Headings

 

Overview

Headings may be one of the most important aspects of a page. This is because headings are not only visual elements, but they also a defined type of content for a page.

When you apply a heading to a page, you may think that all it does is make the text a larger font and make it bold. This look could just as easily be obtained by making the text larger and adding the bold effect to it, like one might do in a Word document. While this is true, defining a piece of text as a heading does much more than visual styling.

In the markup language that makes up web pages, HTML, certain page elements are defined, such as headings, paragraphs, lists, etc. This markup not only sections off content and allows one to apply styling to a certain section, it also defines what that content is. A list holds a list of data and a paragraph would hold large blocks of text. You would not use a list to hold a paragraph, nor should you waste time trying to style a list from scratch as paragraph content when there is already a list element.

The same goes for headings; defining content as a heading will not only imply certain styling, but will also describe what kind of content it contains; a heading or title of some sort. It would then follow that headings should only ever contain heading content, most likely a word or short phrase. A paragraph should never, ever be made as a heading, nor should an image.

One may wonder why this matters. As long as the visitor sees the large, bold text and believes it to be a heading, why does it matter if that text is defined as a heading underneath? Well, this is a very legitimate argument, but this would only be true to human visitors to your site. Your site will also receive non-human visitors, such as search bots that will index your page for search engines.

So, headers will play a major role in your SEO. These search bots may process your page to find certain types of content. Although the entire document may be searched for keywords and such, these bots will also look for specific kinds of content and most likely give priority to those pieces of information. Headers are usually one such priority of these programs. Since headers tend to be short and very descriptive of other content contained on a page, they are a good way for these bots to determine what your page is about.

In short, headers should be used in your pages, but should be used wisely. Using too many, or too little, headers in your pages will result in a page that is not optimal for SEO. Here is an example of headers on a page:

 

Guidelines

There are some guidelines that should be followed when it comes to using headers:

  1. Use only one Heading 1 (H1) element per page. The H1 header is almost a special header of sorts. This header is generally used to define a header for the entire page. Since a page is only one page, it follows then that a page should only contain one H1 header. This header should probably also appear near the top of the page.
  2. Headers should define topics or sizable sections of a page. Think of headers as very short summaries of the content they are associated with. The H1 should describe the content on the entire page. An H2 should define some sub-section of the content on the page. Then, a H3 would define some sub-section of an H2 section of content for a page, and so on.
  3. Headers should be organized in a tree-like fashion. View the use of headers as like the directories and files on your computer. On your computer, you have a "root" directory that ultimately holds every file or folder in the system (the "H1" of the filesystem). The folders and files that are direct children of this root would be the "H2" files and folders. One of these folders may have direct children under then, so an "H2" folder's children would be "H3" items. So, direct sub-sections of a page would have H2 headers, and if those sections had further sub-sections, those sub-sections would use H3 headers. This scheme could continue on indefinitely, but HTML limits the number of available headers. Headers go from H1 to H6, which should be more than plenty. Usually, you will not go beyond an H3 or H4; if you do, you may want to re-think how you are organizing your content, as you may be breaking it down too much.
  4. Never use headers inline with text. Since headers are essentially titles, they should never appear within a block of text (headers will most likely have default styling applied to them that will not allow a header to show inline with other text). Also, headers should never be used to define bold text. If a non-header piece of text needs to be bold, simply select it and apply the bold style to it.

 

Defining a Header in a Page

In the page editor, headers are applied as formats. A section of text can be selected and defined to be a header of your choosing.

  1. Click somewhere within the bounds of the text that you want made into a header. This text should be on its own line, separated from other content by hard breaks. It is unnecessary to highlight the entire section of text. The editor uses the placement of hard breaks in your content to determine where in the text formats should start and end.
  2. In the Editor Toolbar, click the arrow on the Formats dropdown.
  3. Click the desired heading format from the list.
  4. The text will immediately be formatted as the chosen heading.