Introduction to Google News

Google News is a news aggregator that presents a customizable flow of news articles from the last 30 days. They are organized in seven or eight categories, depending on your location and language settings, and they are clustered by topic. This means that news articles from several sources around the same topic (i.e. “oil prices going up”) will be presented together, avoiding duplication of information. The purpose, as stated by Google, is “to help everyone understand the world by connecting people with high-quality news from a variety of perspectives”.

Google News was launched in beta in 2002 and officially in 2006. It was created by Krishna Bharat, a research scientist at Google, reportedly after a frustrating experience searching for news after the terror attacks of September 11 in New York City.

There is no clear data on the number of sources used by Google News. An article published in The Guardian in 2013 claimed the number of sources globally was around 50.000. It’s currently available in 127 countries and 65 languages.

A look into Google News

Google News has a browser version as well as Android and iOS apps.

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

The main Google News screen in desktop shows you the top stories for the day. On the left, you can select a category: Current Country, World, Business, Technology, Entertainment, Sports, Science and Health. In some languages, like Spanish, the Science and Technology categories are merged.

The For You section presents you with a selection of news based on your interests. Google uses past behaviour in Google News, as well as Google Search and other Google products, to populate this section.

Under Favourites, you can find the topics, locations and sources you are currently following, as well as saved searches and saved stories. The topics, locations and sources you follow will also impact the stories you see in the For You feed.

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

Articles included in Google News have a higher chance of being featured in search results via News Boxes and carousels, both in desktop and mobile search. Google announced at the 2019 I/O Conference that news will get an increased presence in search results. For example: when searching for a relevant topic, the search results will present you first with the relevant news for that topic.

 

How to submit your website to Google News

There are three ways to get your content into Google News. First, Google may pick up your publisher’s feed through normal search crawl, and that content may surface in Google News. You can also submit your site through Google News Publisher Centre or Google News Producer tools to make sure all your content is available in Google News.

If your site is available in more than one language you will have to submit a request for inclusion in Google News for each version of your site.

Google News Publisher Centre

This tool allows you to submit your site to be crawled by Google News. This has several advantages over normal web crawl:

  • Improves the discovery process of your site.
  • Improves the classification of your content.
  • Improves the efficiency of the crawling process.

It’s not required to submit your site to appear in Google News, but it has clear benefits. Submitting your site doesn’t guarantee the inclusion in Google News. To improve your chances to be included you must follow certain content and technical guidelines.

Once you’ve submitted your site, it may take between 1 and 3 weeks for Google to manually approve or reject your submission. Google doesn’t provide a specfic reason for rejection, but they provide forums where you can seek answers, and you can re-submit after 60 days.

Google News Submission Process

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

To submit your site for inclusion in Google News using Publisher Centre you have to follow these steps:

  1. Verify ownership of the site using Google Search Console
  2. Check your compliance with the content and technical guidelines of Google News
  3. Click on Request inclusion in News Index
  4. Fill in your publication details:
    • Brief description of your site
    • Name and URL of the site
    • Location (City, State/Province and Country/Region)
    • Provide labels to your publication. These are broad, general terms to describe the content of your articles and help Google News to classify and show your content. Most labels are applied algorithmically. Some examples of labels are ‘opinion’, ‘user generated content’, ‘blog’, ‘satire’.
    • Add sections of your news site. Section URLs have to be on the same domain as the main site. You can add as many sections as you need. The labels of each section are based on traditional newspaper categories (economy, politics, science, health, sports).
  5. Submit your request.

Google News Producer

Google News Producer allows you to license your content to Google News and create Google News editions with your branding customized for tablets and smartphones.

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

Google News producer also provides publishers with monetisation options. You can either show ads in your content using Google Ad Manager or create a paywall using Subscribe with Google. In this case, editions are eligible to appear under the Newsstand section in Google News. This section is manually curated by the Merchandising team of Google News.

It’s not necessary to use Producer to be included in Google News, and it doesn’t provide any benefit to ranking, but it does provide publishers with extended tools to control how they appear in Google News and to monetize their content.

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

With Google News Producer, you can have a deeper level of control over your content.

