Your Guide to Subheaders: Knowing When & How to Use them

Your Guide to Subheaders in Content: What to Do with H1s, H2s, and H3s

by | Jan 9, 2017 | SEO

When it comes to writing and formatting a blog post, there’s a lot to think about. If you’re publishing it onsite, you’ll need to consider keywords, SEO, content organization, image inclusion, and more.

Up there high in priority to include in your content (and one that’s commonly tough to map out correctly), is the presence of great sub headers to optimize and visually format your content for the reader.

Known by their tags, H1s, H2s, and H3s, while it may seem like article subheaders could be small beans that can be disregarded. But in the world of content and online writing, this simply isn’t true.

In fact, how you choose to use header tags can have a major effect on how well your content performs. Use them wrong, and you may find your content suffering as a result.

Here’s a guide to subheaders: what you need to know about these pesky, yet critical, little elements that should be placed in your content with care. Read on!

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your guide to using sub headers

First Things First in our Guide to Subheaders: Defining the Purpose of a Subheading

Subheaders, subheads, or header tags all refer to what’s written inside of a bit of code known as H1, H2, H3. The code, placed in the text editor, tells the HTML that this is a bold subheading, and to present it visually that way.

Like so:

example graphic

(Can you tell our First Things First in our Guide…, above, is an H2?)

Used correctly in content, these little headings act like a small table of contents in your online content. If people read web pages word-for-word, like a book, headers might not be as critical as they currently are. Given the fact that people skim web pages more than they read them, header tags help people determine what they can expect to find in a given chunk of web content.

They’re vital to a great web presence and content presentation.

According to, most visitors read only about 60% of content before bouncing off a page. 10% of people never even scroll at all! In light of the fact that peoples’ attention spans have gotten worse in recent years, it’s critical for content creators to toss their readers a bone by inserting relevant subheaders that provide a hint about what’s coming up next and why it matters.

In addition to helping people locate the points of interest in a piece of content, these small, in-text guide posts can also go a long way toward helping search engines determine what your content is about and rank it accordingly.

Your Guide to Subheaders: When to Use H1s, H2s, and H3s in Your Online Content

Learning to use H1s, H2s and H3s in your written online content is essential. Here are some key tips for each of these tags.

H1 Tags

Some people use H1s as their subheaders tags. Don’t be swayed: this is a terrible idea. While H1s can help your rankings when they’re used correctly, you need to know that you should never use an H1 title in your WordPress blogs. Never. H1s should only ever be used in the HTML that starts a page. If you plug in an H1 in your WordPress blogs, the SERP robots will be confused about the topic of the page and may not rank it correctly.

It’s a safe guideline to say that a H1 tag should virtually never be used by a writer. It may be used by the development team to input code into the page header, but it’s not commonly something a writer would touch.

rule of thumb

H2 Tags

Header 2 Tags are much more common and necessary than header 1 tags. H2 and H3 tags are critical for formatting content correctly, and can play a massive role in how well content performs online.

Here’s an example of how H2 tags should be featured in online content:

h2 example

Think of H2 tags as tiny table of contents pieces, showing your readers where to go and what they can expect to find in the given sections of your blog. What’s more, H2 tags must be optimized accordingly with your keyword phrases of choice since they help SERP crawler bots interpret your pages and rank them accordingly.

H3 Tags

Header 3 tags, like H2 tags, are critical for organizing your content. Used in conjunction with H2 tags, but always after H2 tags, they are important for organizing your content and helping to guide your readers through it.

For an example of how H3s work, check out this mock paragraph:

intro and list example

H3 tags are like the little siblings to H2 content, and should be used throughout your content to organize it more efficiently.

7 Little Tips and Tricks to Help You Create Awesome Subheaders

Now that you know why headers are important, let’s talk about how to use them correctly in your content writing:

1. Think of subheaders as article titles, and write to impress your readers

You know how hard you work on a blog title? Optimize your subheaders with the same care and attention! Think of each one as a winning title that could make or break your content (because, really, people scroll down dependent on how good your content *cough* subheads *cough* is). With today’s typical attention span being less than a goldfish (<12 seconds), you want to knock your reader’s socks off.

Use tools like the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer to help you analyze and create a winning header.

2. Keep them to five words or more

Unless you have a client who specifies that he or she would like their subheaders longer or shorter, keep them to five words at least. This helps improve the subheaders’ SEO value and enhance your visibility online. It will also enhance the value of your individual headers and make them easier for readers to engage with.

3. The first subheader you write should be optimized with your focus keyword

Give yourself an SEO boost by including your keyword phrase in the first subheader you write. It will help Google’s crawler bots determine what your site is about and rank it accordingly. It also helps your content feel cohesive and attractive for readers.

4. Include at least two subheaders in each 500 words of blog material

Subheaders help break up and organize your content, so don’t be afraid to use them accordingly. If you’re writing content with more than 500 words, consider including more than two subheaders.

For example: this piece is 1,400 words, and contains an astounding 14 subheaders! That’s pretty much 1 per every 100 words. But if you stand back, the piece is entirely readable. With readability being your goal, don’t be afraid of creating a lot of subheads in your content.

5. The first subheader and the last subheader in your content should have an H2

Think of these as the bookends of your content. They help organize it and make it visually appealing for readers. What’s more, they can help your content look more readable and may boost its conversion rate.

6. Always use a concluding H2 header

The concluding header is more critical than many people give it credit for. That said, use it in your content to help boost readability and end the material on a good note for your readers. Don’t ever neglect the concluding H2 header in your content.

7. Use H3s to flesh out content under H2 headers

H3 headers play the primary role of being used to break down content under H2 subheaders. Use them for lists and bulleted information

Use This Guide to Subheaders & Create Content Flow

While there’s a great deal of confusion about headers and how they’re supposed to be used in online writing, these tips will help you master the use of H2 and H3 tags in your online writing.

Just remember, as a writer, your domain is H2s and H3s. There’s no need to bother with H1 tags, unless you’re writing them into a page’s code. Instead, use H2 and H3 headers to clarify your page’s meaning, break it up more intuitively, and help your readers follow through more easily.

When you do this correctly, it can help readers connect with and enjoy your content, and may make it simpler for some people to read.

What’s more, it can help you rank more prominently in the SERPs, which benefits you and your content all at once.

While headers can be confusing, learning to use them in your online content is essential, and this guide is here to help you learn to use headers throughout your online writing, without making many of the preventable mistakes others have with headers in times past. When you learn to master headers, your entire online writing life will benefit from it and you will prosper.

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