Head

Form

Lower Head

EBLOG

E-Marketing Performance Blog

A Day in the Life of a Search Engine Friendly Web Page: Headings

Some SEOs will argue whether using keywords in Hx tags actually helps your search engine rankings. I’m going to bypass that argument because there is an altogether different reason for using proper heading tags. Simply put, it helps the search engines understand the relative importance of different textual areas of the page.

Many sites are content with just using a bold or maybe a bit larger font for their paragraph headings. But that tells the search engine very little other than that particular line is of slightly more relevance. After all, any text can be bolded, colored different, or be made bigger in order to create various inflections of tone, page scanability, or to call out certain points that are helpful. But ultimately, these things weigh small in the overall scheme of things.

Remember back to high school or college when you had to create an outline of a paper before you even began to write it? Your paper outlines would look something like this:


Title

introduction

I. Point #1
... A. Sub Point #1
... B. Sub Point #2
...... 1. Sub-Sub point #1
...... 2. Sub-Sub point #2
... C. Sub Point #3

II. Point #2
... A. Sub Point #1
... B. Sub Point #2
...... 1. Sub-Sub point #1
...... 2. Sub-Sub point #2
... C. Sub Point #3

III. Point #3
... A. Sub Point #1
... B. Sub Point #2
...... 1. Sub-Sub point #1
...... 2. Sub-Sub point #2
... C. Sub Point #3

Conclusion

Now a web page is different from a paper, but not by a whole lot. Using Hx tags properly on each page can tell the engine quite a bit about the page before it even breaks it down. That’s where your headings come in.

When you do no more than bold your headings you tell the engine something about that line of text only. When you use Hx tags you tell the engines about the overall topic of the text directly beneath it. Using keywords in your headings is an added bonus as the search engines should then confirm that the headline does accurately represent the following text and together both should be given a bit of extra weight.

Here is how I outline a lot of the sites we work on:


Page Title

< h1 >Main Headline< /h1 >
< h2>Sub-headline< /h2 >

introduction

< h3 >First main point < /h3 >
... < h4 >First Sub point < /h4 >
... < h4 >Second Sub point < /h4 >
......... < h5 > First sub-sub point < /h5 >
......... < h5 > Second sub-sub point < /h5 >
... < h4 >Third Sub point < /h4 >

< h3 >Second main point < /h3 >
... < h4 >First Sub point < /h4 >
... < h4 >Second Sub point < /h4 >
......... < h5 > First sub-sub point < /h5 >
......... < h5 > Second sub-sub point < /h5 >
... < h4 >Third Sub point < /h4 >

< h3 >Third main point < /h3 >
... < h4 >First Sub point < /h4 >
... < h4 >Second Sub point < /h4 >
......... < h5 > First sub-sub point < /h5 >
......... < h5 > Second sub-sub point < /h5 >
... < h4 >Third Sub point < /h4 >

conclusion

Or alternately:


Document Title

< h1 >Main Headline< /h1 >

introduction

< h2 >First main point < /h2 >
... < h3 >First Sub point < /h3 >
... < h3 >Second Sub point < /h3 >
......... < h4 > First sub-sub point < /h4 >
......... < h4 > Second sub-sub point < /h4 >
... < h3 >Third Sub point < /h3 >

< h2 >Second main point < /h2 >
... < h3 >First Sub point < /h3 >
... < h3 >Second Sub point < /h3 >
......... < h4 > First sub-sub point < /h4 >
......... < h4 > Second sub-sub point < /h4 >
... < h3 >Third Sub point < /h3 >

< h2 >Third main point < /h2 >
... < h3 >First Sub point < /h3 >
... < h3 >Second Sub point < /h3 >
......... < h4 > First sub-sub point < /h4 >
......... < h4 > Second sub-sub point < /h4 >
... < h3 >Third Sub point < /h3 >

conclusion

Should your document have that many headings and sub-headings? Probably not, but that’s all determined by length. If its short than an < h1 > will likely do the trick. As the document gets longer you need to break it up accordingly. I have to admit that I fail to do this routinely on this blog, but definitely not for pages we optimize for our clients.

In fact, this should be done before a page even gets optimized. When developing the site, the outline format should already be prepped for page content. This is easily done using CSS. Simply create your style for each tag and then they are ready to be employed onto the site as the content developers and/or SEOs get to it.

But going back to the engines, by using this structure the search engines can read the text hierarchy. SEOs talk about this when it comes to site architecture, but often fail when it comes to the page architecture. By providing this outline structure, we let the search engines know the layers of importance on each page, which help make the page much more friendly to the search engines and the SEOs who have to do their job.

Other articles and posts related to page headings:

Constructing Effective Web Pages: Paragraph Headings
Proper Hx Heading Use

Previous posts from this series:

Search Engine Friendly is NOT Search Engine Optimized
An Argument for Website Validation
A Day in the Life of a Search Engine Friendly Web Page: The Domain Name
A Day in the Life of a Search Engine Friendly Web Page: Tile and Meta Tags
A Day in the Life of a Search Engine Friendly Web Page: Code Bloat

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

Comments are closed.