Content behind a paywall or a subscription

You can have a paywall on your site and still be included and featured in Google News. When using a paywall you have to follow Google’s guidelines to properly mark paywalled content with structured data.

You can decide how many articles a user can see from your site through Google News per month, to test what’s the optimal sampling figure to convert the reader to a subscriber. You can also offer access to only part of your articles. When reaching a certain point in the article, the user will be prompted to register or subscribe to keep reading.

Submission process checklist infographic

A list of things to consider to ensure a successful application to Google News.

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

Google News Content Guidelines

Google provides content guidelines for sites willing to appear in Google News. Most of these guidelines are common sense and you probably are already following them. For example, Google asks publishers to feature well-written, well-structured content, with no grammatical errors or misspellings.

It also requests that all articles have datelines and bylines, with easily accessed information about the authors. You should also provide accessible and transparent contact information, like emails, addresses and phone numbers.

Advertising in your site should be reasonable in amount and not intrusive.

Google will also penalize you if you try to pass sponsored content as independent journalism. In general, Google won’t allow any site that tries to mislead users or misrepresent or conceal information about themselves.

In short, if you publish original, respectful, clear and well-written content with datelines on a site with transparent information about the authors and the company behind the site, you’re good to go.

 

Google News Technical Guidelines

Google provides technical guidelines as well to facilitate the crawling of your site. Following these guidelines will help you maximize the discovery and indexing of your content in Google News.

URLs

All your articles should be on the same domain as your main site. Subdomains and folders are considered to be the same domain.

Your section pages must have permanent URLs. Once your site has been included in Google News you can modify the site sections and their URLs, or add new ones if needed through Google News Publisher Centre.

Your article URLs must be unique and permanent. This means that each article must have its own URL, and that URL can’t be recycled and used for a different article. You also can’t republish an existing article with a different URL.

Robots.txt

Verify that your robots.txt file, your meta tags or HTTP headers are not preventing Google crawling bots from accessing your article directory pages. If you have such a block in place for Google’s crawling bots, Google won’t be able to crawl and index your articles in Google News.

You can block specific sections of your site to Google News by restricting access to the robot crawler Googlebot-News using either robots.txt, meta tags or HTTP headers. This content would remain crawled and indexed in Google search, but it won’t surface in Google News.

How to optimize your content for Google News

Technical SEO for Google News

Design & layout

In terms of website design, you must ensure you have all the basics covered. First, make sure that your articles can be rendered effectively in plain HTML. Avoid using Javascript for rendering the body of the article or for links, as the Google News bot crawler won’t be able to index your content and follow your links to crawl your site. Googlebot-News is also unable to follow image links, crawl PDFs and other formats besides HTML.

Your code should be clean and well-structured, and it should be able to appear correctly in all browsers, devices and sizes. The article should be presented without interruptions like related article carousels or image galleries.

The order in which the article elements should be presented is:

  1. Headline
  2. Image
  3. Date
  4. Article body

Site architecture

Your site architecture must make it easy for Google to crawl and index your website. In order to do so, you need a clean and easy to understand taxonomy to classify your articles. Whether you use categories, tags, sections or any other custom taxonomy, the aim should be to make it easy for both your users and Google to navigate your site.

You should keep your site structure as shallow as possible, to minimize the number of clicks you need to get from your homepage to any other page on your site.

Numbered pagination is recommended in archive pages, as opposed to using only previous and next buttons.

What this means: Having a clear, well-defined taxonomy and site structure will allow Google News crawling bot to index and discover your content more effectively.

Google News Sitemap

It’s not necessary to create a Google News sitemap, but it’s recommended. It’s not a ranking factor, but It’d certainly improve the ability of the Google News crawler to discover and index your site more effectively.

If you already have a sitemap on your site, it’s recommended that you create a separate sitemap just for Google News. This sitemap should include up to 1000 URLs for articles published in the last 2 days. If you need to add more than 1000 URLs you can create several sitemaps and use a sitemap index file listing all the different sitemaps. Article sitemaps should be updated as soon as the new articles are published.

A Google News sitemap follows the standard sitemap XML schema but adds some specific Google News elements. <news:publication> (which has two child tags: <news:name> and <news:language>), <news:publication_date> and article <news:title> are the three mandatory elements for each article URL included in the sitemap. Other tags mentioned in the Google News sitemap schema are optional, and in some cases, deprecated, like <genre> and <news:keywords>.

