Content style guide
Page titles and section titles
Page and section titles do a lot of heavy lifting. A good rule of thumb is to hide all the text on a page, except the page title, section titles, subsection titles, and the primary CTA.
If someone can still figure out what they need to do on that page or what that page is about, it’s a good sign that the page and section titles are working well.
Page titles have a few important functions:
- To clearly and quickly tell people the main purpose of the page—what they can do or what information they can get on that page.
- To optimize the page for search, so the information is findable through Google and other search engines.
Try to keep page titles to 52 characters maximum, with spaces. Use the primary SEO keyword in the page title. On VA.gov, page titles use the H1 tag.
- Articles in resources and support have a page title character limit of 70.
- News releases, blog titles, community stories, and local event titles don’t have a page title character limit.
Section and subsection titles (also sometimes called headers and subheads) help organize the page into scannable, user-friendly chunks. They should provide clear guideposts and bring people deeper into the content.
- Structure section titles with H2s and subsections with H3s, and so on. This provides a natural hierarchy for your content, and helps SEO.
- In sections that list several ways someone can contact VA or apply for a benefit, use “Option [X]:” in the header. For example, under an H2 that says “How to apply” we might have these H3s: “Option 1: Online” and “Option 2: By mail”
- Try to keep section and subsection titles to 70 characters maximum, with spaces.
We allow a little more character count for sections and subsections than page titles. But in general, sections become hard to scan when they’re too long. Eliminate unnecessary details or nuance in section and subsection titles, and address them with more depth in the paragraph copy.
H1 page title How to apply for college
- H2 Documents you need before you start your college application
- H2 Ways to apply to colleges
- H3 Option 1: Online
- H3 Option 2: By mail
- H2 What happens after you apply
- H3 How long it takes to hear back from colleges
- H2 More information about applying for college