2017

    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
      By Marieke on 12 July, 2017

      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
    By diya verma on 6 July, 2017

    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
    By Shaurya on 5 July, 2017

    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
      By Marieke on 12 July, 2017

      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
    By Roxana on 5 July, 2017

    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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