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.
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.
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!