Why are subheadings good for your blog’s SEO? [Web Audit for the Rainforest]

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About Karo Tak — Yoga, Food & Activism

Hey, it’s Sabine at From Scratch, and today I’ve got another Web Audit for the Rainforest for you. It’s for Karo Tak, who’s an amazing vegan animal rights activist and yoga teacher, and also a vegan chef over at Karo Tak Pink Kitchen on Instagram. I really recommend following her.

She also writes a blog. And her question for us was, how can I reach more people? How can I reach my people and get more exposure for the topics I care about?

So let’s have a look at Karo’s website so you can get to know her just a little bit. This is the homepage. Karo’s doing yoga here in the background picture. And we also get to meet Sparky, her little dog. And yeah, really, this Hero already tells you everything you need to know about her except the Sustainable Development Goals that she’s working towards. So I’ve got on my list:

  • Good health and well-being
  • Gender equality
  • Climate action and
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions.

Karo, thank you for applying for this audit. We’re honoured to support you with your blog.

WordPress, Yoast and subheadings in blog posts

Now, we chose a specific blog post to work with, mainly because it’s recent, but also because it’s a really good example of what Karo wanted to know about: #blacklivesmatter

Karo asked us about subheadings in blog posts. She blogs with WordPress, as do we and as do many of our clients.

If you use WordPress to write your blog, you may have come across Yoast. That’s a plugin that helps you write in a more readable way, but also helps you optimise for search engines. So basically there’s a traffic light system where Yoast tells you “this is not particularly readable. It’s too difficult. You should make it simpler” — or “it’s not really optimised for you to be found on the Internet. You need to make the following changes in order to optimise for SEO.”

One of the things that Karo often sees in Yoast is that it tells her, “you don’t have enough subheadings.” Now she’s is wondering why that is and what she can do to have better and more subheadings, and what they have to do with SEO.

So let’s get started with that question:

What do subheadings have to do with Search Engine Optimisation?

When we look at this particular blog post, we can see there aren’t really any subheadings. There is a bit of pull-out text that’s a bit larger. And there’s a quote. And then there’s stuff that’s typed in all caps, I’m not sure if that’s a heading actually, or a subheading. But the blog post is a long piece of text and there’s not a huge amount of visual structure beyond the images.

That’s difficult for a search engine to understand. The search engine basically looks at your title (in this case, #BlackLivesMatter). It also looks at all of your subheadings to understand what your article is about and what the structure is.

And then based on that information, it performs this memory game of matching a search engine query that somebody is typing into the search field with your article. And the easier those are to match, the more likely it is that you appear on the first page.

There are other things that come in, like

  • external links to your blog (blogs linking to you),
  • you linking out to other pages,
  • you linking within your own website,
  • the quality of those links,
  • how many people come to your page,
  • how long they stay there…

There are a lot of different aspects to SEO. But subheadings are one of those things that are relatively easy for us to optimise because it’s within the scope of what we do when we write a blog post.

How to write better subheadings (and more of them, too)

If you want to write more and better subheadings, I recommend you change your process of writing a blog post. And when I say “you”, I don’t just mean Karo, but if you’re listening, if you’re watching this, if you’re reading the transcript and you think, “yeah, I’ve got the same problem”, then this is also my advice for you: when you sit down to write, don’t just let it all flow.

Of course, following the natural flow is one good way to achieve a fantastic blog post.

But for SEO, it’s worth having one step, either at the beginning or at the end, where you think,

“OK, the people that I want to reach with this post are these, and they’re likely to have the following question. And now what do I think are the most important keywords in that question? Or do I even want to use the whole question as my key phrase for this article?”

In this particular example with the #BlackLivesMatter post, it could be a question like: “what does yoga have to do with #BlackLivesMatter?”

Or it could be “Why #BlackLivesMatter is important to Ahimsa living.”

If we stick with the #BlackLivesMatter and yoga connection, then those would be the obvious two key words (#BlackLivesMatter and yoga).

But you could also make the whole question your key phrase and enter that in Yoast and say, “OK, this is what I want to be found for.”

It all starts with the title of your blog post

Currently, #BlackLivesMatter is the title for this article. This tells me what it’s about, but it’s also really generic.

I could imagine there being 150 pages on Google or Ecosia talking about #BlackLivesMatter. It will be very difficult to stand out there and to rank highly. You’ll end up competing with a lot of first-rate publications, big newspapers, TV channels, YouTube influencers, you name it. You’ll compete with anyone who’s ever written or produced anything to do with #BlackLivesMatter.

