Boost Reader Engagement With 9 Easy Subheading Tricks

The architectural structure of your piece can provide clarity -- and help in hidden ways as well.

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By Brett Relander

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Why use subheadings? Is it worth spending much time to devise them? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

A great headline and a catchy, teasing introduction may end up being wasted effort if your article lacks subheadings.

Subheads make it easier for a reader to scan the content of a piece and make up his or her mind about staying on a page, bookmarking an article, sharing it or just passing on it. Plus, subheadings can help you in subtle ways in appealing to and engaging with your audience.

Here's some tips for creating subheads that will entice visitors to read your content:

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1. Get witty. Construct pithy subheadings that give a sense of what's to follow. They will let readers scan the content quickly. Subheads bolster the content, moving the narrative forward while at the same time making it easier for someone to understand by breaking it into readable sections.

2. Provide structure. Subheadings provide a skeletal framework for your piece. With these in place, you can express your thoughts and ideas more coherently and let the narrative flow more smoothly. Also, the very process of arriving at subheads might prompt you to put important points first. The benefits are twofold: Readers can gain a sense of the crux of the article quicker and you place relevant keywords and links higher up in the content.

3. Use H tags for subheadings. To put it simply, words marked with heading tags, or H tags (indicating text that should appear larger), usually carries more weight with search engines like Google. It also is typically styled in boldface. For instance, if you're targeting "social media" as a keyword, placing the phrase in a heading (H1) or subheading (H2 or H3) indicates to Google that you have given that phrase more weight as opposed to having it simply appear within the regular copy. Headings indicate to the search engines that the information contained within them is important.

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4. Put internal links in subheadings. Subheadings can be hyperlinked to other content on your website. By doing this internal linking that sends readers to relevant content, you keep visitors on your site longer providing you a greater opportunity to offer resources and make a good impression.

5. Use long-tail keywords in subheadings. Because they are more specific, long-tail keywords (with more than one word in them) invariably work better than generic short-tail ones. For instance, "mobile apps for restaurants in Dallas" is more specific than "mobile apps" to inform search engines and the audience looking for content.

6. Choose clarity over creativity. Eschew arcane jargon, in other words, use simple language. By all means, write a subheading that will shock or surprise readers and inspire them to think differently. Use facts, mention statistics, drop names and ask questions. These techniques can bolster engagement.

7. Be flexible. Subheadings can be preceded by bullets, numbers or neither. Numbered headings are ideal for lists with ascending or descending order based on the topic and title of the article.

8. Provide balance. Use subheadings determine how much to elaborate on a specific point in an article. Add a new subheading and thereby adjust how much text is afforded a given topic before a new topic is highlighted.

9. End strong. The subheading for the last section should be powerful; this last point sets the stage for a meaningful conclusion that influences the reader's takeaway from the entire piece.

Subheadings are powerful tools to shape content and direct its progression. A reader can understand content better when presented with a well-laid out piece -- and is more likely to share it.

Related: 7 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Dead Blog

Brett Relander

Managing Director at X1 Sports Nutrition

Brett Relander is founder and managing director of X1 Sports Nutrition ( He has a degree in exercise science, is certified as a Master Fitness Specialist and in the biomechanics of resistance training, and is an advocate of all-natural nutrition and advanced performance training.

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