Effective SEO Strategies for Google News AMA

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12/05/2017 11:00 AM
12/05/2017 12:00 PM
Effective SEO Strategies for Google News
In a State of Digital Publishing AMA (Ask Me Anything) session, Chelsey Heath will be covering what you need to do in order to thrive in Google News and News Optimization.

Chelsey Heath is the news SEO strategist for Trisolute Software’s News Dashboard, which helps news publishers raise their Google News-related search visibility. Previously, she was SEO champion, content coach and digital producer at The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com

State of Digital Publishing will be running an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session, where Chelsey will be covering what you need to do in order to thrive in Google News and News Optimization.

Here are the key areas of learning you can expect, as a result of attending:

  • Optimization features and opportunities for Google News i.e. standout tag
  • How leading publishers are winning in Google News
  • AMP lessons and opportunities
  • Learn the best ways to use Google tools for reporting and storytelling.

This event will be taking place on December 5th at 11 am New York Time. If you can’t attend and would still like to ask some questions, please enter them in the live steam section below, and the State of Digital Publishing team will make sure it is answered during Chelsey’s session.

Prior to the event, Chelsey and the team will be releasing the  U.S. Search index watch report, or in other words, the news publishers with the highest search visibility for the Google News based on their tracked keywords.


AMA Recap Discussion

Annabel Hodges (Guest): Just wondering if you had insight into Google Now + push notifications around Google News? I regularly get push notifications for one specific article but would love to get more insight into how to be that one domain!

HarrietSand (Guest): Hi, Chelsey. What difference has the new Google News format made to the News Dashboard — for example, in terms of the keyword information it offers? Is it more or less useful?

Guest8388 (Guest): Hi! How important are URL changes to get into the Google News Box in organic SERPs? Is it enough to change the heading and make significant changes to the text or does the URL have to be updated?

Cheech Foo (Guest): Hi, Chelsea. Thanks for hosting this AMA, really appreciate it. For all those who are looking to get their site included in the Google News, can you run through the steps that you have taken and the various techniques that have helped you along the way? For example, is there a minimum frequency that you have to post per week? Cheers!

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Thanks for the questions so far, everyone. Please note we’ll be starting in less than 1 hr.

HarrietSand (Guest): Another question — do you have any data at all on CTR for Top Stories boxes and AMP carousels?

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Guys, just to let everyone know, Chelsea has released the Aug-Nov Google News Search Index findings on their blog – http://newsdashboard.com/en/news-dashboard-reveals-who-topped-the-u-s-google-news-search-index-for-august-november-2017/. Please check it out when you get the chance until she logs in and we can also go through some questions from News Dashboards findings.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): I’ll make sure to include this in the summary notes for those who have registered for notification reminders.

Guest5105 (Guest): Hello!

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Hi, we’ll be starting in a min.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Let me start off by thanking Chelsey again for taking her time out to host this AMA and share her/News Dashboards insights with us.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): If you haven’t read, Chelsey Heath is the news SEO strategist for Trisolute Software’s News Dashboard, which helps news publishers raise their Google News-related search visibility. Previously, she was SEO champion, content coach and digital producer at The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com.

HarrietSand (Guest): One final one — I have to go offline temporarily — I sometimes see stories in News boxes that do not feature the search for a keyword. Is this increasingly something you are seeing too?

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): No problem, Harriet.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Let me quickly go over the housekeeping rules and will pass over to Chelsey to start responding. Chelsey will start answering questions in order, so please bear with her as she answers the questions. If you need any support or if I can help, please PM and will do my best. Finally, and obviously please keep the tone of the conversation in a professional and respectful manner.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Chelsey, over to you!

SEOdirector123 (Guest): Hi, Chelsey. Q: How do you measure your traffic and effectiveness in Google News? What resources have you found most valuable in tracking your visibility in GN?

Chelsey Heath: Hi, all! Vahe, thank you for the intro. I just want to quickly say thank you to Vahe and State of Digital Publishing for hosting this AMA, and for everyone who’s taken the time to attend and send in a question! I’m very much looking forward to our discussion.

Chelsey Heath: As Vahe said, I’ll be starting with a couple of questions that were submitted beforehand, so please bear with me a bit as I answer. Please feel free to send questions in the meantime, though, and I’ll work back to them.

Chelsey Heath: Hi, Annabel. Thanks for the great question! We haven’t looked quite as deeply at the Google Now/Google Assistant push notifications and how that relates to Google News. You get news in your Google Now/assistant based on your performed searches (what you are interested in), and the top domains and articles pushed to you would most likely be made up of top-ranking domains and domains you’ve visited previously. Because this is a more personalized experience, the “have visited” factor is quite strong. So, as far as action items you can take away as a publisher; top rankings in Google News and news-related ranking types, as well as building reader loyalty (visits often), both would help.

