Relevancy of headings-being able to scan a web page quickly for humans and search engines

By 2nd July 2011 December 11th, 2017 Digital Marketing

Header TagAll web pages have the same goal in mind, no matter what they look like. The purpose of your web page – and indeed the entire Internet – is to disseminate information freely and clearly. And the web is no different from other information sources, in that it abounds with both good and bad examples of the art. The only real difference is that search engines, as their algorithms get ever better at spotting the good from the bad, are increasingly capable of pulling the good stuff to the top and leaving poor quality pages way down where they are less likely to be found.

How important are headings?

Headings work for humans and search engine spiders, and for precisely the same reason in both cases. When a person scans a web page, he or she is estimated to process less than 28% of the words he or she sees. That means you need to get the whole topic of your page across in a safe average of 25%.

A web spider scans the HTML heading (<H1>;</H2>etc) tags in your page’s code to find out what the page is about. The H1 tag contains the primary information (the title); the H2 tag contains the secondary information – and so on. The spider is looking for a recognisable hierarchy of information, all of which links to a central theme (contained in the H1 tag).

That’s precisely what a human eye does. Where your users have functional or higher literacy they will rapidly scan the headings on the page to work out: a) what the whole page is about (from the main heading); and b) what kind of angle the page has on the subject (from the secondary and tertiary headings). Our theory at LogicSpot is that a visitor will SCAN A PAGE IN 6 SECONDS. If they don’t see something relevant, to keep them staying and reading beyond headings in 6 seconds, they’re off elsewhere, generally!

How to place the right headings?

For a human user, well-spaced headings, laid out like a newspaper and with relevant images interspersed, convey all the information they need to make the decision. Interestingly, the human eye also responds to the physical location of the headings, with western viewers starting at the top, scanning down to the mid right and then ending up in the middle. In web page terms, that equates to an H1 heading, a picture and then an H2 heading.

Combining headings with an arresting, relevant image optimises your content for human consumption. Using the right HTML tag structure makes it immediately visible to search engine spiders. The trick, of course, is to make your content as appealing to one as it is to the other.

Optimise the words you use in the headings for your chosen key terms, and the spiders will index your page as both relevant and high quality. Use highlighted keywords and phrases throughout the text, and you’ll give your human user immediately obvious extra information – whilst further enhancing your content’s appeal to the search engines.