This past September, Google released a change in the way they evaluate search results to elevate original reporting. The objective of this change is to reward the news outlet that first published a breaking news story by surfacing the original article in search and Google News and keeping it longer in search results.

With this move, Google wants to reward publishers that provide original reporting, as Google recognizes the investment in time, effort and resources that news outlets and media companies have to do to be the first in getting a story published. Being first is difficult, especially when reporting complex stories that require a sustained effort over time.

To achieve that objective Google released an update to their search rater guidelines. These are documents that give the search raters indications of what they should value when evaluating search results. The search raters are a team of 10,000 individuals distributed worldwide that help train Google’s algorithm by giving feedback on the search results it provides.

The guidelines update asks search raters to give the highest rating to original news reporting, “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it”. The guidelines also instruct the raters to consider the publisher’s overall reputation. This means that publishers with a high reputation for original reporting, or with a consistent history of winning reporting awards, will be more likely to be considered the original reporting source.

What’s the impact of this search rater guidelines update?

The feedback the search raters provide is used to evaluate the effectiveness of search algorithms, and it’s used to guide algorithm updates, including Google search and Google News. So while this update doesn’t have a direct impact in search results, it does affect Google’s search algorithm.

How have publishers been affected by this update?

To understand the impact of this update we have used News Dashboard data to see the change in visibility in Google News from August to December 2019. News Dashboard is an SEO visibility tool for publishers that provides data on how their articles are performing in search results and Google News.

We analyzed more than 160 news websites in four categories: general news, healthcare, sports and business. 

 

General news with significant positive change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
usnews.com 0.02 0.04 100.00%
indiatimes.com 0.07 0.13 85.71%
washingtontimes.com 0.06 0.1 66.67%
startribune.com 0.06 0.1 66.67%
dailymail.co.uk 0.55 0.88 60.00%
forbes.com 0.57 0.89 56.14%
tomsguide.com 0.06 0.09 50.00%
pcmag.com 0.02 0.03 50.00%
fastcompany.com 0.02 0.03 50.00%
chicagotribune.com 0.12 0.17 41.67%
seattletimes.com 0.05 0.07 40.00%
cbssports.com 0.53 0.74 39.62%
marketwatch.com 0.46 0.64 39.13%
tmz.com 0.3 0.41 36.67%
newyorker.com 0.06 0.08 33.33%
foxbusiness.com 0.32 0.41 28.13%
theatlantic.com 0.15 0.19 26.67%
nbcnews.com 1.5 1.85 23.33%
washingtonpost.com 2.14 2.63 22.90%
usatoday.com 1.94 2.33 20.10%

General news with significant negative change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
popsugar.com 0.07 0.02 -71.43%
bbc.co.uk 0.03 0.01 -66.67%
theroot.com 0.08 0.03 -62.50%
huffpost.com 0.25 0.12 -52.00%
dailycaller.com 0.02 0.01 -50.00%
rawstory.com 0.06 0.03 -50.00%
miamiherald.com 0.1 0.05 -50.00%
dallasnews.com 0.06 0.03 -50.00%
sfgate.com 0.09 0.05 -44.44%
pitchfork.com 0.16 0.09 -43.75%
breitbart.com 0.07 0.04 -42.86%
dailywire.com 0.07 0.04 -42.86%
digitaltrends.com 0.29 0.17 -41.38%
bloomberg.com 0.64 0.38 -40.63%
fortune.com 0.05 0.03 -40.00%
lifehacker.com 0.21 0.14 -33.33%
ksl.com 0.13 0.09 -30.77%
rollingstone.com 0.17 0.12 -29.41%
independent.co.uk 0.34 0.24 -29.41%
usmagazine.com 0.07 0.05 -28.57%
cbslocal.com 0.32 0.23 -28.13%
kotaku.com 0.38 0.28 -26.32%
engadget.com 0.96 0.72 -25.00%
gizmodo.com 0.69 0.52 -24.64%
cbsnews.com 1.74 1.35 -22.41%
bostonglobe.com 0.09 0.07 -22.22%
npr.org 1.43 1.13 -20.98%
variety.com 0.24 0.19 -20.83%
chron.com 0.05 0.04 -20.00%
vice.com 0.05 0.04 -20.00%
telegraph.co.uk 0.15 0.12 -20.00%

