How to Use Headings and Subheadings Effectively in Online Content

Your online content writing needs to accommodate online readers by making it easy to scan. Headings and subheadings provide a road map for quick scanning:

  • They keep your content organized.
  • They make it easy to navigate through content.
  • They break up copy for visual appeal.

Headings are the easiest way to organize content. They give your readers an idea of the content and scope of your content as a whole. Subheadings lead your readers by showing them the topic of each paragraph or section. Effective headings and subheadings are created by following a few steps with respect to your online content:

  • Review your online content
  • Identify the tone and audience
  • Determine the content’s purpose
  • Maintain uniqueness and relevance
  • Create parallel structure

All headings and paragraph subheadings serve a purpose: to inform your readers about the content that follows. This makes clear, concise wording essential. Catchy, clever or cute phrasing is okay as long as your message is not lost.

However, if you have to choose between catchy, clever and cute or clear and concise, stick with clear and concise. You want readers to have a good idea about what your content contains and to keep them wanting to read more.

Review your online content

Read what you’ve written. Understand the premise of your online content and any related material. You want headings and subheadings to reflect the content they precede. Misleading and inappropriate headings are the quickest way to drive online readers away from your content.

Identify the tone and audience

Look at the tone of your online content and the intended audience. Decide if the tone is serious, lighthearted, professional, hip or something else. Make headings and subheadings that fit the content. For example, if you’re writing about throwing a barbecue, your heading should maintain a fun tone indicative of the content.

Determine the content’s purpose

Understand why you are writing a piece of content. Consider what about your words is interesting or attractive to online readers. Look for a unique angle within the significance of your content. Identify how it’s different from other content on the same topic. From that, you determine the purpose and how to address the right audience with appropriate headings and subheadings.

Maintain uniqueness and relevance

Write unique headings and subheadings while making them relevant to your online content. Online readers scan your content vertically before actually reading it. If your headings and subheadings aren’t relevant to the actual content, you might lose the attention of potential readers, who can turn into customers, followers and return visitors.

Create parallel structure

Keep all headings and subheadings in parallel form. You can use words, phrases, fragments or sentences to form headings. All are acceptable. The key is in staying consistent. Follow these additional guidelines to maintain parallelism:

  • Start headings on the same level with the same part of speech.
  • Make headings approximately the same length and in the same tone.
  • Use sentence, title or capital case consistently throughout all headings.
  • Keep all headings on one level consistent – different levels have different structure.

Evaluate your headings and subheadings for online content

Test your headings and subheadings. Scan as your online readers would to make sure the flow and substance is obvious. Avoid confusion by rewriting headings and subheadings that don’t pass the test. This might require some rewriting or reorganizing of paragraphs, but it’s well worth it. Strive to write your best whether writing for yourself or doing paid writing assignments for

Consider writing your headings and subheadings after your content is complete. While you probably have an idea of what you intend to write before you start, sometimes written content has a life of its own.