Welcome to the third in a four-part post series on my move from Paid WordPress to Self-Hosted: Proper Use of Headings! This guide will cover what headings are, how they are used by search engines, and alternative ways of styling your posts if you are currently using headers.
This series discusses my lessons learned and tips you can use (even on Free WordPress!) to improve your blog.
I know this likely seems like such a detour from the prior posts in this series. Originally this was going to be part of the SEO for Book Bloggers post, but it wound up being such a large section that I decided to break it out into it’s own post. This way, you can get your feet wet on a small thing that will have a big SEO impact before diving in a bit deeper next month!
So, what are Headings?
We all are guilty of this: using the various heading options for stylistic purposes in our posts, but did you know that each heading has a specific purpose? Did you also know that misusing headings can seriously damage your SEO? For instance, your page should only have one H1 tag!
If you use WordPress, headers are listed in order of size and importance beginning with H1. Since we are all readers here, let’s use a book analogy to describe the hierarchy of headers.
- Book’s Title: H1 (there can be only one!)
- Chapters: H2
- Sections within a Chapter: H3
- Subsections within a Section: H4 & beyond
How do headings relate to the topic of moving to self hosted?
As a self-hosted blog you have access to a lot of tools and plugins, one of which is the free Yoast SEO plugin. When I moved to self-hosted and began reformatting a lot of my posts, my Yoast plugin yelled at me a lot: not because I was misusing them for formatting, but rather that I wasn’t using them enough!
I took some time to really dig into some free SEO courses and realized this information will benefit everyone who runs a blog or website in general. Understanding headings and using them when formatting your posts will have an incredible impact on readability, which can impact your SEO ranking.
❗ More information about SEO (aka a beginner’s guide) will be coming in October’s series guide, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!
Headings are Reading and SEO Tools
Headings break up the post into easily navigable sections so readers can find what is relevant to them. We live in a world of decreased attention span, so outlining your posts with headings is a great way to increase readability! Improving your visitor’s reading experience will indirectly impact your SEO.
Headings show post structure
Have you ever written an outline for a research paper? Think of headings as the representation of an outline for your blog post. When someone visits your site, they can easily skim the page to understand the key things covered. It’s like a map of the content, while also breaking up the walls of text into more easily readable sections.
While I didn’t outline this post beforehand, here is one now:
- H1: Proper Use of Headings for Book Bloggers (this is my post title)
- H2: So, what are Headings?
- H3: How do headings relate to moving to self-hosted?
- H2: Headings are Reading and SEO Tools
- H3: Headings show post structure
- H3: Headings increase readability
- H3: Okay, so what are my formatting options if I can’t use headings?
The more in-depth your post is, the more headings and subsections you will need but it is rare to need to include H4 and beyond.
Headings increase post readability
The truth is that we have dwindling attention spans and do not want to read walls of text. (Too bad for me that my brand is overly verbose!) The truth is that breaking up my detailed posts not only helps with SEO but also the reader and increases the chances your visitor will continue reading.
You can check to make sure your headings are coded properly against your post “outline” by checking your published post on the W3 Validator.
Okay, so what are my formatting options if I can’t use headings?
The best option would be to use HTML in your post to change the font size and color. I know, I know… that is a lot more work than just using Heading 3 for all of the quotes used in your book reviews (guilty), but in the long run you actually have more creative freedom this way.
(remove the ***)
To change the font size: <***span style="font-size: 14pt;"> Text you want to be 14pt <***/span>
To change the font face: <***span style="font-family: FONT NAME;"> Text you want in a different font face <***/span>
To change the font color: <***span style="color: #hex;"> Text you want in a different font color <***/span>
Back before I memorized the HTML codes that I most frequently use, I saved a notepad file on my desktop with the HTML saved to easily plug into my posts. If you are using the new block editor you can do this one time to create a “quote” block and save some time.
🗒️ Karlita @ Tale Out Loud has a fantastic HTML guide that has codes that work on Free WordPress!
Let’s go on another adventure together!