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Chelsey Heath: Hi, Harriet. Thanks for all of your questions! Lots to dig into here. I’ll answer the first two and get back to the third.

Chelsey Heath: The biggest difference the news Google News format or redesign made to the News Dashboard was changing internally to make sure we could crawl everything in the news format, which I’m really proud to say we were able to achieve quickly. When dealing anything with Google, it’s always important to remember they can change anything – from redesigns to algorithm changes, etc. – at any time and they won’t necessarily give you any warning.

Brettlensvelt (Guest): Hi, Chelsey. In terms of optimizing for Google News, is there a big difference between using the ‘article’ & ‘newsArticle’ structured data types on your pages?

SEOdirector123 (Guest): +1 to @Brettlensvelt question 🙂

Chelsey Heath: And that could have a significant visibility and traffic impact on your site if you’re not paying attention, so I encourage everyone to stay up to date with what’s going on with Google News and the search space in general. A couple of resources: Google’s blog https://www.blog.google/, Webmaster Central https://www.google.com/webmasters/#?modal_active=none, and Search Engine Land https://searchengineland.com/

Chelsey Heath: Using the tool, we still offer automatically imported keywords (directly from the first page of each Google News category) as well as manual keywords, which you add yourself based on what you want to track. We just released a new feature, keyword clusters, which allows you to arrange your keywords in distinct groups, so you can analyze them separately.

Chelsey Heath: For Harriet’s second question: While I can’t tell you that, for example, a ranking in a desktop Top Stories box (which I’ll also refer to as a Google News Box) for any keyword will guarantee x clicks/hour, I can give some more broad data: – More users see the Google News Boxes than Google News (news.google.com) itself as most search users are just seeing the SERPs (search engine result pages), where News Boxes are located. There is a difference in visibility and therefore in CTR between being the first article (highest) and the last article (lowest) in a News Box, for example – this is something the News Dashboard measures. There is also greater visibility associated with having an image in your ranking vs. just a text ranking.

Chelsey Heath: As far as AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is concerned, a News Dashboard analysis earlier this year showed 87 percent of U.S. news carousels were AMP, along with 76 percent of text rankings and 87 percent of Publisher Carousels. Those percentages are equal or higher in the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, and France. So, we can say that using AMP gives you a greater chance to rank in those types, and therefore a greater chance at click-throughs.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): @Brettlensvelt, just while Chelsey gets back to you, check out this – https://www.similartech.com/compare/article-schema-entity-vs-newsarticle-schema-entity. It offers a nice comparison and stats for the number of site install.

Chelsey Heath: To the guest question about URL changes: One of the biggest factors of ranking and staying in the news-related ranking types is continuous publishing and updating of your articles/content. You can change an article page’s URL when it’s republished; just make sure Google’s crawlers can understand it’s an update of a previously published article vs. a new article. We recommend republishing either when you have a new development/content update to an article, or you need to do some SEO work on that article.

Brettlensvelt (Guest): Thanks, SODP. Imagine the stats for AMP & non-AMP sites would show similar differences, but obviously, have diff impact to search – so trying to establish if similar dynamic at play here between the two schemas.

Chelsey Heath: You don’t have to make huge changes to the text or headline each time you republish, but if you’re making a significant update, it’s wise to have the headline and text reflect that not only to Google but to readers, who often interpret a new headline as a reason to go back to an article they had read before.

mdenison91 (Guest): To that end, Chelsey, does Google care either way about explicitly spelling out that a story has been updated, using words like UPDATE: in headlines/SEO titles? (assuming the overall headline is still short enough to avoid getting cut off, etc.)

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): @Brettlensvelt – let’s see if News Dashboard has stats, otherwise will follow up with you on this separately.

Brettlensvelt (Guest): OK great, thanks.

Chelsey Heath: Thanks for the follow-up question! Google uses the publishing date/time to keep track of when an article is republished, and it, of course, registers changes in headline/text. It won’t necessarily hurt from a Google/search perspective to have things like UPDATE in a title, just remember to balance that against headline character count and where you’re putting your keywords in the headline. But also consider that readers might like to see words like UPDATE or LIVE in a headline as a cue to click on a story again they read previously.

Chelsey Heath: Hi, Cheech. Thank you for the question! Publishers must go through an approval process to rank (or appear) in Google News. It suggests three steps. (https://support.google.com/news/publisher/answer/106259?hl=en&ref_topic=4359865) After you’ve submitted your application, Google performs a manual quality approval, and you’ll be notified in approximately one to three weeks if your site has been approved.

