You might not be aware of your own behavior when you're surfing the web, but when next time you're searching for information on a particular topic, try to notice how many minutes or even seconds you stay on a web page. Reading an entire article in a newspaper on a Sunday afternoon might be possible if it's really interesting, but on a computer or handheld screen it's not easy to stay focused on a long text.
This article will give the article writer a mechanism that allows the reader to quickly find the piece of information he or she is looking for.
The mechanism we are talking about is the use of subheadings.
Subheadings divide your article into subsections. You can see them as some sort of scent trail.
At a glimpse of an eye, the reader has an idea of the structure of the article: the introduction, the longer paragraphs, the shorter ones and sometimes a conclusion.
The subheadings serve as stepping-stones to guide the readers through the text. The scanability of the subheadings will make sure that they aren't scared off by a large chunk of text, for which they don't have the time to read or they just simply lack the attention span for it.
The easiest way to write the text for the subheadings is to do it after writing the complete article. Just summarize each paragraph in one or a few keywords.
Next to the contents, the form of the subheading is also very important. They should evidently stand out of the rest of the text, which can simply be done with a bold, slightly bigger font.
Two blank lines below the subheading provide a visual resting point for the reader's eyes.
For online content, H2 or H3 header tags can be used. They have an extra advantage: search engines take them into account when they determine the ranking of your article in their search results. So if your H2 and H3 tags contain keywords of your article, more internet users will find your article when doing a search through Google, Live Search, etcetera.
Ideally someone should be able to understand the main points of your content by just reading your headline and your subheadings. Done well you can communicate your message through a title and some headlines alone.