Perusing the internet, reading through your favorite blogs, a style pattern may emerge — headline, intro, series of subheads with 1-2 paragraphs under each, a few bullet points, conclusion. There’s a reason for this format, as formulaic as it may be. Crafted with the right words, in the right format, your blog post is more likely to get read, thanks to SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) works when relevant words are woven into your content. This includes word placement as much as word selection. The better you optimize your content, the higher it will rank in search results. A first-page listing in a search greatly increases the chance your post will get read. In fact, 71% of all search result clicks happen on the first page.
All headings within a blog post help readers figure out what that specific piece is about. Just as readers use the content, Google looks at headers for the same purpose, affecting your readability score, which impacts SEO. The more strategically worded headers you have, the better picture someone can get about the content within your piece, making it rank higher in readability.
Another component to SEO, is keyword usage. While not as necessary as it once was to establish search rank, keywords are still relevant. Inserting keywords into headers is definitely beneficial for SEO purposes, but you don’t have to put a keyword into every subhead to maximize effect. Keywords should go into subheads only where they naturally fit to prevent creating a contrived feel to your content. Also, too many keywords in headers can work against you.
Using subheads in your blog post does more than just help your piece appear higher in search results, it can also attract readers to your content. Here are a few additional benefits to using subheads.
Looking at a large block of text, without any natural breaks but paragraph spaces, wears on the eyes. Especially for someone who typically spends more of their day looking at screens, seeing a sea of text, no matter how interesting, is not going to hook them into your content. Inserting natural breaks for the eye improves readability. Formatting choices like a bulleted list or an italicized, off-set quote are two options, but the easiest way to breaks in your content is with subheads.
People are more likely to read content that’s broken into digestible chunks, and subheads naturally accomplish this. This feature can also guide readers through the piece by teasing out what the next section will cover. Using your subheads to summarize what the article is about, in addition to breaking the copy up into sections, can help engage readers from beginning to end.
Subheads can be the hook that brings in the audience.
Solidly written subheads can not only keep readers on track to get through your whole post, but they can also be the catalyst that draws them in to reading at all. Quality subheads that succinctly introduce each section of content almost create a table of contents for your piece. A potential reader can quickly scan the subheads, get a feel for what the piece is about, and make an educated decision on whether they want to continue reading. If a potential reader connects to what the subheads are saying, they’ll be more likely to engage fully with the piece.
Subheads are important in online content. They make a difference to the reader and to Google, whose opinion we all value. Here are a few extra tips for writing effective subheads:
- Include at least 2-3 subheads in a 500 word blog post.
- Use a subhead to clearly tease out the content that’s directly below it.
- Create a subhead for every separate topic.
- Use active tense.
- Try to maintain a parallel format. If your first subhead asks a question, they all ideally should, and each should be of a similar length.
- It’s ok to be funny when crafting subheads, but avoid cliches in general.
There is no rule for how many paragraphs follow each subhead. I usually try for a maximum of two only to ensure my blocks of content stay short enough to continue to engage my reader. Did it work?