Writing headings and page titles

Last updated: June 28, 2022

Clear headings and page titles help people find what they need fast. Page titles let us know we've found the right page. Headings tell us what is on the page and organize it into sections. When done well they improve both search engine optimization and accessibility.

On this page


Unique page titles

Page titles are what show up in search results. To help people find the right page faster make sure your title is unique, clear and concise.

Do a search within gov.bc.ca before naming your page to avoid duplication with other content.


Descriptive headings

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’.


Formatting headings and page titles

Heading styles

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

Heading tags

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, including CMS Lite, 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 break up your content into topics this makes it easier for people to find the part they’re looking for. H3s and below are sub-headings:

  • H2 headings are the main headings on your page and can be used several times
  • H3 headings can be used several times and are sub-headings to H2s
  • H4 headings can be used several times and are sub-sub-headings to H3s

Avoid using heading levels 5 and beyond.


Using 'On this page'

Use 'On this page' at the top of your page as a table of contents.

For pages with 3 or more H2 headings, including 'On this page' can help people find information faster.

Only use H2 for 'On this page.' Use a bulleted list of anchor links.

Anchor links should link to other H2 headings on the page. Do not link to H3 or H4 subheadings.

The anchor link text should match the H2 headings used on your page in both text and order.


Accessibility

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):


Use sentence case

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 engine optimization (SEO)

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.