11 September 2001 and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center resulted not only in the War in Afghanistan but also in the implementation of the service now known as Google News.
Google News is a service that provides its users with personalized news from the last 30 days which are tailored to the selected interests and location. It works at the browser level and it can be downloaded as a separate mobile app. Google News supports 127 countries and 65 languages and every month it records almost half a billion views.
The service has three main assets appreciated by news portal owners: (1) it reaches a wide range of readers and (2) enables you to meet the expectations of people interested in your content. What’s more, (3) Google News results are displayed in organic search results in the “top stories” section for about 10% of all queries.
From the reader’s point of view, Google News offers functionalities such as:
- AIML (Artificial Intelligence Modelling Language) which analyzes new information in real time and combines it with previously collected news to create graphs of knowledge (people, places and things related to a given event).
- A personalized “For You” tab that gathers the most important news concerning your interests and location.
- Newsstand which allows you to follow trusted publishers and discover new ones.
- Full Coverage Feature provides a comprehensive view of an event by comparing news from different publishers.
- Newscast is a visual format that uses AI to collect articles, videos and quotes on a given topic.
An interesting fact is that this service emerged after the terrorist attack on the WTC because one of Google’s employees wanted to stay up to date. A few minutes after the attack, millions of people around the world tried to find the most relevant information about what had just happened. And the search engine back then wasn’t able to meet users’ expectations concerning news. For this reason, one of the researchers working for Google, Krishna Bharat, created for himself a news aggregator that was based on search engine mechanisms.
The aggregator was gathering news as publishers were writing new articles. This service has unbelievably quickly become popular among the company’s employees and therefore, in 2002 Google decided to launch a publicly available beta project called Google News.
Obviously, the service has developed since then. One of the most significant updates took place in mid-2018, when artificial intelligence was used on a larger scale in several modules of the application.
Google News from the publishers’ point of view
However, let’s look at this service from a completely different perspective. How can I submit my website for inclusion in Google News if I am a publisher or a website owner? Does it happen automatically?
Well, the answer is simple – no.
There are a few things that need to be taken into account if you wish to gain traffic to your site this way.
Google has a separate index for news that is displayed in Google News. This index is manually moderated which means that getting there on your own (not to mention being ranked high) requires more effort than in the case of the main search engine index.
Google News – only for websites dealing with news
The websites displayed in the service are manually verified by a special Google team. Thus, these sites generally offer press content (informational, journalistic) that concerns specific events. Weather forecasts, announcements and guidebooks are therefore not eligible. You can also report your blog on condition that you indeed publish news there.
If your website (e.g. a company website or an online shop) runs a blog or has a news section you shouldn’t expect being displayed in the service – even if you publish plenty of content related to “novelties in the industry”.
Google News is all about typically informative websites. This is the most important requirement if you want to apply for Google News.
At least that’s what the theory says.
Guidelines for the content published in Google News
Google has very strict guidelines for the content published in its services and in the case of Google News the situation gets even more serious. Apart from texts promoting illegal activities, spam, sexual content or incitement to violence and hatred, Google bans also medical advice and all articles that could mislead users.
If you post content that violates intellectual property rights or publish personal data or other confidential information, then Google may decide to delete your account. Advertisements and content marked as sponsored are also perceived in rather negative terms – of course they may be published on the site, however, they shouldn’t take more space than the content itself. Moreover, trying to hide the fact that a given article is sponsored may also lead to unpleasant consequences.
It’s also worth mentioning that in the case of Google News content, the linguistic, grammatical and stylistic correctness is also much more important. Apart from that, each article should include the date of publication, the author (it’s perfect if the name links to the author’s subpage in the service) as well as properly marked and optimized photos.
Google News – technical requirements
Apart from that, being displayed in Google News requires meeting certain technical conditions. The idea of the service is to provide its users with possibly the most up-to-date information. Time is the key – in real life it means easiness in scanning and indexing the content of the website. Therefore, everything that facilitates the indexing process is appreciated by Google. The list of these factors is pretty long but the most important ones include:
- Static URLs – Google wants the published content to be available at the same address all the time, therefore, Googlebot will revisit your news to check if you’ve introduced any updates. If re-crawling requires robots to be redirected to a different URL, it’ll increase the resource consumption and slow down the whole process. Google also recommends not to use &ID= parameters in addresses.
