If you thought a heading was just a heading, then you’ll get quite a wake-up call when you go to publish your first article on your website! Suddenly you’ve got so many different heading options you don’t know where to start.
Luckily, it’s not complicated to build the right structure for your article by making use of the different heading options, and doing so can make a difference for your users and your search engine optimization.
Why are Headings Important?
Headings might not carry the kind of direct ranking power they used to, but they still play a huge part in your SEO.
The way people interact with your content plays a big part in your ranking ability, after all, Google wants to send people to content that’s useful and entertaining, giving them a positive user experience. They might not seem like a big deal, but the way you structure your headings plays a big part in this.
Here are some reasons why:
What was the first thing you did when you came to this page? The chances are, you probably gave it a quick scan to decide if it was worthwhile reading.
People’s time is important, and they want to make sure if they invest their time in reading your content that it’s going to be worthwhile. To evaluate whether your page is worth investing in, they’re going to scan the content to see what it’s about. And guess what’s going to pop out at them — the headings.
Your visitors have come to you in search of information, and by structuring your content through accurate headings, you’re going to confirm to those people they’ve come to the right place.
When people can’t find the information they’re looking for, that’s when they bounce, and when lots of people are bouncing from your page, it’s going to signal to Google that your page might not be worthy of ranking well.
Headings Draw People In
Just because you’ve got somebody to click to your website doesn’t mean they’re going to hang around. If you want them to invest their time in engaging with your content, then you’ve got to earn it and headings can help you do this.
There are lots of great ideas and eye-catching quotes in your content, but if you’re not using headlines properly, then they have no way of jumping off the page. Headings give you the opportunity to draw people in and keep them engaged with the content for longer by highlighting your best points.
Headings are there to help you structure your writing so it’s easy to read, but it’s also a great opportunity to entertain and ensure people read the most important information in your text.
Make the most of it by keeping your headings entertaining as well as accurate.
When you do this, you will find people spend longer on your pages, signalling to Google that your content is of value and worth ranking. You might not be directly influencing your rankings through your headings, but by boosting your dwell time and lowering your bounce rates you can make a difference to your ranking ability.
Natural Opportunities to Work In Your Key Phrases
If you wanted to know what a book was about, what would you do? The first clue would be the title, and then perhaps you would look at the index to see what the chapter titles were called.
The search engines need to understand what every page on the internet is about, and they use the same approach to understanding your content (among many other factors.) This means your headings need to reflect what your article is about and preferably include your key phrases.
For example, this article is about headings and SEO, so Google is going to expect these phrases to feature in the H1. You don’t want to be stuffing keywords in at every opportunity, but if your article is focused and on point, then it should naturally include some keywords in your headings.
This helps the search engines better understand what your article is about, allowing them to rank your website for the right search terms.
How Should Your Headings be Structured?
Not every piece of information in your article is of equal importance. To accurately convey the structure and importance of your article, you have a variety of different headers you can use.
When you use the headers effectively, they should form something that looks a little like a family tree (albeit, with one parent.)
How you build out your family tree will depend on the information you have. For most articles, you’re probably only going to need to go as deep as an H3, but sometimes, when you’re writing a very long article, or something very technical, then you might go to H6.
Your H1 is your top-level heading, and there should only be one of these. It’s like the title of a book and should characterize exactly what your article is about. From here, you can divide your content up into sections (H2’s) and then subsections (H3’s, H4’s, H5’s etc.)
Using this Article as An Example
Let’s take a look at how the headings play out in this article.
You can see that it’s like a hierarchy of importance, starting with the H1, which is the overriding theme of the article - “How to Use Heading for SEO.”
Your heading 1 should be the title of your article. It should concisely explain what your content is about while drawing people in and using your key phrases.
Here we’ve used “How to Use Headings for SEO;” it explains exactly what the article is about and incorporates a key phrase that lots of people search for.
We’ve used the H2’s to break the article up into its most important components - why you should use headings, how to use them, and a conclusion.
As you can see, we haven’t used too many keywords here, instead using the headers to guide people through the page.
Rather than have a whole chunk of information under our H2, “Why are Headings Important?,” we’ve broken it up into its component parts and used H3’s to detail each point.
This allows people to easily find the nuts and bolts of the information we’re trying to convey.
Our last H3 is an example of how we’ve used headings in this article, but within that example, there are four different components, so to clearly define them to our audience, we have added 4 H4’s to detail the component parts (you’re reading the fourth now.)
We could have just left these in our H3 and not given them a heading, but then the information wouldn’t have been as easy to access.
The true SEO benefits of using headings effectively come from the fact you’re adding value for your readers.
People want to be able to find information quickly and efficiently, and the tools they use to do this are headings. When people can easily find the information they’re looking for, and are convinced they’re not wasting their time, that’s when they stick around for longer on your pages and boost your dwell time.
The search engines want to send people to the pages that answer their user’s questions most efficiently, so when they see you have a low bounce rate and people are spending lots of time on your page, they’re going to take it as a signal that you should be ranking well.
If you’re breaking up your articles with accurate headings and using keywords to guide people through your content, then you’re going to find it makes a difference to your SEO.