Writing headings and page titles
Headings tell people what information is on the page and organize it into sections. Clear headings and page titles help people find what they need fast and improve search engine optimization and accessibility.
On this page:
- Unique page titles
- Descriptive headings
- Formatting headings and page titles
- Sentence case
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
Page titles are what show up in search results. To help people find the right page faster your title should be unique and clearly describe what is found on the page.
Do a search within gov.bc.ca before naming your page to avoid duplication with other content.
Use headers for new sections of content. Write headings that are descriptive but brief. Do not be vague. Instead of ‘Apply’ write ‘Apply for Medical Insurance’.
Heading tags include style formatting to keep them consistent with the rest of the website. Never add:
- Bold, italics or underline
- Spaces above, below or before heading text
Headings, sub-headings and page titles are formatted using ‘heading tags’ such as Heading 1 (H1), H2, H3, H4. The heading tags act as a sort of table of contents by organizing information into a clear and logical order. Headings must go in order and never skip a level.
Heading level 1
Every page must have an H1 header. Many content management systems automatically make your page title the H1. If you’re using a platform that is not CMS Lite, check with your web team to confirm.
Heading levels 2 to 4
H2s can be used several times and should break up your content into topics. This makes it easier for people to find the part of your content they’re looking for. H3s and below are sub-headings:
- H2 headings are the main headings on your page
- H3 headings can be used several times and are sub-headings to your H2s
- H4 headings can be used several times and are sub-sub-headings to H3s
Avoid using heading levels 5 and beyond.
Using the correct heading order is important for accessibility. For people who are sighted, headings are recognized using visual cues such as a larger font separated from paragraphs. This is useful for lots of people, but particularly for those with cognitive or learning disabilities. For people who are blind and use screen readers, headings provide in-page navigation using technical cues.
Relevant Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):
- 1.3.1 Info and relationships – level A (external link)
- 2.4.2 Page titled – level A (external link)
- 2.4.6 Headings and labels - level AA (external link)
This means in headings and page titles you should only capitalize:
- The first word. If it starts with a number such as '2020 School tax rates', capitalize the first word after the number
- Proper nouns
- Abbreviations and acronyms if they have already been defined. Or are better known to the audience than their long-form equivalent, such as PDF or DNA
Do not use punctuation at the end of page titles, headings or subheadings, unless it is a question.
Search engines read the words in your headings and page titles to better understand what the page is about. This is one of the ways they categorize content as useful or not. Use keywords in your headings and page title to help people find the pages they need fast.
Search engines generally place the most importance on an H1 tag followed by H2, H3 and so on.