- Clear code – the content shouldn’t only be visible in the source code. It should also constitute one coherent block of text. It often happens that the main content is interwoven with various widgets such as “related articles”, “see our photo gallery” or even advertisements which hinder the work of web crawlers.
- txt/meta tag – you shouldn’t block Googlebot from accessing the content you want to be displayed in Google News. It’s obvious, isn’t it?
These are the most important technical requirements. However, there are still some additional elements that are worth taking care of:
- XML news map – a special .xml file with URLs to all your articles from the last 48 hours is an optional but at the same time a very useful solution. This will make it easier for Google robots to find your latest texts while crawling your website. In order to work properly, the file shouldn’t contain more than 1,000 entries.
The link to the news map should be located in the main .xml file of the website. The map itself needs to contain additional elements, such as
<news:title>; they are obligatory for each position on the map, however, they don’t cover the whole list of possible elements.
The map should be uploaded with the use of Google Search Console.
- NewsArticle structured data tags – structured data makes it easier for Google robots to comprehend the website’s content and to properly categorize it. There are several types of structured data that can be applied here. The most universal are Article and NewsArticle but there are more detailed ones such as OpinionNewsArticle, ReportageNewsArticle or ReviewNewsArticle.
- The AMP version – it isn’t mandatory in Google News, however, it can be helpful. As we’ve mentioned earlier, time is the key, therefore, a website version that loads faster is always something beneficial. But you need to remember that the AMP version has to be marked with structured data as both AMP and NewsArticle (for example).
- The SSL certificate – this element shouldn’t be surprising. If you want to be considered a trustworthy publisher, you must show that your website is properly secured.
The vast majority of Google News index is moderated manually. So if you want to convince people responsible for verifying the crawlers’ work that your website provides valuable and up-to-date information, you should consider applying some additional, not-so-technical solutions.
- Several authors – team of a few editors can do more than an individual and this translates directly into the quality of the entire service and the frequency of publishing. However, here we also deal with some technical issues. Even if only one person manages the site, it’s a good idea to create separate, onymous accounts for each publisher. It’ll look much more professional and trustworthy than placing a simple “Author: Editors” under each entry.
It’s also recommended to work on the authors’ profiles. This can be done in two ways: you can either place a photo, full name, a short biogram, authors’ address data and links to social media accounts next to each of their articles or you can create a dedicated subpage with all this information concerning each of your authors. In the latter case, it’s also worth including there links to previous articles by a given author. There is never too much of internal linking. You can also combine these two solutions.
- Daily updates – daily updates give an impression that you have everything under control. If you encourage the bots to visit your website every day and to search for up-to-date and valuable content, your chances of being the first in Google News to reach users with groundbreaking information before others increase significantly.
- Unique content – publishing a few times a day won’t help if your news doesn’t differ from the information provided by other portals. Posting ready-made entries from press agencies, articles based on the publications of various news agencies (which is totally legal) or copying content from other publishers (which is totally illegal) is not a key to success. If you want to gain traffic, you need to offer something unique. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t rely on secondary content. It’s all about proportion. You should create most of your publications. Interestingly, you can also report paywalled content to Google News. But this requires marking the content with appropriate structured data.
- Area of expertise – it’s hard to stand out from the crowd if you write about the same things as all other portals on the Internet. It’s much easier to be displayed in Google News if you deal with a narrow and specialized area of expertise. And although the number of potentially interested users will be much lower, it’ll be much easier for you to reach them. Just like in the regular SEO.
How to submit your website for inclusion in Google News?
To be displayed in Google News, you can simply wait for the robots to index your site and hope that the algorithms will regard your content as valuable enough to be included in Google News index. You can also take matters into your own hands and submit your published content with the use of dedicated tools.
- Google News Producer – it’s a tool that enables importing your content and optimizing it for mobile devices. It also allows publishers to monitor what their texts will look like in Google News. Apart from that, it gives the possibility of monetizing content by displaying advertisements or making it available for a fee. However, it requires accepting the terms and conditions applicable to companies.
- Publisher Center Help – this is a solution perfect for publishers who don’t want to use Google News Producer. It’s older, simpler and therefore it doesn’t provide so many possibilities of managing the uploaded content.
