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10 Tips for Improving Your Titles and Sub-Headers

Posted on April 16, 2015
by Marcus Fishman

10 Tips for Improving Your Titles and Sub-Headers

As web content writers, we work hard on what we write and hope that people read every word of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way. Most people tend to scan content on a website rather than read it, which is why it’s so important to use effective titles and sub-headers on your website.

Titles and sub-headers have the ability to not only break up your text into manageable chunks, but to engage your readers in what you’re writing about. Since people scan web content quickly, titles and sub-headers are what they’ll notice first – which is why they play such a big role in whether your content gets read or not.

Below are my tips for improving your content’s titles and sub-headers – recommendations that both web content writers and web designers can implement to make them more effective.

5 tips for the Web Content Writer

Writing great titles and sub-headers is easier said than done. It’s a skill that you need to develop as a writer, especially given the unique ways that people read content on a website. Here are some of tips for how to write more effective sub-headers in your web content:

  • Keep them short and concise – Your goal should be to keep your titles and sub-headers to 8 words or less. At that limit, they will be long enough to make your point, but short enough so that they don’t wrap onto a 2nd line on the page based on how the designer has styled them.
  • Strive for clarity, not creativity – You shouldn’t get so creative with them that people don’t know what comes below. Rather, sub-headers should convey information quickly so scanners can get an idea of what the content below is about without having to stop and think about it.
  • Don’t re-state what comes below – When you can’t come up with an effective sub-header, the tendency is often to re-state what’s contained in the content below. That’s why writing great titles and sub-headers is a skill to develop – re-stating what comes below is the easy way out.
  • Move the keywords forward – Put the keywords you’re writing about at the start of the sub-header for even greater emphasis. Scanners tend to notice only the first few words, so this will help emphasize what comes below in your content. (It can’t hurt for SEO purposes either.)
  • Pose a question – Another way to get your readers to read your content is ask them a question within the sub-header that they’ll have to read the paragraph below to find the answer to. If you can do this effectively, it can be a great way to get people to look at your content.

5 tips for the Web Designer

Creating effective sub-headers isn’t just the content writer’s job. Web designers play a large role by giving the titles and sub-headers the visual qualities that will best capture the visitors’ attentions. Here are some design tips that you can use to make them more noticeable:

  • Make them a different color – Rather than just making them plain black, choose a color from within your website’s color scheme to make them stand out. Go for a darker color though, especially on a white background, in order to give it enough contrast.
  • Make them big and bold – You should always be able to tell what the headers are based on how big they are in relation to the rest of the content on the page. Make them bigger in size – enough so that were you looking at the page in black and white, you could tell what the sub-header is.
  • Move the copy in – To make the sub-headers stand out even more, considering giving an indent to the rest of the content beneath them. An indent of 10-20 pixels should do – it will be subtle, but the effect is enough to give your content the desired visual separation.
  • Keep the size proportionate to importance – Page titles should use the <h1> tag, which should always be styled the biggest; <h2>’s, <h3>’s, etc. should be used as sub-headers, and should all get smaller as you move further down the list.
  • Keep the fonts simple – Since people are scanning, you don’t want your sub-headers to be styled in a fancier font that might take them longer to read and interpret. Style your sub-headers in simple, clean fonts like Arial or Verdana in order to make scanning as easy as possible.


Do you have any common practices when it comes to either writing titles and sub-headers, or designing how they appear on the page? If so, share your thoughts with everyone by leaving a comment below!

About Marcus Fishman

Marcus has been working professionally with websites since 2001, and offers a wide range of website knowledge from his years of experience working with, designing, and building websites. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.