Do you remember that year in middle or junior high school when language arts teachers taught us all to write outlines before we wrote our essays as part of the assignments? The purpose was all partially to determine structure and hierarchy of the essay to come. Then, we used a lot of Roman numerals and letters. Now, most of the copy being written in the world is for websites. In addition to writing for shorter attention spans and an increase in the need to use active vs passive voice in our marketing text, we use header tags to specify our intended structure.
Header tags, also known less commonly but more properly as heading tags, are a basic element of copywriting for websites for two big reasons.
As copywriters and copy editors, understanding the nuances of heading tags is a necessity for delivering content that resonates with both readers and search engines like Google.
Harking back to the days when we diligently crafted those outlines to shape our thoughts logically, header tags offer a digital parallel. They empower writers to create a hierarchical structure within their content, breaking it down into manageable sections and sub-sections, thereby enhancing readability and comprehension. That much is timeless and no less important than 100 years ago.
Heading and subheading structure allows writers to convey the significance of each section, guiding the reader through cohesive and well-structured information.
When copywriters incorporate appropriately nested header tags, they provide web development teams with a blueprint for creating websites that not only look appealing but are also intuitive and user-friendly. This collaboration between writers and developers results in a harmonious synergy that ensures an optimal user experience.
In modern web design and development, we abbreviate these simply as “H1” through “H6”. The “H” is short for “heading element” in web development. This alleviates web designers from guessing at visual structure and groupings, thereby allowing them to create the best visual user experience (UX). Then web developers, who use the “H1”, etc. directly in their web coding, take it from there.
The copywriter holds an important role in how a website will look and function.
More than just visual aids, they are powerful allies in the realm of SEO. Search engines like Google leverage heading tags to decipher the subject, hierarchy, and context of content, playing a pivotal role in the indexing and ranking of web pages. Properly optimized headings can significantly enhance a webpage’s SEO performance, helping you to keep up in the crowded digital landscape.
Modern copywriters should strategically leverage heading tags by incorporating relevant keywords into these elements, signaling to search engines the primary themes and topics covered in the content. This practice increases the likelihood of favorable rankings in search results, driving organic traffic to the website. These headings and keywords (as well as all your body copy) should sound natural, and should not be over-used to the point of being clunky to read. This is called “keyword stuffing”. Google specifically advises against being so heavy-handed.
Further, Google Ads and Google Grant Ads for nonprofits also benefit from intelligent use of keywords and properly tagged headings. These ads are a form of paid advertising called PPC (pay-per-click). Just like how Google crawls and reads your website and your HTML code for cues about your topic, quality of content, and relevancy to a user’s search query, it also has a vested interest in only approving and prioritizing ads that are highly relevant to a high-quality destination web page. Your webpages need to correlate strongly with your ads, and a fundamental way to do this is with your header structure and keyword-centric copywriting.
So what do these tags look like? How are they implemented on websites? Google has a good heading and styling guide as it applies to development, but for a more basic view, check this out:
The proper use and identification of heading tags should be considered a requisite for web copywriters to understand well, forming the cornerstone of collaboration with web design and development teams. Embracing this foundational element will get your marketing efforts off on the right foot.