When writing a blog, especially a feature or guide that goes over 500 words, using subheadings often helps to make your writing more structured and presentable.
A beginner to HTML-based content management systems like WordPress might not know how to do this and might make the subtitles and paragraphs all appear in the same size and font. Others with a little more experience might put their subheadings in bold or italic letters, which at least makes it more pleasing to the eye, but the best technique is to master H tags.
When I was first introduced to the idea of H tags, my misunderstanding was to think that they were simply another way of making subheadings stand out from the rest of the writing, just like typing in a bigger, bolder font or underlining text. They do achieve this, but they also have positive search engine optimisation effects.
What are H tags?
H tags (the ‘H’ stands for ‘Header’) are ways of indicating the importance of your headings, and they range from <h1> to <h6>. They help to format the piece and make it easier to read, but they also aid search engines in making sense of the content. In 2015, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed:
“We do use H tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better.”
That alone means there is more value in using these tags that simply printing subheadings in bigger or bolder fonts. If your subheadings take the form of questions and are tagged appropriately, there’s more chance of Google returning your page in a search for that question, and perhaps featuring it in its Snippets.
Why are there six H tags?
The numbers indicate hierarchy. They dictate the importance of the header and how prominently it will be displayed.
The most prominent and important is <h1> and that will be your title. A page should only have one <h1> tag, whereas the others can in theory be used as many times as you like.
Most blogs will only include an <h1> tag for the main title, and <h2> tags for any subheadings. The above subheading, for example, is written in HTML as <h2>Why are there six H tags?</h2>.
There may be times when you want a subheading with several smaller subheadings underneath it. On these occasions, you can use <h3> tags. For example, if your <h2> tag was “What animals might you see on a farm?”, you might want to have subheaded paragraphs underneath this about ‘Cows’, ‘Sheep’, ‘Ducks’ and so on. Each of these could be an <h3>.
Perhaps under ‘Cows’, you might want to mention ‘Frisian cows’ and ‘Highland cows’, so each of them could be an <h4>. I don’t think I’ve ever gone any further than <h4> myself, but you can keep carrying this pattern down to <h6>. This may have its purposes if you’re writing something where detailed instructions are required, such as a user guide.
Can you use an <h3> tag without an <h2>?
This is not recommended. It will look fine on the page, but Google and other search engines won’t understand the hierarchy of your headings if you skip <h2>. Some bloggers and website owners complain that their <h2> tags appear too big on the page, but if this is the case, it’s best to ask your web designer to change it for you than to go straight from <h1> to <h3> or <h4>.
To get the best out of your blog, both from an aesthetic and SEO perspective, why not speak to us at Engage Web?