I can’t count the number of times I have logged into the backend of a WordPress website and saw headings used without any rhyme or reason. This, I feel, comes from a misunderstanding of what they’re actually for.
If you’re new to using WordPress (and editing web pages in general) I can see how it would be easy to confuse the H1–H6 headings as styling options.
The purpose of HTML headings is to help search engines understand the structure and content of your web page in order to one, properly index it, and two, serve your site in relevant search engine results pages. (Click here for some comprehensive SEO tutorials.)
They also give your readers context since most people skim web pages. Here’s a quick guide on how to format WordPress posts and pages.
Post and Page Titles
Each web page you create is essentially an essay with a specific argument you are trying to prove. You need to have a clear topic and then a reasonable amount of information to prove to your reader that you know what you’re talking about.
With that said, think of your post or page title as your thesis statement. This tells the viewer (and ultimately search engines) what your web page is about, and then they get to determine if it’s relevant to them.
The title you create should tell your reader exactly what your post or page is about and, for SEO purposes, should include the main keyphrase you are trying to rank for.
If you want to write a post about your favorite vacation destinations, your post title might be “My 5 Favorite Vacation Destinations.”
WordPress automatically assigns an H1 tag to all posts and page titles. From a hierarchical standpoint, this should be the only H1 tag on your web page. While using more than one H1 tag on a web page isn’t really going to hurt anything, they’re really unnecessary.
If your title is your thesis, then your headings are your supporting arguments. This is where you’ll start to outline your web page. I like to use 3–5 headings to help organize my writing.
Think of these headings as list items that briefly explain why your thesis is true. Use an H2 tag for these headings when you format WordPress posts and pages. Since we know that website visitors quickly scan the content of most web pages, these headings need to paint a pretty clear picture.
Continuing with our post about vacation destinations, each place you name will be wrapped in an H2 tag. This way the reader can see right away what your 5 favorite vacation destinations are.
If your supporting argument requires a lot of information, you can break that up even further with subheadings (just like I did here).
Subheadings for each of our destinations could be hotels, dining options, and amenities.
Rarely do I use any heading tag beyond an H3, but if you are writing a lengthy, in-depth article, you may need to get more granular.
This is the meat of your post or page and where you really prove your knowledge on a topic. Your paragraph content needs to explain the information you provided in your headings in greater detail.
In our vacation destinations post, the headings and subheadings will be followed by paragraph content that explains what you enjoy about each place.
Make sure what you are sharing is valuable for your readers. Your paragraph content should also be easy to read. Avoid writing big blocks of text in italics or using center alignment. These types of formatting options should only be used to emphasize a word, phrase, or sentence maximum.
When you format WordPress posts and pages, it’s important to keep your reader in mind (first and foremost) but also search engines. These HTML tags will create a visual hierarchy for website visitors and will also help Google and the like understand your content.