Search engines do not ‘see’ a document or an article, they parse. The spiders or crawlers rely on metadata to understand the structure of a document or an article, the flow of content, and the relative importance of various chunks. Whether you call it a topic, a section, a heading, or a title, the entity that goes in a H1, H2, etc. HTML tag and in the title meta tag in the HTML source of your article are important to search engines.
The meta title tag generates the browser title and is displayed in bold in the Google snippets. Many a times, users open or neglect a web page, depending on the snippet of a webpage.
Best practices for writing topics are:
- Keep it relevant to the content. Having a good heading that reflects the nature of the content, allows search engines to verify that you really are talking about what you intend to talk about. Mind you, search engines verify because they do not need a title to figure what the article is about. However, no search engine worth its salt will promote unorganized content.
- Preserve uniqueness between title and meta description. This helps you cover more keywords without stuffing. Keywords in title and meta description have far more weight than keywords elsewhere on the page.
- A topic’s title page should have topic of the article, the brand name, and the product name.
- Populate a page’s title tag using only 60 characters. This is human-readable sentence shown in searches. Page titles must be unique across the site.
Here (PDF) are Google’s SEO guidelines.
There are many ways, besides HTML tags, to indicate content structure to Google via metadata. See Providing Structured Data.
See HTML Improvements suggestions in Google’s Webmaster Tools.
My previous SEO tip – Provide unique Descriptions for articles to improve search engine snippets.