Today we are covering a topic you are likely already familiar with on some level if you create content for your site. That has to do with what best practices are when it comes to using headings and subheadings throughout your pages. Your initial instinct may be to highlight the most important topics of your page. But, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a specific subheading. So, let’s talk about the main three you will be!
Wait, But Why Do Headings and Subheadings Matter?
Subheadings have historically been used as an important ranking factor in search engines like Google. But, as technology has advanced, so have the factors that influence rankings. In our current day, headings no longer have to include the keywords you’d like to rank for. Search engines have reached a level of sophistication that they can better understand how to identify the main focus of a page. In some ways, one may believe that subheadings have become less important over the years. But, using each level of subheading in the correct way can still go a long way in improving your rankings.
Titles & H1’s
To start off, it is worth stressing that when it comes to using H1’s, they should be saved for the main title of your page. This is because when Google’s bots and other visitors land on your webpage, you want the topic of the page to be as clear as possible. Having more than one will dilute the focus of the page, and potentially confuse readers or web crawling robots. As a result, you may have a more difficult time ranking for more specific keywords.
Depending on your website editor, you may or may not have the ability to edit the H1’s on your site. If you don’t see any option to adjust them, you may have to contact support for your respective editor to gain more insight. However, in most cases, H1’s will exist as the main title attribute on your page. So, if you don’t see any mention of H1’s, don’t worry! They may be hiding in plain sight.
Best Practices for H2 Subheadings
H2 headings are likely the main headings you will use on each page. These are the main subheadings that are used to break up content throughout your site. Using H2’s helps to improve readability for readers and Google alike. In turn, this helps call attention to important topics you want potential clients to take notice of. This may include other important NAP information or vital keywords you want to rank for. Another good way to think about using these headings is as if they were chapters in a book. Each page on your site has its own story, and these help to break up the various ideas you want to explore.
H2’s should be descriptive, but not overly so. It is also important to mention keyword stuffing, and how cramming in as many phrases as possible can actually harm your SEO. Google is smart, and the algorithm has come to understand when people are just trying to rank without the authority to back it up. So, it is also important to remember H2’s shouldn’t be too long. Try to keep them under a sentence or two in most cases.
Using H3 Subheadings (like this one!)
Next, we have H3 headings. These are even smaller in focus, but still have an important use in breaking up content on your site. These headings are excellent opportunities to focus on sub-points that may be used to support the topics or keywords included in your H2’s. These may include bulleted lists or other related topics. They are another great tool to add structure to your pages. Yet, it should still be noted that there are no hard-set rules in place for how you should make use of these subheadings.
At the End of the Day, Headings and Subheadings Are Invaluable
Headings have still stood the test of time. While there are many other ways to rank for keywords these days, these elements continue to be used on any website with text-based content. They help to show search engines and visitors what the focus of a page is, and can help improve rankings when paired with intentional keyword management. While headings may not be as important for keyword rankings, they still help improve readability and serve an invaluable purpose.
In addition to the three main subheadings described in this blog, there are actually more that I didn’t cover! It is possible to use smaller headings going all the way up to H8 or H9, but access to this level of focus may not be available to you depending on the website editor you’re using. Google focuses mainly on H1’s, H2’s, and H3’s, leaving the other subheading options up to your description as to how you apply them throughout your site. Website editors often offer a variety of native SEO tools. So, learning to make the most of them will go a long way in structuring your website.
Checking Headings and the Health of your site
One useful tool that can help you confirm your H1’s, along with any other of the subheadings mentioned, is the WAVE Accessibility Evaluation Tool. It scans the URL you want to search and tells you helpful information about the page including the different headings/subheadings included, structural elements of the page, and potential errors. Running your pages through this tool can help you better understand what Google’s bots see when viewing your page. By using this tool, you can address any issues that may affect your site, and confirm that your headings are in fact H1’s, H2’s, H3’s, or any other subheading you may find yourself using.
Headings are a necessity for any site with content that hopes to rank well on Google. They have changed over time, but remain an important part of the structure that helps visitors find the answers they need in a timely, efficient way. Understanding this can help your site thrive and better adapt as best practices change over time.
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About the Author
Sterling Humburg-Cage graduated from the University of Missouri with a BA in Psychology in 2020. He integrates what he learned in school into his work as an SEO Specialist with Simplified SEO Consulting. Sterling prides himself on helping current clients & alumni problems solve difficult SEO issues. He’s great at giving clients multiple options about how to approach a situation and responding quickly to client concerns. Since he started, Sterling has met frequently with our alumni and provided them extra problem-solving support, often going the extra mile to do outside research and make sure private practice owners have everything they need to rank well on search engines long term for the keywords their ideal clients are using!