If you make your title more specific, if you focus on yoga and #BlackLivesMatter, then you will only compete with all the other people who’ve created something about yoga and #BlackLivesMatter. The more specific, the smaller your competition.

I know, in the social and environmental scene, we don’t necessarily like the word “competition”. But that’s just the reality of what SEO is, right? We can’t read all of the stuff on the internet. We can’t watch every single video on the internet. We need to find something that we want to give our attention to and that matches our intent and what we’re looking for. So it’s really a courtesy if you use a more specific title or heading. It’s going to be easier for your people to find that piece of content.

Using the structure of your article to come up with subheadings

Once you’ve got your title, you can ask yourself: “OK, so if this article is about the relationship between yoga and #BlackLivesMatter, which bits do I want to cover in this article?”

Just a bullet point list is fine. It could be three points, could be five points, could be ten points. You write them all down and then you put them into the right order. And this could be before you sit down to write the article, or after the fact.

I often do it after the fact. I sometimes find that I get a bit if I’m working from a list. But sometimes it can also give me new ideas, or highlight where I need to do a bit of research. Or I realise I need to dig out a book that I read a year ago, so I can refresh my memory and quote from that book. Both ways are fine. Some people even do it both before they sit down to write and afterwards to check: “Have I got everything?”

Those bullet points provide the structure for your article. That structure is like the skeleton, and your text will float on that skeleton. And any search engine will look at that skeleton in determining what your article is about, what the structure is, and also what mini internal topics they could recommend to people who are looking for something that’s related to one of your bullet points.

The bullet points could easily become your subheadings. Perhaps you want to “fluff them up a bit”. Maybe you want to add a bit more style to them. Maybe there’s some editing you want to do later.

You can see if you can fit your main keywords like “yoga” and “#BlackLivesMatter” into as many of those subheadings as possible, because that way it’s going to be really easy for the search engine to understand that it’s all related, it’s still about the same topic. It can send the right people your way.

We haven’t got that here, so one thing I’ve done is I’ve gone through and indicated where it would make sense for this article to have subheadings and what they could be. (I’ve done that in Brunch, the tool that we use for all of our web and email audits.)

What the full web audit looks like that Karo received

I’m going to just quickly show you what that looks like. It’s exactly the same as the blog post that we’ve just had in front of us, just with blue dots and a bit of a bar at the bottom.

Each of those blue dots has a comment from me. And you can add a comment here too, Karo. This is just for you. Nobody else has access to this. Everywhere you see a blue dot, I’ve left a comment. You can also go to “20 comments” here down in the bar and then they will all come up in the order I gave them.

And you also get a performance review. When you click on “performance” at the bottom, it will tell you that the performance is not so good. Accessibility, best practices and SEO, on the other hand, are really, really good. From a technical point of view, which is what this report is about, SEO is performing really well.

The only thing that I think would really be worth improving here is the performance — mainly load time. So if you can find any way to decrease load time (increase the speed at which your page loads), Karo, then that would be great. You can see the full report when you click here. It’s really technical. So if you work with a web designer or a web developer, they will appreciate this. It’s beyond the scope of copywriting, that’s for sure.

Additional resources

Yoast blog: How to use headings on your site

Summary

To summarise, the key thing is for you to think about a key phrase or a couple of key words that belong together and that you want your article to rank for (what you want to be found for).

You put that into your heading or title, (you can you can say either to the title of your blog post) and the subheadings.

In WordPress, you can set subheadings as H2 to I think H7 or H8. I think potentially it’s endless, but most people use H2, H3 and potentially H4. So this indicates a priority. Your title is H1. The next level of your article is H2. And then within that paragraph you want to have another subheading that would be H3. And then when you talk about a completely different topic, you make it H2 again, and so on. But that’s the technical bit of how to use WordPress. That’s probably less important.

The most important thing is: develop a structure for your article, and each point that you want to cover is a subheading. And then in the text underneath, you unfold that topic and talk about it. After three hundred words or so, you add a new subheading for another topic.

How to get your own Web Audit for the Rainforest

If you have any questions about this topic or any other topic to do with your own website, feel free to either apply for a Web Audit for the Rainforest. Or if you want more than one page audited, you can always get the big audit that we also offer, which covers three URLs, and also means that we’ll write some copy for you: Website Conversion Copy Audit (Web CoCoA)

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