How to use headings to help with SEO

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Think of the last blog post or article you read – did it have larger bits of text to break things up?

You might pass by them and think nothing of it, but those large pieces of text are actually critical when it comes to structuring your content for the web, and for Google.

They’re typically called ‘headings’ and without them both search engines and visitors would have a hard time understanding the text displayed on your website. If you want to improve your rank on Google, everything you do in your content needs to align with Google’s goals: to understand and rank content efficiently, and to provide a good experience for users on your site.

Ultimately your end goal is to engage your viewers with your site right so that they will subscribe or keep coming back right? Well, headings are the key to helping you achieve this goal!

Let’s dive in.

Why should I use Headings?

Think about the last time you read an article on the web. We’re talking a longer article, maybe 1000+ words.

Did you read the whole thing? Be honest!

More often than not, you will skim the article and look for a specific subsection in that is applicable to what you are looking for. It’s ok, we do it too! In fact 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds reading an article, so the more you can grab someone’s attention and invite them to read more the better.

This is why headings are so important when blogging or building content on your website.

Without headings to break up a page people will see a massive wall of text and leave for an article that is more pleasant to read. Headings help users and search engines to better understand the text on your site.

There are all types of headings however, three are most useful in improving SEO: H1, H2, & H3.

In this article, we will dive into why these three headings are important, and how they can help with SEO.

Use headings to show structure

One of the biggest benefits headings provide to your content is structure.

Headings help to guide a reader through an article.

For each paragraph or subsection, it is important to include a heading that essentially summarizes what the section is about in just a few keywords. Think about how you read an article or a website when doing research of your own; without headings and subsections, you will have no idea wha to expect, and likely stop reading.

When doing research, readers like to scan articles, and headings are an essential tool for doing so. Remember, more than half of them are spending 15 seconds or less on your page!

Unless there are bolded keywords, scanning is significantly harder without headings. Even with bolded words, it can still be hard to scan with no headings because there is no summary of what each paragraph details. Structure is one of the most important parts of writing a good article, and to have a good structure outlined in your article, you must have headings.

Use headings to improve readability

Having headings not only helps those looking for quick answers, but also offers accessibility to your site visitors. Those who are visually impaired can opt to listen to headings to make a decision on whether they want to continue with the article with a screen reader, for example.

Headings can also be used as shortcuts.

With a long article or an ebook, there is often a table of contents, where readers can click on the heading in the table and go directly to that subsections. This allows for quicker navigation through the article, and saves readers a lot of time finding the answers that they need.

Google’s goal is create a positive experience for people searching the web, so the more you can do to make your content readable and accessible, the better it helps Google accomplish their mission and the better your content will rank. That brings us to how headings can impact your SEO strategy.

Use headings for SEO

Google has got some 200 ranking factors and headings are not officially one of them.

But there are plenty of times Google has been non committal on something, so rather than ignore headings outright you should still focus on them as they help improve your content, which we all know does help with SEO.

Since headings help to better organize your text, it makes it easier on the reader, which is always a bonus. If visitors can’t easily find what they are looking for, they will likely leave your site. This is why headings are important, as they can indirectly impact your SEO.

Search engines like Google keep a very close eye on the bounce rates of websites. A bounce is calculated every time a user clicks on your site and exits without further request. In fact, it’s been suspected that Google will even run AB tests where they swap the rankings of two pages to see which ones perform better!

Each bounce your site receives increases your bounce rate, and consequently can negatively affect your rank, as search engines use bounce rates to conclude that your page is not what users are looking for. To decrease bounces and keep people on your site, use headings to make it easier on users so that they want to continue using your website.

How to write your Headings

So, headings are important. But how do you use them?

The two most important aspects of writing good headings and subheadings include using key phrases and the proper heading levels.

Use key phrases in your headings

Each post you write probably has a keyword/key phrase in mind.

Before you start writing your post, take some time to list out similar key phrases to the ones you are targeting – these are candidates to use throughout your content and especially in your headings.

When using a key phrase in your subheadings, it is important to make it really clear what the paragraph is going to be about. However, remember to not overuse that keyword in your content, only add it where it makes sense to keep your user interested. Using keywords too much, or an unnatural amount is a practice called keyword stuffing and Google looks very unfavorably on that.

Mix your heading sizes up, and use the right ones

There are three main heading levels you should use when structuring your post: H1, H2, & H3.

Use H1 headings for your name/title of your post only. It’s often recommended to use one H1 heading on a page, and while it’s not an official ranking factor it’s better to be safe than sorry. The H1 heading should be reserved for the main headline of your page to tell visitors, and Google, what the content is about. Make it clear, bold, and towards the top of the page.

You can think of the H1 heading as the title page/book cover. Now, H2s and H3s can be thought of as chapters.

When writing content, you want to make sure to use H2 and H3 for your subheadings. I like to use H2 headings to signify broad sections or main ideas, and H3 headings for sub-ideas to get more granular. Imagine a textbook broken up into large sections with shorter chapters in each section.

Going forward

I hope this quick guide is helpful, and gets you well on your way to become a formatting pro. When in doubt lean on this principle: make your content as enjoyable and easy to read as possible. Sometimes in SEO we focus so much on the algorithmic side of things and lose sight of one simple fact, Google’s job is to return the best content to answer a question. Answer questions, and use headings to structure that answer well and you will see a boost to your rankings.