Chelsey Heath: 1. Set up your Search Console/Google News Publishing Center account.
2. Review the general Google News index guidelines (https://support.google.com/news/publisher/answer/7526811?hl=en&ref_topic=7527214) and the technical Google News index guidelines. (https://support.google.com/news/publisher/answer/7526037?hl=en&ref_topic=7527214)
1. One of the most common reasons a website is rejected from Google News inclusion is on-page sales/e-commerce.

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Chelsey Heath: 3. Submit your application via the Publisher Center, and check back for updates on your status.
1. If you are rejected, you can apply again in 60 days.

Chelsey Heath: Don’t forget that what Google gives, it can take away. If Google determines that you aren’t following its guidelines, it can lower your ranking in the SERPs, or even remove your entire site from Google News. The best way to avoid Google penalties and ultimately de-ranking: Be careful about employing black-hat SEO tactics, and carefully monitor both your Publishing Center and Search console for any errors or manual actions.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): I guess it’s as straightforward as that, right Chelsey? I mean you don’t necessarily game Google in order to be included in the news index.

Chelsey Heath: And back to Harriet’s last question: When we analyzed the hundreds of thousands of News Boxes we’ve compiled in the News Dashboard, we see a strong correlation between having the keyword the News Box is on the SERP for in an article headline and having that article rank in the News Box. But it’s definitely possible to rank in the NB without having that keyword in the headline on the strength of the other ranking factors in Google, including being a publisher with high credibility and expertise in a subject/keyword area.

Chelsey Heath: This could also be due to Google getting better and better about understanding the context behind keywords and that even though two keywords/keyword phrases aren’t the same, the search intent behind both is the same/should lead to the same article.

Chelsey Heath: Yes, while the Google News application process is fairly straightforward, it can be frustrating if you’re rejected, as Google won’t list a specific reason, so you’ll need to determine it yourself. But “gaming” Google and Google News can really only eventually get you downgraded in rankings and thrown out, in my opinion.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Very true.

Chelsey Heath: Hi, SEOdirector123. Thanks for the question! There are a couple of ways to measure the traffic from/effectiveness of your articles in Google News. The most basic is to use Google Analytics to look at your search traffic coming from Google. You are able to see traffic coming specifically from Google News vs. your organic search traffic (coming from the SERPs).

Chelsey Heath: Organic search traffic includes the desktop News Box, as well as the Mobile News Boxes and Publisher Carousels.

Chelsey Heath: If you’re using a more tailored analytics programs (a couple general ones for news I’m familiar with are Chartbeat, Parse.ly, and Omniture/Adobe Analytics), you can drill down more specifically into exactly which articles are getting those different types of traffic, and do other helpful reports like – which categories or sections of your website get the most search traffic, evergreen search traffic (articles on something happens every year/are still of interest over time) vs. breaking news.

Chelsey Heath: There are of course SEO-specific tools, as well, which give you greater insights and focus more on the keyword side of things. Of course, I’m partial to the News Dashboard, which is a search visibility and SEO tool specifically for news publishers. It shows you your visibility in Google News and news-related ranking types, as well as including a near real-time component where you can see where your articles are ranking in the Google News Boxes.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): I believe we have the @Brettlensvelt question left, so for our attendees who have any follow-up questions, please feel free and fire away!

Chelsey Heath: To go back to the keyword side of things, though, it can also be helpful to use a keyword volume tool, so you can see what the most-searched keywords are, and if they line up with your coverage priorities and therefore would be something you’d write an article about that’s pointed toward the search audience.

Chelsey Heath: Hi, Brett. Thank you so much for your patience, and to Vahe for sending over the structured data info.

Brettlensvelt (Guest): No problem! I wait in breathless anticipation… 🙂

mdenison91 (Guest): Any insights for the Spotlight sidebar, and what increases the odds of a story landing there? We’ve had several stories get huge spikes from Google News days or weeks after publication, and it seems to be tied to that sidebar. I’m obviously not complaining, but I’d like to know as much about how stories land there as possible.

Chelsey Heath: While the two different types of the schema aren’t something we track in the News Dashboard, both are fine to use and there probably is not nearly as much difference as there is AMP vs. non-AMP. The regular article schema is more common, and therefore easier to maintain. From my perspective, having a proper sitemap that Google can crawl and find your new articles/republished articles would make a bigger difference than the article schema type. I hope that’s helpful!

Brettlensvelt (Guest): Great, thank you!

Chelsey Heath: Thanks, mdenison91, for another great question! I’m pretty sure I know what you mean by Spotlight sidebar, but can you quickly describe just so we’re all on the same page?

mdenison91 (Guest): Sure! It’s on the google news homepage (at least on the desktop) on the right rail, under the “In the News” bubble, the “recent” box, the Fact Check box, the Editors’ Picks box and then finally Spotlight.

mdenison91 (Guest): From what I gather it seems to be a feature for stories that aren’t exactly breaking news, but Google decides are worth spotlighting.

