Visitors to your website tend to use very specific patterns when reading your content. Moving in what’s known as an “F-pattern,” they pay most attention to the top-left corner of a page, along with headings, subheadings and introductory paragraphs.

We would like to focus now on headings, where website visitors often look when scanning for key information. Headings and subheadings essentially divide up your content into sections. The heading at the top of the page is known as H1 tag in the HTML or programming code of your website, and there are also H2 and H3 tags, typically found separating different sections of your content.

Your H1 tag is the most important — for both people scanning your content and the Google spiders that crawl your pages to determine where they should rank for certain keywords and phrases. The spiders place significant emphasis on the H1 tag in determining the main topic of the page. Then, it looks at H2 and H3 subheadings to see what else is on the page and whether or not it relates to what was presented in the H1.

Because Google uses this information to rank your website, writing good headings and subheadings is very important. They should be written so that Google can accurately index your page and that readers can quickly scan your headings and subheadings to find out if the content you are presenting is relevant to their needs and legal questions.

In short, the H1 tag communicates the topic of the page, while H2s explain what each section within the content is all about. The H3s, found toward the end of the content, provide a summary of the page topic.

Writing great headings and subheadings

To make sure you are creating H1s, H2s and H3s that work well for both scanners and spiders, you should take note of some dos and don’ts in headline writing. Let’s start with what you should do:

  • Write naturally: Even more important than keywords are headings that engage readers and tell them what your content is all about. Above all else, focus on writing in a natural way, as you can go back and make adjustments to incorporate keywords later.
  • Maintain hierarchy: Make sure your main heading is an H1, and then use H2s and H3s appropriately throughout the rest of your content.
  • Use unique language: Each page on your site should have different headings and subheadings, even if several pages are on similar topics.
  • Support the content: All of your headings and subheadings should reflect the topic of the page and the different sections of your content.

Now let’s take a look at some things to avoid when writing headings and subheadings:

  • Stuff keywords: Using too many keywords in your headings will likely sound unnatural and turn off your readers.
  • Use multiple H1s: Your H1 should be at the top of the page. Do not attempt to use H1s as subheadings to break up sections of your content — that’s where H2s should go.
  • Repeat content on other pages: You won’t fool Google by creating multiple pages on the same content. Spiders will recognize this as duplicate content and will penalize you in your search results.
  • Mislead the reader: Avoid misleading headings for the simple purpose of including more keywords.

As you create your headings — and all of your content — keep in mind that Google and the other search engines care most about whether or not you are providing useful, informative content to your visitors. To that end, it’s good advice to write primarily for readability, incorporating keywords and phrases wherever it makes sense to do so.

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