The opening first sentence keeps it.
So far, so good! But now they’re just going to scroll down the page and see if anything else captures their attention.
The sad truth is only about 10% of readers are going to read every word your write. That’s the typical behavior of your average web reader.
That’s where subheadings come in. They pull your reader up to take notice.
So, it goes without saying that you need to know how to write subheadings to get your reader to read, rather than scan, what you’ve written.
What is a subheading and why they’re important
A subheading, or subhead, are mini-headlines and play a huge role in capturing and holding the scanners attention.
It also keeps them moving down the page from one subhead to the next.
Subheadings are smaller in size than the main headline but larger than the text of your article.
They’re meant to stand out.
The main purpose of subheadings are:
- They stand out because of their size and attract attention.
- The scanner will stop to read them and continue scanning until the next subhead which they’ll then read.
- Scanning from subhead to subhead, they serve to guide the reader down the page.
- A subheading that looks interesting will get the scanner to read that section, and so on.
Reading behavior of the scanner
What the scanner is doing is evaluating whether they want to invest their time into reading your article.
Think of subheadings as being like hooks. They’re the hooks that get the scanner to stop, look and read.
The subheadings should also serve to summarize your article. That way the scanner is able to read and feel the flow of the story by your subheads.
In other words, the subheadings should give the reader a quick and easy guide to see what’s going on with your article.
How to write subheadings that captivate
Creating a subheading follows the same principles as writing a headline using the Four U’s Formula.
The subheading would ideally be:
- Useful – it shows a promise and a benefit to the reader.
- Unique – it contains a fact or opinion your reader may not be aware of.
- Ultra-specific – this makes a subheading stand out and demand attention.
- Urgent – urgency gets your reader to take notice and action.
But that’s a lot of things to put into a subheading, particularly if it needs to be short.
So, try to include the most important which are Useful and Unique.
Just like writing headlines, you want your subheading to show a benefit, to allure and entice your reader to take notice. They also need to be descriptive about what you’re writing.
Also, like the heading, the shorter your subhead the better. Some say 8 words or less so long as it’s descriptive.
Structuring the subheadings on your page
There are no hard and fast rules but the following will serve as a guideline:
- If the headline is the premise, then the subheadings are the tips.
- Your first subheading should be your best, the most intriguing, the one with the biggest bang.
- The shorter the subhead the better.
- Subheadings break your article up into readable and sequential sections.
- Subheadings need to have rhythm and consistency which helps the reader move down the page from one subhead to the next subhead.
- Consistency is the natural rhythm or flow between the subheads. You want to be consistent with a step one, step two, step three, step four type approach.
Subheadings serve to summarize your article by breaking it up into readable sections.
The content below each subhead is distinct yet there is a natural flow from one subhead to the next.
This allows for the person that’s scanning to get a quick and easy guide to see what’s going on with your article and if of interest, to stop, look and read.
How to write subheadings follows the same principle as those for crafting a headline. Importantly you want them to be descriptive, show a benefit for your reader, and be short.
For me, the major benefit of subheads is they make reading so much easier.
Also published on Medium.