In 2020, WordPress users alone published 70 million blog posts. So just imagine how much content is being churned out in total every year!
With so much content out there—within your niche included—quality is more important than ever if you hope to see results. And two important parts of quality content are effective headings and subheadings.
What difference do headings and subheadings make to your content’s performance? And what’s the proper way to use them? That’s what we’ll cover today, as well as how you can quickly and easily create top-notch headings and subheadings for your company’s content.
Headings and subheadings: why are they important?
A heading, also known as an H1 in HTML, is essentially a page title or the headline of a piece of content. It gives a glimpse into what the content will be about, what readers will gain from it, and encourages them to stay tuned. Therein lies a couple of the reasons a strong headline is so important.
1. Headings are the gateway to all results
A heading is one of the first things readers see; it’s their first introduction to your content. So if it doesn’t pique their interest enough to get them to click or keep reading, all the time and resources you’ve put into producing content will go to waste.
2. Headings are the foundation of user experience
If your heading sets misleading expectations about the topic or value of your content, it will leave readers confused and disappointed. This can have several negative consequences.
For example, it can put such a bad taste in people’s mouths that they steer clear of your content in the future. Also, search engines will notice if people quickly and habitually bounce from your website because your content isn’t what they expected. If a search engine like Google has any reason to suspect that your content is low-quality, it’ll be next to impossible to rank well in search results.
What about subheadings? What makes them so crucial?
3. Subheadings logically organize content
We’ll dive deeper into the proper structure and level of subheadings later in this post. But, to put it simply, subheadings split subtopics into sections to improve readability.
4. Subheadings contribute to a good user experience
Especially since many readers skim content instead of reading it all the way through, subheadings help them stay oriented within the content and quickly find the information they’re most interested in.
5. Subheadings make your content accessible
Many visually impaired individuals use assistive technologies to consume online content. These screen readers read the headings of a web page out loud and sometimes even offer shortcuts for skipping to a specific section of content. So including informative subheadings can persuade listeners to explore your content further and help them locate the most relevant sections more easily.
With the importance of both in mind, would you like to see some well-done headings and subheadings from real, successful blog posts?
Heading and subheading examples you can learn from
Let’s take a look at a couple of textbook examples of effective headers and sub-headers that can help you to come up with your own!
Heading example from HubSpot: a lesson in specificity
A popular post from HubSpot provides a great lesson as far as headings go. It’s specific (in more ways than one) and leaves no room for confusion about what the content focuses on.
In just 10 words, you know you’re going to get:
- 50 statistics, which is more than most competing posts have
- Insights on visual content marketing specifically
- Stats that are especially relevant in 2021 (instead of outdated info)
This is a good reminder to prioritize clarity and specificity as you create headlines for your own content.
Subheading example from MarketerHire: a lesson in holding attention
MarketerHire’s post, 9 Skills Expert Brand Marketing Managers Must Have, is a great example of subheadings done right.
Just like HubSpot’s main H1 heading, this H2 subheading—6 must-have brand marketing manager skills—is specific. It:
- Delivers on the promise in the main post heading to discuss brand marketing management skills
- Sets a specific expectation by mentioning the number of skills that will be discussed in the following section
- Highlights the importance of the information to follow and heightens readers’ attention by calling the skills “must-haves”
And, as you can see, the smaller H3 heading tag is also used to mark the start of the subsection related to competitive analysis, which is the first of the six must-have skills covered in the post.
You can use all of these same techniques to organize your content, provide the best user experience possible, and improve your content’s accessibility. Let’s talk a little bit more about how to do it.
The right way to structure your headings
The first rule of thumb is that the H1 heading tag is reserved for your content’s title so you should only ever have one.
Also, be aware that most content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress create this heading tag for you when you enter your headline in the Title box. The same is true of many word processors including Microsoft Word. So, if you have access to this feature, there’s no need to type it above your body text in the main text box.
Subheadings are a different story. You can use as many as you need to break up various sections of your content.
To create them, don’t simply use capitalization, bolding, italics or extra lines before and after the subheadings to make them stand out from the rest of your body text. Instead, start a new line or select a subheading, go to the header dropdown in your document or CMS, and select from the available heading styles.