Once you have created your sitemap, it should be validated and submitted using Google Search Console. The most common errors in Google News sitemaps have to do with mismatches between the URL included in the sitemap and the URL as seen by Google News, for example by missing ‘www’. Another common error is including articles from sections missing in your publication settings defined in Google News Publisher Centre. Add the section there first before including URLs from that section in your sitemap.

What this means: Having a sitemap helps Google discover your new articles more efficiently. But be aware of your crawl budget when sending Google a large number of new URLs. Prioritize your high-value content so that it’s indexed faster by Google News.

Using structured data: Article schema vs NewsArticle schema

There are currently two structured data schemas for news articles: Article and NewsArticle.The Article schema entity is more widely used, which means is better documented and easier to maintain in the long run. However, increasingly NewsArticle schema is being increasingly used for subscription content.

What this means: Regardless of the schema you use, using structured data will increase the chances of any of your articles appearing as a rich snippet in a Google search result page, which would improve your click-through rate.

AMP vs Non-AMP Pages

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. When you implement AMP you create a version of your site that will allow Google to present them faster to the user when tapped on a mobile search result page. Google also uses AMP pages almost exclusively on its news carousels in search results pages as well as other rich media carousels.

Using AMP pages with structured data (either Article or NewsArticle schema) is the recommended implementation by Google.

When implementing AMP, make sure that the content is exactly or almost exactly the same as the regular version of the article. Otherwise, Google will think you are misleading users.

AMP pages can be monetised through ads the same way as the standard, canonical version of your site. There is a growing number of custom components and increased integration of AMP by advertising platforms.

What this means: Implementing AMP correctly will certainly have a positive impact on your ranks and your click-through rates in mobile search, even though it’s not a ranking factor for the standard, canonical version of the article.

Loading time

As with Google search, loading speed is a ranking factor and must be taken into consideration. All the usual speed optimisation techniques can be applied, like image optimisation, CSS and Javascript minification, compression, caching, etc.

Loading speed also affects crawling speed and frequency. If your server is slow or experiences downtime, Googlebot will reduce the frequency of their visits, so as to not overburden your server.

What this means: Content from fast-loading sites will consistently rank higher and will be discovered and indexed by Google faster.

Crawl speed and frequency

How often Google crawls your site is defined algorithmically and depends mainly on your publication frequency. If you publish several new articles per day, Google News will be able to surface them to users in a very short time.

Once a new article has been discovered, the crawling bot will check for changes and updates to the story several times on the first day after discovery. After that, the crawling frequency will be significantly reduced. If there’s an error in an article that you have already fixed in your site, it may take a while for Google News to show the updated version after that first day.

What this means: Content from publishers with a high publication frequency will be discovered and indexed by Google faster.

HTTPS

Using HTTPS in your site is highly encouraged. As of now, it’s a ranking factor both in Google search and Google News. As adoption of HTTPS increases, not having a secure website will, in time, be a penalizing factor. Browsers are also increasingly signalling visually to the user whether they are on a secure site or not. Having a secure website will increase trust and reduce bounce rates.

If you use HTTPS, make sure that in both the Google News Publisher Centre and in your Google News sitemap the URLs are consistent and start with https://. Also, make sure to redirect any non-HTTPS traffic to HTTPS using a 301 redirection.

What this means: Secure sites using HTTPS will consistently rank higher in Google News and be more trusted by users.

On-page SEO for Google News

Title and headlines

Google News will determine the headline for the article based on your title and H1 tags, but it could happen that the algorithm uses sub-headlines or article text as a headline. It may also shorten the headline in news boxes and carousels in search results.

To prevent this to happen you can:

  • Match the headline in both the title tag and the H1 tag.
  • Match the headline with the anchor text in your section pages.
  • Avoid using the article headline as a link in your article text.
  • Don’t include dates or times in your headlines.
  • Keep your headlines between 2 and 22 words, with at least 10 characters.
  • Include your target keyword in your headlines.

Research from NewsDashboard suggests that keywords in headlines tend to appear between the 15th and the 22nd character. Technology, science and entertainment articles surface the keyword earlier in the headline, while health news articles place their keyword towards the end of the headline.

