Catching a reader’s eye with a great headline still isn’t enough these days. To share your message, you also need great section headings, also known as subheadings.

A subheading retains a reader’s attention and helps them get oriented to your article in just a few seconds. Search engines love subheadings, too; when crawling a website, a search engine like Google will look at your subheadings to determine how posts are organized.

When you know how to write subheadings strategically, you’ll both attract more readers and keep them interested for a longer period of time.

Key Takeaways

  • Writing subheadings can help you “ladder” your article and get your thoughts organized.
  • Subheadings help break up long paragraphs and blocks of text, making an article more visually appealing.
  • Subheadings can help distracted readers refocus their attention.
  • Think of a subheading as a mini-headline. These mini-headlines should spark curiosity. They are also often encouraging action from readers.
  • In journalism, subheading is sometimes abbreviated to “subhead” or SUBHED.

Let’s look at what makes good subheadings, along with specific details writers need to know when putting together their articles.

What Is a Subheading, Really?

You just read one! Subheads are like in-article headlines that help guide your reader.

The main headline gives readers an idea of what an article will be about. But articles are often several hundreds or even thousands of words. A single-sentence headline or page title can only give so much detail about the information that is to come.

Subheadings solve this problem. A good subheading acts like a section heading, reinforces the main point of the subsequent paragraph text, and helps to create line breaks in your piece, making it a little easier on the reader’s eyes.

How to Write Subheadings in Just a Few Seconds

When writing subheads, take a page from the inverted pyramid, a type of writing in journalism. The inverted pyramid prioritizes essential information to a reader; this includes the who, what, where, when, why, and how of a certain topic. “So what?” and “Now what?” are also good prompts to consider.

Let’s apply this to the subheadings in this article.

  • The subheading “What Is a Subheading, Really?” sets up information about the what, why, and “so what?” of subheadings.
  • The subheading “How to Write Subheadings in Just a Few Seconds” sets up information about the how of subheadings. The next section will have a similar focus.
  • The subheading “Improve Your Online Publishing Today,” which will close out the post, sets up information about the “now what?” of subheadings—namely, what to do after reading this article.

With me so far? Write subheadings from an information-focused perspective when creating educational content.

Tips for Writing Subheadings That Get a Reader’s Attention

Good subheadings play well with both search engines and reader psychology. Here are a few tips to punch up your subhead structure while also keeping in those oh-so-valuable keywords.

Treat a Subheading Like a Main Headline

A subhead doesn’t have to carry the weight of the entire piece the way a main headline does. It still deserves to be well-written, though. Grab your readers’ attention with relevant phrases and language.

Make the Subhead an Action the Reader can Take Today

That’s verbatim advice I received once from an editor at Entrepreneur® magazine. Structure your subheading in active voice, and make it something the reader can start doing right now. Example: “Focus on the 20% of Actions That Produce 80% of the Results.” This formula makes it easy to write subheadings for articles that are action-focused.

Refer to Your Goals Regarding Search Results

If the objective of your article, blog, or story is to attract new readers via search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll want to keep your creativity in check and ensure your subheadings have the necessary keywords and key phrases.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that your subheads are formatted as “Heading 2,” and that subheads within those subheadings have the necessary smaller heading formats.

This isn’t just for font size; Google and other search engines will scan your article to see how it is organized. Rather than scan for font size, Google scans for which text is marked as a heading—“Heading 1,” “Heading 2,” and so on—and which text is just marked as normal text.

Google should be able to read the subheads alone and be able to determine how the article is organized. If that is done successfully, your pages have a much better chance of showing up as an answer in search results.

Improve Your Online Publishing Today

Subheadings are a small detail in blog writing, but they can have an impact on how you reach your audience. Brush up on the benefits of writing optimized subheadings and you’ll be one step closer to your online visibility goals. ◆

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