More than a decade ago, headings were one of the more important ranking factors. If you wanted your blog to rank higher, it was necessary to cleverly include keywords inside the headings of your articles. But today, the situation is a bit different. You don’t have to stuff your headings with keywords anymore. Because it simply doesn’t have the same effect on rankings as it used to have. However, it’s still a kind of practice to concern keywords when writing your headings and subheading. Not because your blog’s headings and subheadings affect SEO so much as a ranking factor, but because they are affecting it indirectly.
By helping search engines and users understand what your blog article is about, it provides a better user experience(UX). And since today, the focus is on providing a better user experience, this, among other SEO techniques, may help you improve your position on search engine result pages(SERPs).
The way headings and subheadings affect SEO today
Because of many changes that Google imposes on its search engine over years, the direct influence of headings and subheadings on SEO is dropping. One of the major game-changers was a large update like the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013. With this update, Google is taking a more human approach by emphasizing the importance of natural language, context, and meaning, over simple keywords. Overnight, it was necessary to take the entire content of a page into consideration, not just the keywords and high-quality backlinks. All in an effort to serve users with appropriate results for their queries, more specific and helpful.
Still, proper use of headings continues to correlate with a successful SEO strategy, even though placing keywords inside is not the main focus. They can improve the structure and layout of the content, giving your visitors a much better reading experience.
How Google uses headings?
Google uses headings and subheadings to understand what the provided content is all about. When they send crawlers to crawl through your website, headers help them understand the purpose of each section of your content. Just like the readers are sometimes skimming the content, crawlers are using H1-H6 tags to differentiate the meaningful parts. Of course, you should still implement keywords to target the specific search terms, but not in a way it can confuse readers. Remember, if you want an effective SEO, the focus should be on writing your blog for humans, not just for search engines.
As you can see, your blog’s headings and subheadings affect SEO, just in a different way. So let’s explain how:
- Headings and subheadings are affecting SEO through user experience
- They also help with semantic search
Blog’s headings and subheadings affect SEO through UX
Obviously, headings and subheadings are essential elements when you want your blog content to have the right structure. For a proper organization of the content of your posts, you will use H1 to H6 tags. With H1 being the strongest in the hierarchy. It’s is necessary to break your content into several meaningful sections, so your potential readers can easily scan your content.
After all, the whole point of your SEO is to keep the visitors longer on your pages. The average visitor will probably leave the page if they are facing the wall of text. But, if they have the means to check what every section is about, there is more chance they will find something of interest. And that is the exact purpose of your headings. To make your content more user-friendly and easily digestible. Thus, affecting the relevance and ranking of each page, which greatly matters for each of your page’s SEO potential.
They provide help with semantic search
Like we said above, the Hummingbird algorithm brought some changes. Instead of scanning your pages, particularly your headings and subheadings, only for keywords, crawlers are now also looking for semantic meaning within your content. They are looking equally at all on-page elements, including:
- overall structure
- and many more
This helps them observe your content as the complete semantic entity. And by checking quality, relevance, and user experience overall, are evaluating how your content will rank in the future.
Some of the best practices for headings
To achieve a successful SEO, you need to make sure search engines can easily classify your content. And also for your visitor’s benefit, once they are on your pages, to easily find what they are looking for. Whether you are writing your own blog or guest blogging for another website, here are some of the best practices to help you with it.
1. Use headings for proper structure
Use headings and subheadings to create a proper structure of your blog’s content. Your visitors should have a clear idea about what each paragraph is talking about. This will make your content easy to skim and allow your readers to find the required information faster. Also, you should make sure your headings are engaging, so they motivate your visitors to proceed with reading.
2. Include Keywords in headings
Even it’s affecting your SEO differently, you should still include keywords in your headings. Google won’t miss the chance to consider them when looking for the contextual meaning of the content. However, try to include them naturally so that your headings don’t confuse readers.
3. Optimize with long-tail keywords in mind
This is one of the practices that can still significantly affect your SEO efforts. Make sure to use long-tail keywords in headings, and provide relevant explanations right below in the paragraph. This is especially helpful for optimizing for featured snippets. Another helpful thing is to use subheadings to highlight various list items. Also important if you are aiming at Google’s featured snippets.
4. Use only one H1 header
Among many SEO experts, there is a bit of discussion about this one. But the majority agrees that the best practice is to use one H1 heading per page. Even though Google says you can use as many as you like, it can easily make confusion on your pages. Such a confusing layout can eventually negatively affect your SEO.
Proper use of blog’s headings and subheadings affect SEO in a less, but still significant way. Combined with other details that can reflect on your overall SEO, they are clear proof that in SEO everything matters. They are not the simple signposts that shout out what your content is about, but an important part of the structural hierarchy within every article.