Meta keywords

Google stopped using the meta keywords tag in search in 2009, and it also stopped support for it in Google News in 2017.

Content freshness

More recent, up-to-date articles have a higher chance of being presented to the user in Google News for most types of stories. It’s not always the case. Google’s algorithm will determine, depending on the topic, which could be more useful to the user: a more recent, updated article or an older, but more extensive article.

Do not include more than one date in your article. For example, don’t include the publication date of related articles in a carousel. More than one date in a single article can confuse the Google News crawler bot.

The publication date should be between the title and the text. If you are using a sitemap, verify that you’re providing the dates correctly in Google Search Console. Otherwise, the articles won’t show in Google News.

If you update an article extensively or add significant information, you can give the article a new date and time.

Topicality and relevance

Apart from freshness, the other main consideration Google takes when ranking your article in Google News is how relevant it is to the current search or to a given news topic.

Topics can be followed by users in their Google News account. They can also be manually showcased in the Google News homepage in case of major events. Topics are not just stories or events. They can be entities, like places or people.

In order to rank for any given topic there are several actions you can implement:

  • Demonstrate relevancy of your content to that topic. Including the use of keywords related to that topic.
  • Publish a regular, continuous coverage of that topic. For breaking-news topics, that means steadily publishing new, fresh and relevant information. For other topics, you can expand your coverage with opinion pieces, analysis, profiles and articles providing context and exploring different angles.
  • Feature that content prominently on your site. If you are writing lots of articles about a particular story, and this content is featured on your homepage and section pages, that would signal to Google that particular story is newsworthy.
  • Do a keyword research exercise before writing an article to make sure you are optimising for the right keyword. It can be also useful to uncover trending news and topics.

Image optimisation

Google News can include images and video embedded in your articles, as long as they are relevant to the story.

Images need to be placed after the article title and before the date and article text. They should have well-written and relevant captions and alt-text. You should use structured data (schema.org or Open Graph protocol) to signal to Google which should be the main image that should be used as a thumbnail next to your article headline in Google News.

Remember that the Google News crawler won’t follow any image links.

If you have images included in your articles and they are not being picked up by Google News, verify that:

  • Images have a minimum size of 60×90 pixels.
  • They are hosted in the same domain as your article.
  • The image ratio (height and width) is reasonable.
  • You are using a standard image format like .jpg or .png.
  • Your robots.txt file or a meta tag isn’t blocking your images to the crawler.

Including video content in Google News

If your organization has a strong focus on video content you have also the option to submit a YouTube video channel to Google News. You should have a site already approved in Google News before submitting a YouTube channel for approval.

Video content should follow these guidelines:

  • Videos should have a good image and audio quality and be published regularly
  • They should feature reporting on recent events.
  • They should be original and unique.
  • Optimize your video by including relevant and well-written video titles and descriptions.
  • You should also include some information about your company or organization.

Author information

Google News requires that every article has a byline attributing authorship to a human, not a company name or any other entity. Besides that, you should provide information about the authors on your site. The Economist is a singular exception.

You could do that in each article, including their full name, a picture and a small bio. Another option would be to link the author page from the byline. In this author page, you should include that information, plus contact details like office number, address, email and social profiles, as well as a list of published articles.

This information has two objectives. First, it shows accountability and transparency. You are answering the question of who is responsible for this content. Second, you can demonstrate the expertise or authoritativeness of your writers. Don’t hesitate to include titles (like PhD), awards and any other distinctions in your authors’ biographical information.

Information to include for each author:

  • Full name
  • Short bio
  • Image
  • Office address
  • Office number
  • Office email
  • Social links

Other ranking factors

 

Trustworthiness and authoritativeness

Google will prioritize high-quality information coming from reliable sources. There are no shortcuts here. In order to build trust, you need to have a proven track record of publishing high-quality, engaging content that users signal as valuable, by clicking through your stories and reading your content.

Trust is assigned for a specific topic and location and doesn’t translate to other topics.

What this means: If Google sees your site as providing trustworthy information about healthcare in France, a news story about finance won’t carry the same weight for Google News.

