How (and Why) to Structure Content with HTML Heading Tags

10 June 2019

While providing high-quality content has been a hot topic lately, the need for building a solid content structure is something not many experts have been bringing up.

Yet, building a clear meaningful content structure is as important as writing good grammatically correct content.

Content structure is about strategic research-driven use of HTML heading tags.

What are HTML Heading Tags?

Heading tags are HTML tags that markup headings and subheadings to reflect the hierarchy of the covered topics.


Heading tags are shown as <Hx> (h1, h2, h3, etc.) in HTML code of any web page. They are interpreted by search engine bots helping the machine to understand the structure of the document.

By using heading tags to structure your content you can achieve both more search engine visibility (through being featured more) and better user engagement (heading tags have been found to prompt the user to spend more time on a web page).

The efficiency of these headings can easily be maximized and they should be both Google- and user-friendly.

Why H-Subheadings Are So Important

Changing Search Behavior

With voice and mobile search becoming increasingly popular, search behaviour is changing continuously.

Consumers are now able to search on the go, and this also means that they want answers right here and right now. If your content is not able to meet this immediate demand for information, consumers will simply move on to other sites that can.

Breaking content into sections help readers locate answers quickly, which is where meaningful content structure comes into play.

Featured Snippets

To identify which URL deserves a featured snippet treatment, Google's featured snippet algorithm uses content structure almost exclusively. Google will display the best answers in both the featured snippet and the "People Also Ask" areas of the search results page.

Users can often only see these two sections in the area above the fold. This algorithm is capable of extracting answers from text that is well structured. This often means that pages that rank between #2 and #5, and sometimes even between #5 and #10, will outrank the #1 result and get featured above it.

Voice Search

Modern technology has changed the ways in which people consume information dramatically.

When voice search is executed, the results rely heavily on featured snippets and consumers will mostly see these snippets in response to voice search query. This gives more visibility to content which is well structured.

H2 Tags Are Crucial

H2 tags are very important. As this heading type acts as an information guide for search engine bots, each one should ideally include a keyword that is searched for often.

Although H2 tags are often used at the top of content, they can in fact be placed anywhere within the body of the content. This signals to Google that one article covers several equally important topics within one page helping it diversify your rankings.

It is a good idea to research niche questions to come up with effective H2 headings. You can start by reading Google's "People Also Ask" results to find popular questions to cover and structure your article.

[The more you click on actual questions inside the box, the more questions will appear at the bottom of it helping you to discover more and more sections to include in your content]

Other tools to research questions include:

  • Quora and Reddit help you find questions people actually ask each other
  • Answer The Pubic is the free tool that extracts question-type queries from Google Suggest results
  • You can also use Twitter question search to monitor real-time natural-language driven questions:

SEO Tips for H2 Headings

  • An H2 tag should always be included in content.
  • Include the primary keyword for the content in the tag.
  • Don't put too many keywords in the tag (One keyword per a heading is enough).
  • Make sure that users can read the H2 tag easily.
  • Try to use no more than 70 characters in the heading: Keep them concise
  • Make sure the headings catch an eye and grab attention
  • When taken out of context, your H2 headings should give some understanding of the content. You want them to act as clear concise takeaways.

Again, using question research to identify your H2-headings is always a good idea:

What Is an H1 Tag Then?

While H2 tags build the basic structure of the content, H1 tag is the main heading of the page.

You should also understand that the page title (<title>) is different from the <h1> tag, although they should be similar (and even identical).

Crafting an effective title and a solid H1 tag have a lot on common:

  • In the title tag, use the keywords that have the highest volume and are critical.
  • In the H1 heading don't be afraid of getting a bit more creative. Think of it as catching the reader's eye once they land on the page.

Services like SEMrush, Serpstat and Ahrefs can be helpful in selecting more effective keywords to optimize on-page headings.

Make the Most of Other Heading Tags

You can use H2, H3 and other heading tags anywhere in the body of the content. Hierarchy is critical. You have to use Hx tags in logical order within each content section. This hypothetical example of a recipe for making grilled chicken demonstrates the principle.

    • H1 Heading: How to Cook Delicious Grilled Chicken
      • H2: Preheat the oven
      • H2: Make the marinade
        • H3: Mix together the olive oil, salt, etc.
        • H3: Place the ingredients in a small bowl and stir...
      • H2: Place the chicken and the marinade in a bag and grill
      • H2: Serve

H4, H5, and H6 tags are not used very often, but are useful for breaking up long sections of content.

Don't use too long headings, as this could be distracting to the reader and decrease the value of the headings to search engines.

General SEO Tips for Hx Headings

  • Use short and concise H2 through H6 tags.
  • Don't use other formatting within H tags, e.g. avoid using bold or italics.
  • More importantly, don't use links inside heading tags.


To make content actionable and effective, create a meaningful keyword-optimized heading structure. In summary, make sure to:

  • Use only one <h1> heading per page
  • Use a logical hierarchy for <h2> to <h6> tags.
  • Base headings on keywords you are focusing on
  • Keep headings short.

I hope this guide will encourage you to create better structured content. Good luck!

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