Heading Tags - Tips From The Semalt Experts

Headings tags help both users and search engines to read and understand the content of web pages better. For example, they replace what we consider as signposts when driving. This makes it easier for a reader to navigate the road while on your website, knowing what to expect before it happens.

When we use Headings, we also point out which parts of our content are vital, and we show how they're interconnected throughout the text. 

Considering how essential headers are, we figured you should have some pointers using headings and improving your content's readability effectively.

Why do we use headings?

We use headings to show the text structure.

Headings function as signposts or signals throughout the text. They indicate what information is contained in a section of the content. Without headers, people will be clueless about the purpose or the information contained in your content.  

Reading a 3,000-word article is hardly something we do. When we search for information and find websites, we prefer to scan and discover what section is most helpful. Thanks to headers, readers can quickly check the content and get an idea of what the whole text is discussing. Without headers, readers are left with big blocks of information and no idea of what they contain.  Reading and scanning such text also becomes significantly harder. 

It's good practice for your web content to make sure your headings are informative and directly address your reader's needs. Another approach to this is to tease your audience using your handing. You use it to entice your audience, making them read further. However, it would be best if you always tried to remember that your heading's primary focus should be on the content, and the primary purpose of these headings should be to making the text easier to read and digest.

When using your headings, try to keep these two points in mind. Firstly, a paragraph under the heading should start with a core sentence, which is then elaborated. If you've already written your content but need to restructure it to include headings, make sure the first sentence of that paragraph carries that heading's essential information. Secondly, you should consider your information structure in your sections and the transitional flow of information through these paragraphs. You can read more on Quality Text Structure.

Using headings to improve content accessibility

Heading structure goes a long way in improving the accessibility of a website, especially for individuals who find reading on the screen difficult. Since headings are in HTML, screen readers can quickly understand your article structure and read it appropriately.

By vocalizing our reading headings in an article, users who suffer one form of difficulty can decide quickly if the content contains the information they need. Also, screen readers need to jump from one section of a text to another, and heading is what creates the boundaries between which screen readers can jump. 

Let's all remember that better accessibility usually translates to better SEO!

Use headings to improve SEO

It's agreed that how you use headings wouldn't impact your SEO in any direct way. By this, we mean that you make minor tweaks to individual headings, it most likely won't help your performance. However, you stand to gain a lot of indirect benefits from using headings across your text. When you use headings, you create a text of higher quality, which is easier to read. We know that having a better text for your users is better for your SEO.

When you make it possible for visitors to find what they're looking for quickly, they are more likely to stay longer and recommend your website. But when they find it challenging to navigate your content, they will probably leave your site and look for information in a good structures site. This is one of the reasons why heading impacts your SEO strategy. Search engines look out for bounce time, and when they notice you have a high bounce rate, the search engine assumes that your website doesn't have the information readers need. In this case, this isn't true because you may have the right information only that you aren't using headings. As a result, your website suffers lower ratings.

When choosing your headings, always put the needs of the reader first. You use these headings to add structure and signals to your content, describing what each section discusses. Using your headings to inform readers what information is contained in your content, you also help Google understand.

How to use headings effectively

Now that we have established why using headings is essential, the next challenge is knowing how to use them. There are two approaches to this; the first is that you should structure your headings well, and the second is that your headings should carry critical phrases or words. You can rely on Yoast SEO to assist you in both cases. When using WordPress, you can check how well your headings have been distributed in your readability analysis. In your SEO analysis, you can also check how well you've used your key phrases in your headings. 

Structuring your headings

When using HTML headings tags, there are two different sets of rules. The classic approach (from the HTML4 standard), and the 'modern' approach (from the HTML5 standard). 
If you are familiar with editing an article in WordPress, you should see different 'levels' of headings in the text editor. These headings range from 'Heading 1' (which is the biggest and boldest) to 'Heading 6' (the smallest).
When using headings, we usually use the Heading 1 (H1) as the first heading in a page or article. We use the other levels as subheadings or sub subheadings depending on the hierarchy of use. For example, an H2 is bigger and more important than an H4. In HTML format, these headings are converted to heading tags, from `<h1>` to `<h6>`.
This is why when we discuss structuring your headings and content well, we talk about using heading tags, which are the underlying HTML codes. 

It is important you note that you can use only one H1 on each page, and it should be the name or title of the page or post. For example, on this page, which is "Heading tags that send strong signals,." To get an appropriate H!, you can think of it as you think of naming a book. If you're on a category page, your H1 becomes the name of that category, and when you're on a product page, the H1 becomes the name of that product. 

As your content unfolds, you can begin using the H2 and H3 heading tags as subheadings to introduce different sections of your content, such as the "Why use headings section" section or the "structuring your headings " section which you're currently reading. To make using H2 headings easier, you can think of it as assigning chapters to your book. You can then break these chapters into smaller bits using H3 tags, then H4 tags, etc.

However, try not to oversimplify. By this, we mean do not force your articles to have deep sub-topics such as H4. In many cases, articles do not need to go that deep except when writing long or technical content.

An example heading structure

Let's say that we have a blog post about SEO Traffic. We've chosen "SEO Traffic" as our focus keyword, and we have an article about all the reasons why SEO traffic is vital for a website. Without headings, we suffer the risk of writing a long piece that seems to ramble on, but it isn't easy to understand. But if we are to use heading to structure our content logically, we will not only make it easier to read; we can focus our writing better.
Here's what the structure of that post might look like:
  • H1: SEO is awesome
    • H2: Why we think SEO is awesome
      • H3: SEO isn't only about Keywords!
      • H3: Using SEO to get better SERP ranking
      • H3: They might be less expensive than you think
    • H2: How to use SEO and Keywords?
      • H3: The ten best keyword strategy
      • H3: Using Semalt as your favourite SEO shop          
With this example, you can see how we can create a logical structure using H2 and H3 tags in discussing a topic. This same logic is what we have used all through our website.

This represents an excellent example of how headings should be used in a medium-length article. In shorter articles, you should use fewer heading tags as there are smaller bits of information, and in longer texts, you should use more headings to break down big bits or information.

Your heading tags send a strong signal to both google and your audience. With poor headings or headings distribution, your website will lack the ability to convert visitors into readers as they will lose interest immediately. However, having a strong heading is advantageous because visitors can read the information under such headings.