Link profile

Google news only shows articles going back a maximum of 30 days. With such a short time wind, you can’t follow the usual strategy of building links over a long period of time. Instead, you should build your overall site trustworthiness over time, and that, among other things, means links to your main site.

In the short-term, the only winning strategy is to be the first to break news in any given topic or event. If other publishers links and references your article, it’s an indicator to Google that your piece is the original, and most authoritative source on the topic.

Location

Some articles will rank higher for some users based on their location. Local events and stories will surface more easily to local users.

What this means: A local news organization could, for example, rank higher than the New York Times for a local news story as they are a more relevant source for the story.

Infographic: Google News ranking factors

The Ultimate Guide to Google News SEO

credit: inspired by Trisolute NewsDashboard

Analysing Google News impact and success

You can use Google Analytics to understand and analyse the impact of Google News on your traffic. There are two possible cases.

  1. If you have submitted your site to Google News from Google Publisher Centre, or if it was included in Google News via a bot crawl, the content will be either linked directly to the article on your site, or the article on your site may be shown in Google News. Either way, you will see Google News traffic under referral sources, from ‘news.google.com’ and ‘news.url.google.com’.
  2. If you have licensed your content to Google News using Google News Producer, besides tracking referral traffic to your site, you can link your Newsstand edition to Google Analytics and monitor and analyse the behaviour of your readers on content rendered natively in the Google News Android and iOS apps. Using Producer you can also implement tracking pixels in your editions and articles to analyse reader behaviour with other tools.

In this second case, you can analyse with a lot of granularity the behaviour of your users and how they consume your content and navigate your edition. For example, you could see if the user was a subscriber or not, if the user accessed your content offline, or if they bookmarked an article.

But for either of those options, there is more to the story. Google News articles can also be featured in Google search result pages. Usually, they appear prominently in News Boxes and Publisher and Video Carousels, both in desktop and mobile search results. While these results can include links from anywhere in the web, most of them are from publishers indexed in Google News, according to research from NewsDashboard. Traffic from these boxes will be attributed to Organic Search.

What this means: Google News will have a bigger impact on the traffic on your site that can be measured only by the referral traffic from Google News itself.

Future-proof your Google News content

Articles for you

A big part of Google News is showing personalized content selected just for you. The criteria for selection is partly based on the topics, locations and publications you are following in Google News, but also your past activity in Google products. Not just past searches in Google, but also content watched on YouTube for example.

What this means: This personalization feature allows niche publishers to reach users interested in their content more effectively.

Voice search

Smart speakers and other voice-controlled devices, as well as voice assistants, are becoming nearly ubiquitous. According to Adobe Analytics, 36% of Americans own a smart speaker. But voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant are present in most mobile devices by now. These means that a lot of search and content consumption will be not text-based but audio-based. 21% of people are using voice-based search now.

What this means: Interaction with search engines like Google will be more conversational, and rely more on questions and natural language than keywords. Answering the user’s questions will be key to position your content for voice search.

Presenting audio content to users

In line with this trend, Google has unveiled a project of including personalized audio news as part of Google Assistant capabilities. It includes top stories selected for the user, as well as updates to previous stories. The user can control the playback of these audio news stories via voice.

Right now this feature is limited to an unspecified number of people using Google Assistant in the United States in English. It’ll be released publicly in 2019. If you produce audio content in English you can already submit your audio feed for approval.

Google has also started to include podcast episodes in search results, which you can play directly from the search result page.

What this means: Publishers that work with audio will see increasing opportunities to increase traffic in search engine optimisation, as Google surfaces audio content more effectively to users.

Conclusion

Including your site in Google News can provide huge benefits. Besides traffic from Google News, you can also benefit from prominent placement in news-related search results in Google. And the personalization features of Google News means that new readers can discover and read your content every day.

If your site is compliant with Google’s technical and content guidelines, you can request inclusion today. If you wish you can license your content to Google for increased business opportunities. After that, it’s a matter of optimising your site and the content you produce to make sure your content is served to the right users at the right moment.

Using Analytics and other measurement tools you can easily analyse the behaviour of Google News reader on your site and estimate the impact it has on your organic search traffic.

In the future, audio search and news will play an increasingly large role in the way we search and consume news stories in Google News and Google search.

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