Good Subheadings: How to Write Them for SEO and Reader Engagement

Will a good subheading save you? Content Marketing has become overcrowded and chaotic, with countless blogs vying for attention. Readers have become skilled at quickly scanning through content and have become tired of being lured in by catchy headlines only to be disappointed by average content.

Up to 90% of readers bounce and leave the average website within 10-20 seconds after they get to it. That is a terrible performance and no way to leave a first impression. How do you reduce that bounce rate?

Blog_COM_Creating Killer Content Tactics to Take Your Content Marketing to the Next Level

Your headline or title is intended to hook, entertain, shock, and, above all else, create curiosity. Its purpose is to pull readers further into your content to stay long enough to realize how stellar the information and writing are and continue reading and returning to new content as it is posted.

What the headline does for the post, the subhead does for each section of content.

What Is a Subheading?

A subheading is a secondary heading that breaks a long text into smaller, more manageable, and readable chunks. It is typically used to introduce a new topic or summarize a section's main points.

Why Do Headlines Matter?

  • Headlines that are 60 characters or less get 65% more clicks than headlines that are longer than 60 characters. Short and sweet wins the race when it comes to headlines. So, when scanning through search results, they are more likely to pause and read a headline that is concise and to the point.

  • Headlines that use numbers get 26% more clicks than headlines that don't use numbers. Headlines that provide precise information are more likely to capture people's attention. Incorporating numbers in the headline can make it more informative and appealing to readers.

  • Headlines that use strong verbs get 38% more clicks than headlines that don't use strong verbs. Incorporating dynamic verbs into your headlines can evoke a sense of immediacy and enthusiasm, ultimately boosting the chances of click-throughs. These potent verbs can also enhance your headlines' overall persuasiveness and impact.

  • Headlines that use negative words get 20% fewer clicks than headlines that don't use negative words. Headlines that exude positivity and optimism tend to capture people's attention more than headlines that use negative language. Negative words can make headlines appear less attractive and deter readers from clicking through.

  • Headlines that are relevant to the search query get 35% more clicks than headlines that are not relevant. Relevance is vital when it comes to headline clicks. Internet users tend to gravitate towards headlines that align with their search queries, making it more likely for them to click and engage with the content.

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What Is the Purpose of Subheadings?

A subheading intends to

  • grab the readers' attention so they will stop to read before continuing to scan until the next subhead, which they will then read and evaluate similarly;

  • guide the reader down the page as they scan from one subhead to the next, and

  • be so interesting that the scanner stops and reads that entire section.

Content marketers and writers often waste the opportunity subheads provide by not carefully crafting them to achieve the above-delineated purposes.

Some common mistakes cause subheads to be ineffective.

Mistaken Uses of Subheadings

  • Mistake number one is using the subhead as a simple label. Labels simply identify; they do not create interest.

  • Mistake number two uses the subhead as a spoiler that gives away the point of the following content. Why would readers continue reading your content if they already know the point it wants to make?

  • The third typical mistake is trying too hard to be creative. Here you end up creating something more confusing than compelling. The ensuing confusion quickly leads to a bounce.

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What Makes a Good Subheading?

Subheadings consist of a clear phrase that encourages readers to keep reading and curious about what the writer will say. It is an opportunity to keep readers looking at your content long enough and convert them to fans.

Effective subheadings create curiosity and surprise, and they show personality and emotion.

While the scanner is evaluating whether or not to invest the time to read your article, the subheads should serve to summarize your article. They provide a quick and easy guide to see what the content is all about. A scanning reader should be able to grasp the gist of your article just by reading the heading and subheadings alone.

Just as you do when you write a good blog headline, you want to write subheadings that show a benefit. Use subheadings that are helpful, entice readers to take notice, and be unique. They are descriptive of what your subject matter is.

Don't forget to ensure proper spelling and know which words to capitalize.

Subheading Best Practices

  • While describing your content, the shorter the subhead, the better.

  • The headline is the premise, and the subheadings are the tips.

  • The first subhead should be the most intriguing.

  • Break the article into readable and sequential sections using the subheadings.

  • Provide a rhythm and consistency that helps the reader move down the page from one subhead to the next.

Content Marketing Blueprint
When composing your subheadings, consider the following:

  • Fun is good; puns are cheesy: This is not the best place to be too clever. For each paragraph, ask yourself: what is it about, what's the most critical part of that paragraph, and what do you want the reader to take away from this paragraph?

  • Don't be cryptic: Your readers want solutions from your text and don't have the time to solve a puzzle to find that information.

  • Use parallel structure: Subheads that have consistent grammatical structure are eye-catching. Other ways to include parallel structure might include using verbs or a question's format.

