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Use headings effectively to improve your SEO rankings

Use Headings Effectively for SEO

Use headings effectively to improve your SEO rankings

One goal of most people writing for the web is to have search engines display their content on the first page of search results. In order for that to happen, the search engines must be able to understand your content and be able to match it to a search query. That’s where using headings becomes immensely helpful.

Headings – H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6

Headings help structure your content so that search engines index it properly and understand the relative importance of concepts you discuss. Headings are also important because they help your reader identify the main points of your article.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language), in which webpages are coded, has six “levels” of headings: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6, listed here in order of most to least importance. Headings should be used in numerical order and no “levels” should be skipped. Only one H1 heading should be used for a single webpage. Typically, an H1 heading should be the title of a page and make clear what the page is about. For example, WordPress automatically makes the title of a page or post a level-H1 heading. If you use an H2 heading followed by an H3 heading and then skip to using an H6 heading, you’ve left the search engine to wonder what happened to heading levels H4 and H5. Many writers new to working on the web use a heading number based on the way the font for that heading looks rather than using it as a structural element of their content. Let’s look at a much more effective way to use headings.

Use headings to create an outline of your content

When you think of writing based on an outline, an H1 is equivalent to the title, H2s are equivalent to Roman numerals and H3s are equivalent to letters. Let’s look at an example with the outline on the left, the HTML code in the middle and the HTML code displayed in a browser on the right.

Text outline created in Word
HTML code created in a text editor
HTML webpage displayed in browser

You can see that the HTML code headings have produced a webpage where the outline is very similar to the one I created in Word. The H1 font size on the webpage is the largest with each heading font size getting progressively smaller as the “level” of the heading decreases in importance. The webpage H3 headings are indented to help distinguish them from the H2 headings. You may have a different experience when you use headings on your website because your theme creator or web developer may not have styled the headings on your website to be progressively smaller in size or emphasis. For example, sometimes the person who creates the font styles for headings is not aware of the SEO importance of headings in HTML and will create, for example, an H3 heading with a larger font size than an H2 heading. If you run into problems like this, please ask someone knowledgeable to help adjust your heading font size and styling for you.

You don’t have to code to create headings

Headings in the WordPress Classic EditorUnlike the HTML example shown above, there are much more user-friendly ways to add headings to your website. For example, the WordPress Classic Editor, shown here, allows you to choose the heading level you want to use from a drop-down menu.

Improve your SEO ranking

We strongly encourage you to use headings in your content to convey meaning and importance to both search engines and your readers. Break your content up sections consisting of 1-3 paragraphs with a subheading that describes that segment of your writing. Continue to do that throughout your piece. Bold and italicized text have their uses but not as headings or subheadings. Improve your SEO ranking by making the extra effort to use the right heading in the appropriate place.