Throughout all of the search engine algorithm updates and changes, one thing has remained significantly important: the recognition of a disciplined heading structure, in particular the use of HTML heading tags to denote the impact and importance of text
While the HTML heading structure of an online article may look pretty straightforward, there is actually a method that tends to be rigorously followed. It’s such a basic formula that most people don’t even notice it’s there, like the beating of your heart or breathing. Yet that formula plays a huge role in search engine optimization and allows people to more easily process what they are looking at.
While heading tags could be used as a shortcut to styling some of your text, search engines will tend to regard anything outside of the standard HTML heading model as unimportant and will bury it in favor of proper HTML h-tag structure.
One of the first things I learned as a content writer was to be disciplined about my HTML heading structure. Instead of just choosing random font sizes for titles and subheadings, I got in the early habit of moving down the line from H1 to H2, H3, (larger font to smaller) etc, as I broke down an article or topic into smaller and more digestible bits.
Search engine importance
Search engines are programmed to try to think like a real human being searching for something. They place greater weight on anything that they think will most relevantly and accurately answer the user’s inquiry.
When they see an HTML heading structure that is well organized and follows the rules from large to small, as the content gets deeper and more focused, they note that as something that is more likely to matter to the searcher.
We as humans are used to this type of structure, and for the most part inherently understand what it means as we move from large to small HTML headings. We’ve been more or less trained to decipher the idea of a title as an overview of the essence of writing, and each chapter or smaller heading as a part of the whole.
Additionally, from an organizational standpoint, certain menus will break down your piece into chapters automatically for a user to skip around, but it relies on HTML headings to know what the chapters are.
Website accessibility and speech synthesizers
Website accessibility is the practice of making a website usable by anyone, including people with impairments and disabilities. Speech synthesizers read the text on a website out loud, which is especially useful to the blind. HTML heading structure is particularly important to speech synthesizers for the visually impaired or other users. It allows you to scan a written piece and easily find what you need without having to listen to the entire article.
Seems pretty self explanatory, but let’s dig in a little. When it comes to posting articles or blogs on your website, the title of your piece actually should be an H1. Often after that you might introduce one of the larger sections of an article that will still be divisible into smaller parts. An H2 should be at the head of the section, with H3, H4, H5s etc as needed.
I personally try not to break it down beyond H4 but sometimes the text demands it. As an example, this article itself only uses H1 and H2 HTML headings, though it’s a short one. The more in-depth the piece, the more the nested sections will be called for.
If you want to check your website to make sure you have used your heading tags correctly you can use the free tool offered by SEO Site Checkup.
Do yourself a favor and get in the discipline early of rigorously structuring your HTML headings. Your search engines will find you and your site visitors will thank you.
Matthew Ogden is a Minneapolis-based copywriter and content writer and editor. He’s written for national retailers and lobster roll companies alike. When not writing he can be found nose deep in a book, writing and performing music, or nerding out about guitar tone.