Healthcare sites with significant positive change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
usnews.com 0.04 0.28 600.00%
who.int 0.05 0.33 560.00%
yahoo.com 1.92 2.02 5.21%

Healthcare sites with significant negative change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
thelancet.com 0.16 0.05 -68.75%
nih.gov 0.35 0.11 -68.57%
medscape.com 0.77 0.44 -42.86%
healthline.com 0.41 0.24 -41.46%
menshealth.com 0.23 0.16 -30.43%
webmd.com 0.44 0.36 -18.18%

Sports sites with significant positive change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
si.com 0.41 1.32 221.95%
cricbuzz.com 0.09 0.18 100.00%
sbnation.com 0.36 0.65 80.56%
espncricinfo.com 0.07 0.11 57.14%
cbssports.com 3.32 4.28 28.92%
theringer.com 0.41 0.52 26.83%

Sports sites with significant negative change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
deadspin.com 1.86 0 -100.00%
foxsports.com 0.05 0.01 -80.00%
bleacherreport.com 1.06 0.79 -25.47%

Business sites with significant positive change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
consumerreports.org 0.01 0.07 600.00%
hbr.org 0.01 0.07 600.00%
bizjournals.com 0.1 0.27 170.00%
economictimes.indiatimes.com 0.04 0.09 125.00%
fastcompany.com 0.06 0.12 100.00%
businesswire.com 0.07 0.11 57.14%
forbes.com 0.97 1.31 35.05%
marketwatch.com 2.88 3.57 23.96%

Business sites with significant negative change in Google News visibility Aug-Dec 2019

Domain Visibility August 2019 Visibility December 2019 Change
economist.com 0.01 0 -100.00%
bloomberg.com 2.08 0.94 -54.81%
investing.com 0.48 0.23 -52.08%
reuters.com 2.57 1.56 -39.30%
fortune.com 0.28 0.18 -35.71%
inc.com 0.11 0.08 -27.27%
yahoo.com 6 4.42 -26.33%

 

How to win in the new Google News landscape

1. Develop the trustworthiness of your brand

One of the key updates on the search raters guidelines addresses the trustworthiness of the news outlet. Developing a brand and building a reputation of expertise in a topic will help readers better recognize a website in search results.

This will have a long-term effect on the improvements of search rankings and will help in getting recognized as the original publication when reporting breaking news.

Niche websites, on the other hand, will have more difficulty when competing with larger, more established brands. 

2. Invest in original reporting

This new approach to original news reporting by Google means that now it’s not enough to just replicate and reference reporting from other news sites. Identify the beats where your brand is strongest and focus your reporting in those areas. 

Another option is to develop new angles and provide original insights that expand other reporting. This could help follow-up articles to be picked up by Google News as additional original reporting.

3. More diversity in news

The renewed effort in showcasing more diversity in news and search results could benefit publishers with non-mainstream editorial lines. But the accuracy of the content is still paramount. Google wants to represent more diverse political viewpoints in its search results, while at the same time contain the spreading of misinformation. 

Conclusion

In the end, Google wants to present a comprehensive view of the world to its users and reflect the diversity of its user base. At the same time, they want to provide the best news and the best search results possible so that users keep trusting and using their products.

If you are an effective news organization that supports and invests in original reporting, your efforts will be more recognized now and you’ll benefit from increased exposure and traffic from Google News and search. Capitalize on that by developing your brand-recognition efforts so that exposure on breaking news translates to long-term gains in returning users and improved rankings in search results.

Image credit: By Thomas Schmidt (NetAction) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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