Get A-Head of the Game with Content Headers

Do you ever have flashbacks to the first time you cracked open a copy of Jane Eyre or Les Miserables in English class? Just scanning down the page felt overwhelming because of the huge blocks of text (in, frankly, ridiculously proper prose) staring back at you. If you’ve ever counted the number of pages left until the end of the chapter just to feel like you were making some progress, you understand the importance of headers in your content.

Headings are an important piece of the SEO puzzle for a couple of reasons. First, they tempt a reader into actually wanting to consume your content. It’s a lot easier to quickly scan headings than it is to scan the text of an article. Making the article easily consumable means that the people you want to read it are more likely to do so. Second, good use of headings helps Google understand the keywords that you’re trying to rank for.

Let’s jump in to the nitty gritty of headers:

Types of Header Tags

Headers are typically abbreviated as H1, H2, H3, and so on. Each number after the H is a different format and purpose for that header. Typically, you’ll only get as far as H3, so we’re going to focus on these commonly used options.

H1 Header Tags

An H1 header is the title of your article. It appears at the top of the page, usually in bold or some equally eye-catching design, and tells the reader a very general overview of what the article is going to be about. For example, our H1 is “Get A-Head of the Game with Content Headers.” You’re reading this article because you had some interest in using headers, or you wanted to see if the person that wrote that pun was as dumb as they sound. You are not reading this article because you were looking for pho noodle shops in your area. If you were looking for pho noodle shops in your area, you would be reading an article titled as such.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but H1 headers are where some of your most important SEO practices come out to play. You’ve probably already checked out our article on meta titles, which goes into the importance of using your focus keywords in the title of your article, aka your H1.

H2 Headers Tags

H2 text guides your readers through the meat and potatoes of your article by giving a little sneak-peek at what each section contains. If your article was a book, H2 headers would be the chapter titles. They break down your delicious content sandwich into easily digestible bites. It’s the same reason your mom used to (or still does, we’re not judging) cut your PB&J into halves. Staring at too much of a good thing can easily make it feel like a bad thing, and if you want your readers to stay and consume the content, you’re going to need to give them chunks they can handle.

This type of header should be used sparingly, and it must serve a purpose. The goal for H2 text is to give the reader something to help hold their place and find the specific information that they need within the text. It’s not meant to be cute or clever, though it can be if done well, while still serving its prime directive.

H3 Header Tags

We’re getting a little meta, here, but H3 headers are those italic headers you see right above this line. They split a section into more sections to create even more organizational flow within a long piece of writing. They’re like the bullet points of the header world. To continue our book metaphor, they’re sort of like the individual events that happen within a chapter, laid out nice and neat.

To wrap this section up, let’s look at the example below of an article that’s about cooking a hot pot of pho from the comfort of home:

H1: Are You Pho Real? Cooking Pho at Home

H2: The History of Pho

H2: Creating Your Broth

H2: Meats

H3: Beef

H3: Tripe

H3: Shrimp

H2: Veggies and Other Goodies

H3: Herbs

H3: Sprouts and Jalapeno

H3: Sauces and Oils

There’s nothing left to the imagination about what you’ll find in each section. The H1 title tells the reader in what situation they should be reading, the H2 headers allow the reader to skip around until they find what they need, and the H3 headers create organization within the text to make it even more scannable and customizable to the individual reader’s needs.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Headers in Context

For the sake of example, let’s look at good and bad headers. The topic in question is “cell phone cases,” with the purpose being to convince readers to purchase a particular brand of cell phone cases.

H1 Headers

Good – Good header tags contain the keyword, tell what the article is about, and are written for a human being:

  • Cell Phone Cases: Never Leave Home with a Naked Phone

Bad – Bad header tags do not contain the keyword, or tell what the article is about:

  • Decorating Technology for Teens

Ugly – Ugly header tags contain the keyword and 4 other variations of it, clearly written for search engines and not human beings:

  • Cell Phone Cases, Phone Cases, Cases for Phones, Why You Need a Case for Your Phone

H2 Headers

Good – Good header tags tell the reader what is contained in the next section:

  • Plastic Cases
  • Silicon Cases
  • Combination Cases

Bad – Bad header tags contain no description of the information in the next section, or are very vague:

  • Cell Phone Cases Part 1
  • Cell Phone Cases Part 2
  • Conclusion

Ugly – Ugly header tags do not exist at all in a long article, greater than 400-500 words.

H3 Headers

Good – Good header tags break up blocks of text into individual sections based on subtopic within an H2 header

  • Plastic Cases
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
  • Silicon Cases
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
  • Combination Cases
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages

Bad – Bad header tags aren’t thoughtfully used to partition text into sections, serves no purpose in the text:

  • Plastic Cases
    • Battery
    • Cool
  • Silicon Cases
    • Nice
    • Pho
  • Combination Cases
    • Loud
    • Can’t

Headers work in favor of your readers, allowing them to enjoy your content without getting lost in the text. If you’re trying to reduce click-through rates, decrease bounce rates, and increase client retention, they’re a good place to start. Pairing them with a comprehensive and thorough SEO plan is your key to unlocking a loyal customer base that seeks out your expertise.

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