How to Write Compelling Subheads

February 14, 2022

How to Write Compelling Subheads

A crucial component of any piece of high-quality content has got to be the subheads. They often take a back seat to the main headline or title but without them, your blog posts, articles, web copy or landing pages would be lost. In my opinion, you can't even write a decent press release without a couple of good subheadings thrown in there. I've even been known to use them in emails to help guide readers through and get them to the finish line. There's no question that using subheads in the right place is an easy way to maintain the reader's attention after they've been mesmerized by your great headline.


Keep reading for some insider tips on how to write compelling subheads and why they're so darned important in all your content pieces 


What is a Subhead? 


Let's start right at the beginning and explain what a subhead is. Not everyone is well versed in the various elements of effective content writing and we don't want to leave anyone out. Basically, subheads are those headlines that appear within your content. You probably just looked at the subhead above called, ‘What is a Subhead?’ and read this section to find out what it meant. You've been reading subheads in every type of content for years and in all likelihood, you've been reacting to them for years, and now it's time to use them in your own content.


Why are Subheads Important?


Using subheads in your content is important for a few different reasons. Before the Internet came along and direct mail sales letters were more popular than they are today, subheads were used as a sales technique to appeal to both readers and skimmers. What this means is if you were so inclined to read the entire sales letter the subheads would help guide you along, and if you're more of a skimmer and only want to read the highlighted pieces the subheads would give you the gist of the sales letter without having to read the whole thing. This is also effective in modern times with online content writing.


Creating subheads also helps give you a structure for the piece of content you are writing. With just the main headline and the subheads and almost be able to tell what it's going to be about with just that information. Subheads are also great for content organization. They help break up long paragraphs and sections into neat and organized sections so it looks less intimidating and easier to read. Adding subheads is good practice for creating impactful content that gets results.


How Long Is Too Long?


As you can imagine, the length of your subheads is important. There really isn't a minimum when it comes to subhead word count. Sometimes, a good subhead is just a single word. But you want to be careful not to make them too long. You definitely don't want them to bleed onto a second line but even more than that I would aim for five words or less for each subhead. The goal is to continue the story down the page and keep people interested in reading and usually the most persuasive way to do that is with the fewest words possible. The last thing any web writer wants is to create a compelling headline at the top that gets everyone excited and then lose them with long-winded subheads.

Where to Find Subhead Ideas?


When it comes to actually creating subheads there are a handful of different strategies that are effective. You don't want to just focus on one concept or strategy, and it's always a good idea to mix things up if you can. This won't always be possible, but it is a great way to add some diversity and appeal to your web visitor and the search engine. Some of the best places that established content creators find effective subheads aren't where you'd naturally think to look. Good headings can come from a variety of places. 

Ask Questions


As with any headline, asking questions is a good way to pique curiosity and get someone to continue reading. When you're talking about a main headline you usually want to use an open-ended question that can't be answered with a yes or no, but that may not be quite as important with a subhead. By the time they get to your subheads, your main headline has already passed the test and they've gotten through the introduction so they aren't as likely to leave if the answer to your question is a no. Just as a word of caution, make sure any questions you ask as a subhead are relevant to the main headline and make sense in the context of the particular piece of content.


Real-Time Suggestions


Real-time suggestions on Google can also help you find section headings that work. These are the suggestions that Google gives after you've typed in a search query but have yet to hit the enter button to see the search results. These suggestions are about as close to real-time as you can get and they often make great semantic keywords that are related to your main theme or topic. Again, make sure any real-time suggestions you use as a subhead continues the story in a logical way and makes sense.


Related Searches


Related searches at the bottom of a search engine results page may also be used as subheads. To find these, just scroll all the way to the bottom of the search page after you've entered a search query and hit enter. These can be easy to miss if you aren't looking for them and you'll be surprised how many useful terms you can find by looking down there. That's not to say you should use the first thing you see, but they could definitely be useful.


Some related searches to the search term ‘how to write subheads’ include:


Example of Subheadings in an Article

What are Two Purposes or Subheadings

Heading and Subheading Example

Answer the Public


Answer the Public is a website that will give you a wide range of different possibilities for subheads. After you type in a keyword, the website displays a bunch of different related terms that you can either use as-is or will spark your creative juices to come up with compelling subheads of your own. Give it a try and find out for yourself.


Using the ‘subheads’ example, we got a list of terms using subhead beginning with what, how, can, when, are, will, why, where, who and which. And, you can click on the terms that are shown to go to the Google search page and see how many searches there are for that term, etc. These are sure to give you some new ideas for effective subheadings that follow the best practices and get the job done.


Components of a List


You can also make your subheads the items on a list that relates to the main headline. As an example, the title could be ‘7 Ways to Write Compelling Subheads,’ and then each subhead would be one of the seven ways. this could be about any type of list and it is very effective because the reader follows a logical path from the main title to each one of the subheads and through the entire piece of content. An important writing tip is to make sure to include the actual numbers beside each subhead if you have a numbered list in the main title. You will quickly break the trance without numbering the subheads and make the reader do unnecessary work which is never a good thing.


If you run an SEO agency, you know that there are search engine optimization opportunities with subheads that include using keywords and specific header tags and formatting. It doesn't have to be an exact science and there's no need to be intimidated, but at the same time don't overlook the power that subheads have for both your readers and search engines. And remember, it's a good rule of thumb to use subheads in a blog post, landing page, web page and most other types of content.


If you'd like to learn more about subheads or want help with any aspect of your content writing get in touch with us at The Content Company today.

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