This post is based on episode 132 of the ProBlogger podcast.
I’m willing to bet that every blog post you’ve ever written has a main heading at the top. (If you use WordPress, it’s usually the title.)
But how many of them have subheadings?
Even if you’ve never used them before, chances are you know what they are (especially if you’re a regular ProBlogger reader). They’re those ‘mini titles’ you see in posts that are formatted a little differently to the rest of the text. They might be a different colour, in a larger font, or even in a completely different font.
Good for the reader
Now not every post needs subheadings. For short posts (such as the kind Seth Godin writes on his blog), you probably don’t need them because the reader will be done reading in a matter of minutes. But if your posts are longer than 500 words or so, adding subheadings can make them easier to read. Here’s why.
1. They break up the text
Nothing is more intimidating to a reader than seeing a solid wall of text. You almost brace yourself when you get to it, because you know it’s going to be a hard slog getting through it all.
We need breaks in the text to take a mental breather. And subheadings are a perfect way to create those breaks.
2. They add extra white space
White space can also make text more appealing, especially from a reading perspective. And most subheadings include space above and below, which can help add white space to your post.
3. They act as signposts within the text
As much as we’d like people to read every word we’ve written from start to finish, most readers will skim through your post looking for the information they want. And well-written subheadings can help them easily find that information.
4. They give your post a strong structure
As well as acting like signposts, subheadings can act as a roadmap for the reader. By looking at your subheadings they can see where you’re going with your post, and how the various points you’re making connect to each other and the topic as a whole. The last thing you want if them to be scratching their heads wondering where you’re taking them.
Good for the writer, too
So far we’ve been talking about how subheadings make things better for the reader. But they can also help you write your posts in the first place.
If you plan your posts (something I’m a big fan of doing), using subheadings can help you structure them correctly. If you want to make four points (which you may have written as dot points in your plan), then creating a subheading for each one will help you put them in the most logical order. They will also help you link each point and create nice segues from one to the next.
And you’ll know exactly what to write about for each one because the subheading tells you what information you need to include.
You can also use subheadings to add extra SEO keywords related to what you’re writing about. Just make sure your subheadings still make sense when you’re done.
Okay, let’s look at some examples of subheadings in blog posts.
A simple structure
Here’s a snippet from Charles Crawford’s post, 7 Simple Ideas for Mailing List Opt-Ins. As you probably gathered from the title, he talks about seven ideas. And each one has its own subheading, which makes it easy for the reader to find a particular idea that piques their interest.
And as it’s a list post, he’s also numbered each idea.
This is actually a great way to make sure you’re fulfilling your promise to your reader. If his post only included five ideas the reader might feel cheated. By numbering them sequentially, he can quickly make sure he has included all seven ideas.
A more complicated structure
This kind of structure will for work for the majority of blog posts. But there’s nothing stopping you from using multiple levels of subheadings if it will make your information clearer to understand.
Here’s Laney Galligan’s post, The 4 Rs That Show a Brand Your Blog is Influential. And like the previous example, it’s a list post. But at the end of each section Laney has added another subheading where she lists various related items.
But as you can see, the second subheading (‘Reach Metrics’) doesn’t have a number and is in a smaller font than her main subheading above it. This lets the reader know it’s additional information related to ‘Reach’.
How to create subheadings in your posts
So how do you create subheadings when you’re writing your blog posts?
If you’re using WordPress, simply select the heading text and then use the pulldown menu to change it from ‘Paragraph’ to ‘Heading 1’ (for a subheading), ‘Heading 2’ (for a sub-subheading), and so on.
And if you’re writing your posts in Microsoft Word and then bringing them into WordPress, you can use the corresponding Word styles do do the same thing.
Are you going to start using subheadings in your future posts? Are you going to go back and add some to your older posts? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Ан Нет on Unsplash