Not sure which heading styles should be used and when? H2s, which are the first level of subheadings, are for the core subtopics that will make up your content. H3s—the second level of subheadings—are for subtopics of H2s. H4s are for even more specific subtopics of H3s, and the list goes on all the way through the H6 header tag. (While you’ll rarely use H5s or H6s, they’re there if you need to go in-depth on a topic.)
So, for example, if you wrote a blog post about search engine optimization tools, proper section headings would look something like this:
- H1: The Top 3 SEO Tools of 2021
- H2: Why use the industries’ best SEO tools
- H2: 3 SEO tools to try in 2021
- H3: Semrush
- H4: Semrush capabilities
- H4: Semrush ease-of-use
- H4: Semrush pricing
- H3: Ahrefs
- H4: Ahrefs capabilities
- H4: Ahrefs ease-of-use
- H4: Ahrefs pricing
- H3: Moz
- H4: Moz capabilities
- H4: Moz ease-of-use
- H4: Moz pricing
- H2: Conclusion
And the more descriptive your section headings, the easier navigating and understanding your post would be for readers.
The main takeaway here? Stick to the proper hierarchy and be as descriptive and clear as you can about the focus of each section and subsection of content.
How to use headings and subheadings to improve SEO
Besides user experience and accessibility, headings and subheadings also play a part in successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
For your content to rank anywhere near the first page of search results, search engines need to be sure of the topic of your content. You can make it clear not only by using your main keyword in your text but also in your H1 heading and subheadings.
But be careful not to “stuff” keywords just for the sake of having them on the page as many times as possible. Only use your focus keyword when and where it fits naturally. And, when necessary or possible, use variations of your keyword naturally.
So, for example, if your focus keyword was “LinkedIn cold outreach software,” you could also use “cold outreach software for LinkedIn.” Search engines would still interpret those two keywords very similarly. But using both where they fit best would make the content feel less forced, improve user experience, reinforce the topic being discussed, and could help your rankings.
The fastest way to generate killer headings and subheadings
So far, we’ve covered the importance of section headings and subheadings, analyzed a few examples, and talked about proper usage for user experience and SEO. But how can you put this information into practice?
Jasper offers a fast and effective way to do it. It offers several templates for creating clear, attention-grabbing headlines and subheadlines for everything from SEO blog posts to website copy. For example, using the Perfect Headline template, we could create a solid heading-subheading structure for a web page about “LinkedIn cold outreach software.”
Inputting a few details about the software, target audience, and desired tone would output several heading options that could be used as-is, tweaked or even combined.
From these options, you might structure the sections of copy this way:
- H1: Save 5 hours a week on outreach and find clients faster
- H2: The only cold outreach tool you’ll ever need
- H3: Gain access to thousands of potential clients with one click
- H3: Get new leads in your inbox daily!
- H3: Increase your sales by 50%
- H2: Try it for free for 30 days!
But it gets even better. How?
Bonus: use Jasper title templates to generate content ideas
Besides just creating titles and subheaders for content you’re already working on, you can also use Jasper Templates to generate fresh content ideas.
For example, imagine you're planning to create a video about Instagram marketing but haven’t decided what aspect of that topic to focus on. All you’d have to do is enter your topic, focus keyword, and desired tone of voice into the Jasper Video Title template.
Voila! You’d get tons of relevant, eye-catching Instagram marketing topic ideas in under a minute. Not to mention ready-to-use titles for any video ideas you decided to pursue.
And this doesn’t just work with the Video Title template. You can also use Jasper’s other title templates to help with topic brainstorming, including the Perfect Headline template mentioned earlier. In fact, here are some content ideas it yielded.
Notice that they're a different style than the ideas generated for video content. This is a major advantage since you can:
- Evaluate which topics would be most attractive to your audience by looking at topic ideas from several angles
- Quickly generate ideas, titles, and subheadings for all of your marketing channels and content formats
Ultimately, no matter what you’re marketing, you can come up with endless options and combinations using Jasper’s many heading and subheading-specific templates. And the best part? You can do it all in minutes! Give Jasper a try for free and see for yourself.