Create easily searchable content with SEO headlines

Katelyn Mary Skaggs

May 1, 2023

In simple terms, SEO helps your content be discovered easier by search engines, like Google. If the search engines cannot find you, then readers Googling to find a story with answers will also not find you.

In the fast-paced digital world, an increasing number of people prefer to scroll a newspaper's content versus flipping a page.

Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, can help your newspaper’s content be discovered so more people read and educate themselves with your content.

In simple terms, SEO helps your content be discovered easier by search engines, like Google. If the search engines cannot find you, then readers Googling to find a story with answers will also not find you.

The idea behind SEO is to work with search engines to provide searchers with the best possible content.

There are generally two types of uses for news content — habitual and instrumental. Habitual users get the paper in their mailbox or open their computers and go directly to your website. Instrumental users find you on social media or by searches.

SEO helps you increase your number of instrumental users, hopefully creating habitual users in the long run.

If you have not started using SEO in your newsrooms, I highly suggest you start this month.

It’s not complicated coding or leaving our news values behind; it’s making small changes to have more readers come to your digital doorstep.

A great place to start with SEO is headlines posted online.

SEO headlines need to be literal, help answer a searcher's question, almost a full sentence and have keywords.

Keywords are basically nouns, typically always included in a good news headline.

The best way to think about writing SEO headlines is to ask yourself “How would someone search for this story?” Write your headline based on the idea of answering a question someone is seeking online.

I was taught in college that all news content should be written at a fourth-grade level due to the average education level in the country; this means all SEO content should be written at a kindergarten level.

Use longer and simpler words; you do not have to worry about fitting a headline around four columns with no white space. Use dispute over spat, criticize over rap, increase over hike, nix over eliminates, capture over nab, and schedule over slate.

Think about how you Google information; you would not search “has escaped prisoner been nabbed.” Someone might search “has escaped prisoner been captured.” If your headline read, “Escaped Jefferson County prisoner captured,” it has a better shot at ranking on the first page of Google over “Police nab escaped prisoner.”

A big recommendation is to always include the full location name in SEO headlines. When people get the paper at their house and read, “Except for turnout, no surprises in Tuesday's election results” they automatically know those are the local results. However, Google might be smart, but it’s not that smart. A search engine will not pick up the story and show it because it’s not answering what people are searching for.

A better SEO headline is “Jefferson County election results have no surprises, except turnout.” If someone searches “Jefferson County election results,” the story is more likely to rank on the first page of results because of the location and keywords of “election results.”

My best suggestion is to put yourself in your audience's shoes, think about how they might find a story and write a headline to help them.

If you are already using SEO headlines and not finding good results, I suggest a visit to

This is an awesome tool that shows you the back door to Google. You can learn what people are searching for in your area and what keywords will work the best.

This is a tool that can help you craft web headlines. I will warn you that you can waste a lot of time on this site because it's so vast. Set yourself a timer for five or 10 minutes, do research for your SEO headline and then post it; don’t be trapped doing research for hours on one story.

As a Blox Digital client, I love the SEO options given while posting a story to our website. You can have two different headlines — the visible one online and an SEO headline that only you see.

If you use another website hosting platform, reach out to them and ask about SEO headlines. I can almost guarantee that you already have access to a feature and you just have not used it yet.

Try it out, and see if you can get more eyeballs on your stories.

Katelyn Mary Skaggs is the digital marketing manager for Leader Publications, a group of four papers in Festus, Missouri. Skaggs, a Southeast Missouri State University graduate, joined their ranks in January 2019 as a reporter. Email