What does Google look for in my article: Headlines & Titles

Written by Candice Underwood on 2nd March 2017

(Last updated 14th November 2018)

Putting your article online is the easy part, it’s getting it noticed which is the hard thing! With social media taking over from news sites and the sheer volume of articles online bursting at the seams, articles need to be optimised for your keywords of choice. Otherwise how else will you appear in the search results for those dream keywords?

This is the first post in a series which will be looking at exactly what Google looks for in your article and focusing on how you can utilise these things to include your keywords and engage your readers.

So let’s get started at the beginning: what does Google look for in your article headline and titles?

Article Headline

Read all about it! Read all about it! The article headline is the first thing Google will index so this is the first thing we need to consider.

So what are headlines for? When comparing online to offline headlines they do have a very different context, but in both cases the principle is the same: the headline is the main title of your article and used to entice the reader in. Offline this may be on a magazine or a paper and encourage the person to buy the magazine to read more, whereas online they are used to encourage your visitor to click through to your website.

Headline Subject

In order to entice your reader in, you want your headline to include both clarity and curiosity. You want to tell your reader what they will be getting but without giving the game away. It’s important to be interesting and catchy, as regardless of how well you are ranking you need that click-through; it’s important to take your time and think carefully about the best headline for your article.

Here’s a great example:

A bad headline: ‘Dead Web Design’
A good headline: “Web Design Is Dead.” No, It Isn’t." (Smashing Magazine)

The headline above is emotive, opinionated, and it’s enticing me to read more. Why isn’t it dead? Why do they think that? But beware, there are a couple of things you need to watch out for: 

  • Take care though not to go down the typical link-bait headline: ‘10 things that cats do that we love. Number 5 will blow your mind!’. It may seem like an easy win but it might not be as straightforward as it seems. For example, did you know studies have shown users tend not to trust multiple of 5 when there are numbers in the title? These often feel fake so if you are using numbers think about an alternative number such as “11 top design tips” or “9 applications to improve your workflow”.
  • Don’t make your headline date or time-sensitive if possible. Google is looking for the most up-to-date relevant content so we don’t want your article going out of date the week after it’s posted!

Keywords in your headline

Now back to business: keywords. Keywords are the words or phrases you want your article to rank and be found for. Headlines are a prime spot for keywords so this is what Google will be looking for in your title. They are best placed at the start of the headline, as this is where our eyes start.

Including your keywords should happen quite naturally if your headline is explanatory, but be very careful not to overstuff your keywords. Google is a lot smarter than we’d like and doesn’t take too kindly to keyword stuffing!

Take the example above, the keywords here are ‘web design’ and the key phrase itself is ‘web design is dead’ which tell both us and Google straight away what it’s about, whilst still including a more human element: ‘No it isn’t’.

Article Titles

Leading on from the headline, titles dotted throughout your article act as a further explanation of what it’s all about. It makes your article more easily digestible and sets realistic expectations for your reader of what they can expect to find out.

But as well as being beneficial for your visitor, titles are also a fantastic opportunity to include further keywords in your article. Again Google won’t take kindly to keywords stuffing but if it’s a relevant and clear title it is more likely that it naturally includes the keywords you are looking to target.

Another thing to take note of, and avoid, is duplication. The first title acts almost as a second headline, so take this opportunity to expand on your headline with a secondary title and try not to repeat yourself. After all, why waste those extra precious words when we can utilise them to make our article even more enticing?

So, in conclusion, headlines and keywords are the perfect opportunity to keep both Google and your visitors happy. With the right headline and the right titles you can include your targeted keywords and give Google a clear and concise explanation of what your article is about, increasing the likelihood of being a relevant article for your keyword search.

This article was posted in SEO by Candice Underwood