Part 8: Headings

newspaper headlinesWhen I started working on my first website several years back, I had a very basic idea of what headings were. However, I had no clue how to use them properly nor did I really understand their importance in regards to SEO.

The good news is that this isn’t a complicated topic or concept. Yet, it can easily be the difference of whether your website ranks on page one, or on page four.

What are H Tags?

H tags are the HTML version of headings. It’s part of the code that makes your website page or post formatting appear the way it does.

For example, this is the heading for this very section that you’re reading now:

what are h tags?

However, the tiny bit of code in the HTML that’s resting underneath this visual representation looks like this:

h tags html

The <h2> is the start of the tag and the </h2> closes it.

That little snippet of code tells bowsers like Chrome and Firefox that the words nested inside are a heading or subheading, and not part of the body.

Headings come in six different sizes, represented by the number you see after the “h” in the tags. So, you can choose from:

  • H1 – <h1>words</h1>
  • H2 – <h2>words</h2>
  • H3 – <h3>words</h3>
  • H4 – <h4>words</h4>
  • H5 – <h5>words</h5>
  • H6 – <h6>words</h6>

Right now you might be thinking, “Code? HTML? I don’t want to mess with any of this!”

Relax. Take a deep breath. If you are using WordPress as your CMS, then you don’t have to.

When working with WordPress, you have the choice to write your pages and posts either using a visual editor or a text editor. To skip any of the hassle of dealing with HTML, choose the visual editor.

wordpress editor

After choosing this option, all you need to do to turn some text into a heading, thus creating h tags in the the HTML, is highlight the text with your cursor and choose which heading, 1 through 6, that you want.

heading dropdown

Generally, titles use Heading 1. That’s something your theme should do automatically.

The rest of your subheadings can start at Heading 2 and work down the list as far as you need to go, though most of the time you probably won’t need to go past Heading 3.

Direct SEO Implications

A website visitor will see your headings, but search engine spiders see your h tags.

A search engine algorithm understands that a well-written piece of website content will use its headings like an outline. Therefore, using h tags instead of just bolding text is extremely important.

So, what should you use for your headings and h tags?

The quick and easy answer is to simply keep them clear and logical. And, don’t forget to toss some keywords in there as well. Just don’t keyword stuff.

TB Tip: Try to keep you page titles, which should end up inside an H1 tag, to a maximum of 50-60 characters in lenghth. Otherwise, your title will get cutoff on Google’s search results pages.

Indirect SEO Implications

Beside the direct impact to SEO that having clear, organized, and topic-focused headings has, there’s some indirect implications as well.

Google’s search algorytm uses over 200 factors when considering what sites rank well and for what terms. User metrics are absolutely including in these factors.

What are user metrics? They’re bits of measurable information such as:

  • how long a visitor stays on a page/post
  • how many pages/posts a visitor visits
  • did a visitor engage with the page/post (share it on a social network, play a video, etc.)

Headings can play a major role in those first two bullet points.

Just as h tags do for search engine spiders, headings help a reader quickly know what your page or post is going to cover. They also break up the page into easier to consume chunks.

Do you think a reader will stay longer on a page that is visually appealing and looks like a quick read, or one that’s giant wall of dense text?

TB Tip: Some themes allow you to easily adjust the size and color of your headings. Headings that are a different color than the text can really pop.

Conclusion

This mini-guide to website page headings is geared towards SEO best practices. If you plan to focus on buying website traffic with ads, or on using a viral clickbait strategy, you may have to adapt some of this info.

But even then, keeping SEO in mind while designing your pages can be the difference between being slightly profitable and very profitable.

Genesis Framework for WordPress

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