Succeeding in Google News

Google has been stressing some of their suggested Best Practices recently regarding surfacing your content in Google News.  Google News should be considered to be a super-set of Google Search.  It’s definitely treated differently by Google.  There are a number of things that you have to keep in mind regarding Google News.

First and foremost, you must first request to be included in the News index and most importantly, the Google News team will review your site and the content that you requested to be included and will either accept or reject your request for inclusion.  The actual process is:

  • Your webmaster will need to Open up the Google News Publisher Center,
  • Use Google Search Console to verify ownership of your site
  • Click “Request inclusion in the news index”
  • Enter your website details, including the location of your News section URLs
  • Click Submit.

Once you have submitted your request, it will take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks for your submission to be reviewed and you receiving the ‘verdict’.  If you are rejected by Google, they likely will not provide any feedback as to why you were rejected.  There’s lots of help available in the Publisher Help forum from other publishers.  You can re-apply, but you will need to wait 60 days.

Best Practices

Google has been pushing their best practices within their publisher community recently.  From a behavioral perspective, whenever Google does things like this, they follow this up with some kind of action or algorithm change.  No guarantees here, this is just observed behavior.

Headline Best Practices

The first thing that you need to keep in mind, from the perspective of best practices, is to focus on your headlines.  Your headline should be:

  • The headline should be prominent on your page when a user arrives.  This is typically within your article body within the <h1> tags.
  • Your Headline (<H1>)and <TITLE> should be the same.  Note, this is not always the case with other content, but this is a suggested best practice for News Headlines.
  • Anchor text for internal links on your site to this content, should match the Headline/Title on Section Pages.
  • Avoid using the article title, or a substring of your title as anchor text within the text of THAT article.
  • Do not include a date or time in the article title.
  • The article title should be at least 10 characters long and be between 2 and 22 words.
    • We typically recommend that a title be between 40 and 60 characters so you can use this as a guideline.
  • Do not include a leading number in the anchor text of the title.
    • These numbers typically appear in URLs to identify the content.  They should not be part of the Article Title/Headline.
  • Do not use ‘Tabloid Newspaper’ headlines that people do not use in their every day speech.  To succeed, it is best to use terms and phrases that people use in their speech and in the search behavior (which are typically one in the same).

Best Practices for News Sitemaps

Including a specific sitemap for your news content is not a requirement, but it is definitely a good idea to include one.  Including a News sitemap will allow Google News to find your news articles more quickly by pointing directly to the news specific content.  Google states that they don’t favor sites that include sitemaps à however speed to publish is one of the additional data points that are used by the News algorithm.

Your News Sitemap should:

  • Include all URLs for news articles that you’ve published in the last 2 days. 
  • Remove articles older than 2 days from your news sitemap.  They will remain in the News index for 30 days.
  • Update your News sitemap AS YOU PUBLISH content.  The News crawler crawls your sitemap as often as your site is crawled.
  • Include up to 1,000 URLs in your News sitemap.
    • If you have more than 1,000 URLs to include, your main News sitemap should be formatted as a sitemap index file.
  • Maintain 1 set of News sitemaps.  Do not create a new sitemap for each piece of content you create.
  • Each item in the sitemap file should be formatted with:
  • Use Search Console to submit your News sitemap, just as you submit other sitemaps.

Best Practices for Article Dates.

Above it was stated that Google News is a super-set of Google Search.  What we meant by this is that all of the ingredients used by Google for their search algorithm are also used in Google News, with the inclusion of several additional data points, which focus specifically with news.  Many of these additional data points are triggered from the date stamp of the article.  Some of these best practices are:

  • Use structured schema data within your content to indicate the datePublished and dateModified attributes of the article. 
  • Make sure that you use the correct time zone designator for both AMP and non-AMP pages.
  • When presenting your article, present a very clear date and time for all articles presented for inclusion by Google News.  This date/time should be presented on a separate line of HTML.
  • Don’t include any other date within the HTML of the article so that the News crawler does not get confused.

Best Practices for Content

One of the biggest signals that Google News uses to surface content is to reward the originating publisher of a news story.  This essentially means that whoever brings the story first, will get presented first.  As a story unfolds, News also looks to reward publishers and journalists that provide a ‘material update’ to an ongoing story.  This essentially means that publishers that provide new and important information can ‘move into the top spot’.

Above, we mentioned that whenever Google pushes their best practices documents, this sometimes precedes some kind of action by Google that will have some material impact on what (or who) gets surfaced in News.  Since this is really what we refer to as a zero-sum ‘game’ someone will benefit and others will be penalized. 

The best way to present the content best practices is to tell you what NOT to do.  You should not:

  • Artificially refresh a story.  When you update a story (with a dateModified schema tag), make sure that are truly updating a story by adding in a significant amount or piece of information.  You have to have a reason for updating the story – other than wanting to ‘move back up’ in Google News.
  • The purpose of Google News is to reward original journalistic content, meaning that if you scrape or rewrite content Google News does not want to reward you.
    • Note – this is an area where the aforementioned actions could surface
  • If you republish or rewrite content, you should consider including a canonical tag to the originator of the story indicating that you are giving them the credit that they deserve.  If you don’t include a canonical tag, you should include a NOINDEX tag on the content as an alternative.
  • You SHOULD include a specific byline, indicating who wrote the content.  It’s important to be very clear to the prospective reader not only who the publisher of the content is, but indicating who wrote the content is equally important.
  • You SHOULD deliver the content with HTTPS, to protect the confidentiality of the user.
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