Chelsey Heath: Perfect, that’s exactly what I thought, thank you for describing. So many boxes on Google News sometimes!

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Chelsey Heath: Before I dive into the question, just want to point out that the Spotlight box is also on the category pages in Google News (Top Stories, Science, Sports, Entertainment, etc.), and you might actually be getting more traffic from those category pages, especially if you’re a vertical site in that coverage area, because for a reader to navigate to a category page, they really care about that subject – and the Spotlight box is higher on the category pages.

mdenison91 (Guest): Duly noted!

Chelsey Heath: As no one knows all of Google’s ranking factors, we can guess that based on the stories that appear in the Spotlight feed (as they are a mix of stories that performed well in the main feed over time), it is probably based on click-through rate over time, so the most popular stories in a category over the last day or so. As opposed to the main feed, which is ruled by freshness (last published/republished) and CTR.

Chelsey Heath: We do know that Spotlight used to be its own category page, but Google removed it as a category and changed it to be that right-hand box within the category pages.

Chelsey Heath: I would guess that the traffic spike from the Spotlight box is mostly because stories might stay in that box for a longer time than the more volatile main feed.

Chelsey Heath: I think I finally caught up to the questions – thank you, everyone, for your patience! Do we have any other follow-ups?

Chelsey Heath: I’ll go ahead and share a little bit about the U.S. Google News search index we published earlier today on the News Dashboard blog. Vahe also posted the link at the beginning and I’ll share again: http://newsdashboard.com/en/news-dashboard-reveals-who-topped-the-u-s-google-news-search-index-for-august-november-2017/

Chelsey Heath: We put these together periodically, using data from the News Dashboard, to show which publishers are the most visible in the different news-related ranking types, Google News categories, and for different keyword sets.

Chelsey Heath: This one is over 4 months and considering Mobile News Boxes, Google News and Mobile Publisher Carousels, for all categories and our automatically imported keyword set over that time period.

Chelsey Heath: We often find some interesting trends in here (like The Guardian and the BBC, which have been traditionally UK-based) having such a strong showing is U.S. news-related ranking types. There’s also quite a bit of volatility in the search visibility over time, even for huge news organizations.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Why’s that?

Chelsey Heath: Because Google’s ranking factors/Google News algorithm isn’t public; publishers are continuously trying new things that may have greater or less success. There are thousands of sites ranked in Google News, and all of them are competing against each other on each keyword that comes into Google News or has a News Box/Publisher Carousel opened for it each hour/day/week, etc.

Chelsey Heath: Visibility can also be strongly affected by certain big news events – for example, when we looked at which keyword the Guardian was most visible for in the Mobile News Box, we found it was “Brexit” – which makes total sense. Google is seeing that the Guardian’s expertise is in UK topics, so it ranked well for that UK-tied keyword.

Chelsey Heath: Visibility can also move around quite a bit when a publisher institutes a major change on its site – a paywall, new advertising structure, using AMP, and so on.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Understood. What are the key takeaways the attendees can take away which they can start trialing for 2018?

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Given they’ve covered the basics.

Chelsey Heath: Even though we didn’t talk about it at length, consider using AMP on your news website if you aren’t already, because of how much of the mobile news-related rankings which are already AMP.

Chelsey Heath: Make sure to keep up with developments in Google News and search/SEO in general, even if it’s only a couple of times a month. You don’t want to be blind-sided.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Do u anticipate any new developments which Google might release next year?

Chelsey Heath: And as you test headlines, what you’re writing about, schema, AMP, etc., PLEASE make sure you already have an analytics program and methodology set up. You owe it to yourself not spend time working on these changes/testing and not have hard data to take away and see if it’s been a success or what you can learn from it.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): 100%

Chelsey Heath: Personally, I think voice search for news (people using their Google assistant/Google Home to find news) will be a much bigger concern next year, especially how to write headline and articles that answer specific questions, which is mostly how people interact with their “home” devices.

Chelsey Heath: And a quick shameless plug: If you are in news SEO and/or have a news website, definitely consider a trial of the News Dashboard tool and the data it can reveal. And, of course, if you ever have any Google News questions, I’m always happy to help/discuss!

Chelsey Heath: You can find me on Twitter and most social media @chelseyheath, or chelsey.heath@newsdashboard.com.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Everyone – that’s a wrap! As Chelsey said, feel free to follow-up with her on any other related questions. Happy to help where I can as well.

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Hope to see you all again, soon 🙂

Chelsey Heath: Thanks again to everyone for their great questions and discussion, I really enjoyed it. And thanks to SODP for this great AMA!

Vahe Arabian (Moderator): Thanks again, Chelsey!

mdenison91 (Guest): Thanks, Chelsey!

Guest2244 (Guest): Thank you, Chelsey, and thanks, SODP! Very informative!

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