  • Keep the length similar: Conventional wisdom says to keep compelling subheads to 70 characters or less. Every word has to be spot on to keep the subheading powerful enough to keep readers reading and make your point succinctly.

  • Connect to the headline: Link each subheading back to the content's main heading.

  • Continue moving forward: Each subheading carries a paragraph or section of text that digs deeper into the article and moves the reader further on the path to understanding your topic.

Subheadings and SEO: Is There a Connection?

There has been, and continues to be, much discussion about whether H1 (headline) and H2 (subheading) tags impact SEO and SERP rankings. Google and other search engines specifically look at header tags and your structure of header tags. Don't just put everything into <P>; just increase font sizes or bold them. Header tags have a formatting purpose and a structural purpose.

Google carefully examines user behavior to determine the quality of a website, which is why it includes data like bounce rates and time spent on a page. This data points to how helpful a page is, and that, in turn, determines how highly they're ranked. How long a reader spends on a page depends on how easy it is to parse the content. And what helps a reader parse content are those H2 and H3 tags.

So it appears that effective use of headings and subheadings does impact search rankings, making them an essential part of any inbound marketing strategy even if the performance improvement attributed to H2 and H3 tag use is just the result of improved user experience, which brings lower bounce rates, and better engagement, which in turn brings better rankings.

  • Websites that incorporate H2 and H3 tags experience an average increase of 15% in organic traffic;

  • 43% of users skim through blog posts, making headings and subheadings essential for a positive user experience;

  • Using H2 and H3 tags can significantly decrease bounce rates by up to 30%, indicating that they are a valuable tool for increasing user engagement.

Remember, one and only one H1 tag on each page.

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SEO Best Practices for Subheadings (and Headlines!)

To wrap up our discussion of subheadings, these are SEO best practices for subheadings (and headlines).

  • Each page gets a unique title that describes the content accurately and concisely. The main title (H1 Tag) should be between 60 and 70 characters so as not to get truncated in SERPs.

  • Use hierarchy and structure: Organize your subheadings using a clear hierarchical structure. Use H2 for major sections, H3 for subsections, and so on. This helps search engines understand the content's structure and improves readability for users.

  • Incorporate relevant keywords: Include relevant keywords in your subheadings to signal to search engines what the section is about. However, prioritize readability and natural language usage over keyword stuffing. Aim to provide value and clarity to your readers.

  • Keep subheadings descriptive: Make sure they accurately describe the content beneath them. This helps search engines and readers understand the context and relevance of each section. Clear and descriptive subheadings can also entice users to stay on your page and explore further.

  • Utilize Formatting Tags: Use proper HTML title and formatting tags (e.g., H1, H2, H3) instead of manually styling the subheadings. Search engines rely on these tags to identify and interpret the structure of your content. Consistent and appropriate usage of formatting tags is essential for SEO.

  • Optimize for Featured Snippets: Craft subheadings that can appear as featured snippets in search engine results. Consider phrasing them as questions or providing concise answers to common queries. By addressing user intent and offering valuable information upfront, you increase your chances of getting featured snippets, which can improve your visibility and click-through rates.

While optimizing your subheadings is essential for SEO, it's equally crucial to focus on creating high-quality, engaging content that meets the needs of your target audience.

Ready to learn more about making the most of blogging for inbound marketing? Check out our free ebook! 

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Subheading FAQs

What makes a good subheading?

A good subheading is:

  • Concise: It should be short and to the point.
  • Descriptive: It should accurately describe the content beneath it.
  • Compelling: It should make readers want to read more.
  • Unique: It should be different from the other subheadings on the page.
  • SEO-friendly: It should use keywords that are relevant to the content and use appropriate header tags.
How often should I use subheadings?
The frequency of subheadings depends on the length and complexity of the content. You may only need one or two subheadings for shorter content. For longer content, you may need to use subheadings more frequently. We look to have at most 3-4 paragraphs under each subheading.
What are some common mistakes when writing subheadings?
Some common mistakes people make when writing subheadings include:
  • Using too many words.
  • Using vague or ambiguous language.
  • Using the same words or phrases in multiple subheadings.
  • Not using keywords that are relevant to the content.
  • Making the subheadings too long or too short.
What are examples of effective subheadings?
Here are some examples of effective subheadings:
  • The importance of subheadings in content marketing.
  • How to write compelling subheadings.
  • Ten common mistakes when writing subheadings.
  • How to improve subheading writing skills.
  • Benefits of using a subheading writing tool.
What is a subheading tag?
Subheadings are mostly created using the <H2>, <H3>, <H4>, <H5>, or <H6> tags in HTML. These header tags indicate the level in the hierarchy, with H1 as the highest level and H6 being the lowest level subheading. For a logical structure, nest properly and don't skip levels.


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Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.

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