You might pass by them and think nothing of it, but those large pieces of text are actually critical when it comes to structuring your content for the web, and for Google.

They’re typically called ‘headings’ and without them both search engines and visitors would have a hard time understanding the text displayed on your website. If you want to improve your rank on Google, everything you do in your content needs to align with Google’s goals: to understand and rank content efficiently, and to provide a good experience for users on your site.

Ultimately your end goal is to engage your viewers with your site right so that they will subscribe or keep coming back right? Well, headings are the key to helping you achieve this goal!

Let’s dive in.

Why should I use Headings?

Think about the last time you read an article on the web. We’re talking a longer article, maybe 1000+ words.

Did you read the whole thing? Be honest!

More often than not, you will skim the article and look for a specific subsection in that is applicable to what you are looking for. It’s ok, we do it too! In fact 55% of people spend less than 15 seconds reading an article, so the more you can grab someone’s attention and invite them to read more the better.

This is why headings are so important when blogging or building content on your website.

Without headings to break up a page people will see a massive wall of text and leave for an article that is more pleasant to read. Headings help users and search engines to better understand the text on your site.

There are all types of headings however, three are most useful in improving SEO: H1, H2, & H3.

In this article, we will dive into why these three headings are important, and how they can help with SEO.

Use headings to show structure

One of the biggest benefits headings provide to your content is structure.

Headings help to guide a reader through an article.

For each paragraph or subsection, it is important to include a heading that essentially summarizes what the section is about in just a few keywords. Think about how you read an article or a website when doing research of your own; without headings and subsections, you will have no idea wha to expect, and likely stop reading.

When doing research, readers like to scan articles, and headings are an essential tool for doing so. Remember, more than half of them are spending 15 seconds or less on your page!

Unless there are bolded keywords, scanning is significantly harder without headings. Even with bolded words, it can still be hard to scan with no headings because there is no summary of what each paragraph details. Structure is one of the most important parts of writing a good article, and to have a good structure outlined in your article, you must have headings.

Use headings to improve readability

Having headings not only helps those looking for quick answers, but also offers accessibility to your site visitors. Those who are visually impaired can opt to listen to headings to make a decision on whether they want to continue with the article with a screen reader, for example.

Headings can also be used as shortcuts.

With a long article or an ebook, there is often a table of contents, where readers can click on the heading in the table and go directly to that subsections. This allows for quicker navigation through the article, and saves readers a lot of time finding the answers that they need.

Google’s goal is create a positive experience for people searching the web, so the more you can do to make your content readable and accessible, the better it helps Google accomplish their mission and the better your content will rank. That brings us to how headings can impact your SEO strategy.

Use headings for SEO

Google has got some 200 ranking factors and headings are not officially one of them.

But there are plenty of times Google has been non committal on something, so rather than ignore headings outright you should still focus on them as they help improve your content, which we all know does help with SEO.

Since headings help to better organize your text, it makes it easier on the reader, which is always a bonus. If visitors can’t easily find what they are looking for, they will likely leave your site. This is why headings are important, as they can indirectly impact your SEO.

Search engines like Google keep a very close eye on the bounce rates of websites. A bounce is calculated every time a user clicks on your site and exits without further request. In fact, it’s been suspected that Google will even run AB tests where they swap the rankings of two pages to see which ones perform better!

Each bounce your site receives increases your bounce rate, and consequently can negatively affect your rank, as search engines use bounce rates to conclude that your page is not what users are looking for. To decrease bounces and keep people on your site, use headings to make it easier on users so that they want to continue using your website.

How to write your Headings

So, headings are important. But how do you use them?

The two most important aspects of writing good headings and subheadings include using key phrases and the proper heading levels.

Use key phrases in your headings

Each post you write probably has a keyword/key phrase in mind.

Before you start writing your post, take some time to list out similar key phrases to the ones you are targeting – these are candidates to use throughout your content and especially in your headings.

When using a key phrase in your subheadings, it is important to make it really clear what the paragraph is going to be about. However, remember to not overuse that keyword in your content, only add it where it makes sense to keep your user interested. Using keywords too much, or an unnatural amount is a practice called keyword stuffing and Google looks very unfavorably on that.

Mix your heading sizes up, and use the right ones

There are three main heading levels you should use when structuring your post: H1, H2, & H3.

Use H1 headings for your name/title of your post only. It’s often recommended to use one H1 heading on a page, and while it’s not an official ranking factor it’s better to be safe than sorry. The H1 heading should be reserved for the main headline of your page to tell visitors, and Google, what the content is about. Make it clear, bold, and towards the top of the page.

You can think of the H1 heading as the title page/book cover. Now, H2s and H3s can be thought of as chapters.

When writing content, you want to make sure to use H2 and H3 for your subheadings. I like to use H2 headings to signify broad sections or main ideas, and H3 headings for sub-ideas to get more granular. Imagine a textbook broken up into large sections with shorter chapters in each section.

Going forward

I hope this quick guide is helpful, and gets you well on your way to become a formatting pro. When in doubt lean on this principle: make your content as enjoyable and easy to read as possible. Sometimes in SEO we focus so much on the algorithmic side of things and lose sight of one simple fact, Google’s job is to return the best content to answer a question. Answer questions, and use headings to structure that answer well and you will see a boost to your rankings.

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