Submitting a website with the use of Publisher Center Help.Then, if your website meets all the technical and content-related requirements, you can be displayed in Google News. But what determines your position in the service? Similarly to SEO, your position in Google News depends on numerous factors that concern mainly the content that ought to be:
- Up to date,
- Tailored to the users’ thematic preferences.
It’s not something cutting-edge, after all, it’s been known for a long time that content is king and, generally speaking, the more content the better… However, the situation differs in this case. It’s obvious that extremely short entries won’t find their way to the top of Google News (although they may attract traffic in a different way). But you can also gild the lily. Remember that news and informational content must be as concise and specific as possible.
Optimizing content for Google News
Here, the most important element is the H1 heading with a key phrase. It should consist of 2 to 22 words and have at least 10 characters. Based on the content of the H1 tag and the news title, the algorithm will be able to generate the title of the article displayed in the service. However, a subheading or the text of the article can also serve for this purpose.
Moreover, the whole text should be divided into several paragraphs and contain a few H2 headings as well. The article should be at least 80 words long, it’s hard to state the maximum length, however, you should remember that in the case of news content, users generally prefer shorter information. Too extensive articles will discourage visitors from reading them.
And for the sake of clarity: since 2017, Google no longer supports the meta news keywords tag.
Being up to date
Google appreciates not only the latest articles but also the ones that have been recently updated. However, remember that a given subpage should have only one date, it can’t appear in link boxes to other entries because it’d confuse Google robots. The date should be placed between the title and the content of the article and it needs to match the one provided in the .xml file.
Your texts are recommended to include various multimedia such as videos, photos and graphics. The photo should be placed under the title but above the date, author and text. It should have a proper alternative description</>b. Using structured data tags or Open Graph protocol can help you indicate the photo which should be a thumbnail of the article in Google News. All graphic files ought to be correctly optimized.
Trustworthiness and domain authority are another important factors. This is influenced by the age and history of the domain and the profile of the links. Here, we also need to mention Topical Authority which, with the use of artificial intelligence, enables Google to calculate the value of a website for a specific topic. It’s particularly relevant in the case of news pages because you can’t influence this factor in any other way than through the successive and regular publication of unique, substantive and valuable content.
In all search engines links are the key to success. But due to the fact that the articles are available in Google News only for thirty days, it’s difficult to develop a sensible link building strategy. Instead, focus on domain authority and credibility and try to be the first one who publishes on a given topic. Consequently, other websites will use your articles as a source and it’ll show Google that your portal is the most reliable and unique.
The Google News ranking, as well as organic search results, is personalized for a specific user. It applies not only to the theme but also to the location. By publishing local news and events, you increase your chances of reaching people who are in a given area.
Assessing your effectiveness in Google News
Measuring and analyzing traffic from Google News is rather problematic. If you use Google Publisher Center Help or your content is displayed in Google News thanks to the crawlers, then this traffic will be categorized as “referral” in Google Analytics with “news.google.com” or “news.url.google.com” provided as a source.
On the other hand, using Google News Producer enables you to connect your account with Google Analytics, which in turn allows you to monitor not only the GN traffic but also the user behavior. Thanks to that, you’ll be able to find out how many visitors subscribe to your news channel or save and access the content offline. However, articles updated with the use of GNP are also displayed in organic search results, therefore, then, some of your traffic may be labelled as organic.
The service development – what do you need to prepare for?
Google News is a dynamically developing service. Applying for it and gaining traffic with its use requires a great deal of preparation. So if you decide for such an investment, you should consider possible development of the service in order to prepare for upcoming updates.
Even more personalization
Most of the search results currently displayed in Google News is content personalized for specific users, their interests and locations. However, that’s not the end. The provided texts are also chosen based on the user behavior and browsing history on other Google services, including YouTube. Familiarizing with your target group and preparing texts personalized for them will affect the visibility of your content in Google News.
Voice Search is another rapidly developing service, especially with regard to mobile devices. To a large extent, Google News is dedicated for smartphone and tablet users who constantly want to be up to date with the current news. Therefore, you should also spend some time analyzing various voice search trends such as natural key phrases.
Audio content is another issue. In recent years, podcasts have become increasingly popular. For the time being, this trend is noticeable particularly in the USA and the UK, however, in the upcoming years it’ll probably constitute a great opportunity to attract more traffic to your website.