Most of the people who start a blog do so because they have a passion for a subject, which is rarely SEO or HTML coding. However, if a blog is intended to be successful enough that browsers will be able to even locate your words of wisdom, some knowledge of both is essential. Well written, informative and engaging content is still a must for any blog, but promoting it effectively requires something more too, namely a structure that search engine bots can make sense of.
The Purpose of HTML Headings
However clever they’ve become, web bots don’t actually read the contents of blog posts, but rather try to make informed guesses about its topic and strength from the kinds of words used, how frequently they’re used and how the content is organized and internally-structured. This is where headings come in.
Types of Headings
Think of an article as a tree: the trunk is the main heading (H1 in the source code) is the page heading, not what appears on a browser tab but the description of the actual content, within the actual content. There is only one H1, since the tree would look weird otherwise.
If the content is logically organized, it will naturally split into branches called H2 headings, which may split again into twigs called H3. Further splits are possible, but not necessarily a good idea in the average blog posts. Say you are the custodian of a history blog; one part of the structure may look as follows:
H1: Causes of the French Revolution
H2: Administrative Inefficiency in Pre-Revolutionary France
H3: John Law’s Tax Reforms: Too Little Too Late
Things have changed somewhat with the introduction of HTML5: each new section now starts from H1 again. The reason behind this seems to be that numerous different pages can more easily be combined by copying and pasting, without worrying about what this will do to the structure’s integrity. The typical blogger, however, will most likely have little use for HTML5 at this point, so this isn’t especially relevant.
How Headings are Important
One purpose of having such a structure is that it allows the reader to skip through to whatever interests him, just like a table of contents in a textbook. Another function of headings is that each contains relevant keywords since search engines look more closely at headings than at article text. In the above example, we would be looking at a long article. Jamming “French Revolution” in every heading down to H3 level will look ridiculous. However, “French Revolution”, “Pre-Revolutionary France” and “John Law” are all covered, and will presumably appear again in the text under each heading.
Heading tags can also be used for purposes other than organizing post content. Your blog’s homepage will likely tag the blog title as H1, while its subtitle can be H2, assuming that it contains relevant keywords. Individual, recent posts can be highlighted by specifying them to be H3, and so on.
Few people will have the patience to read all about the French Revolution on one single page. Therefore, a structure like the above is not all that realistic.
What would work better is to devise a link tree to break up the whole into individual pages containing not much more than 2,000 words each. In this case, from an SEO perspective, think of each page’s H1 as telling search engines what the page is about, what kind of keywords it should be looking for, and what search text strings mean that a browser wants to land on that particular page. In particular, headings should be kept short and sweet. A heading without a keyword is a waste of space, but an entire paragraph tagged as H2 is just straining Google’s credulity.