Recently, Google updated their search rater guidelines to help them better recognise and reward original reporting by surfacing it more prominently in search and ensuring it stays there longer. This means readers interested in a specific story can find the piece that started all the fuss, and publishers can reap the rewards of having their high-quality original reporting surfaced to a greater number of users. Here’s a guide to the changes and our tips on how to make the most of this new behaviour.
Let's say your publication has secured an exclusive interview with an A-list celebrity. This interview includes a number of revelations as yet unheard by the public. Months of work has gone into securing access, your team has researched, created, subbed and produced a great piece, and you publish it. In our current news cycle, many publications regularly borrow quotes and angles from others, creating pages of content about this topic in Google's SERP. Elsewhere, a single news event will be covered by many thousands of publications worldwide. Your publication may dig deeper than others by sharing data on specific angles of the story or accruing quotes from sources central to the story.
Google's changes aim to aid their users to find the original source on news topics. Moving forward, articles recognised by Google as 'original reporting' on a given search term may stay in a highly visible position on the search results page over a long period of time. We're yet to see exactly where these will be positioned, but it's likely these will sit above all other results.
Google's algorithms sort through content, arranging stories in a way that offers the best experience for their users. These algorithms are constantly updated and improved, and Google's latest change to the algorithm is to train it to take into account the 'originality' of content within a story, the timing of the post and the quality of the publication producing it.
To achieve this, Google will harness the use of a 10,000-strong team of raters worldwide. This team has been instructed to use the highest rating - “very high quality” - for original news reporting “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it." Noting that "...original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort.”
These raters will be tasked to consider a publication's reputation, too. From Google's guidelines: “...you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high-quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation.”
Ranking in a top position for a popular search term will have a significant effect on traffic for a publication, so this change is likely to offer the greatest benefit to newspapers and large publications pinned on the page for popular terms.
We're yet to see whether this change will also affect niche stories, but if this happens it could aid specialist publications with long-tail traffic on stories broken by them and then picked up by larger publications.
This change is unlikely to affect the results below this highlighted story, however, so don't expect a huge drop in traffic from search.
Now's the time to look at how you can increase the longevity of stories by producing them with an 'evergreen' approach in mind. Rather than reworking existing stories or publishing slightly tweaked press releases, publications that add to stories with further reporting, quotes, new angles or 'deep-dives' could find themselves pinned to Google's results, attracting a steady stream of long term traffic.
As Google raters will be analysing publisher reputation, it could be worth looking at an 'About' page (remember them?), using this to cement your publication as an authority, listing journalistic awards and accolades. It could make sense to update Wikipedia entries with this information, too.
Secure exclusives whenever it makes sense to, and when working with embargoed press releases, spend time ahead of publication to ensure the story probes deeper than others. The knock-on result for your audience is a further increase in the quality of content which will reap benefits for your publication overall, building loyalty and increasing dwell times - another positive!
This could prove a significant change to the behaviour of content in Google’s search results page. But, don't be intimidated. For publications which already devote time and resource to producing original takes on a topic, this update could bring with it serious rewards. Continue to focus on telling stories you care about in the way you'd expect of another top-tier publisher, and you're well on your way to capitalising upon this search update, and benefiting your publication hugely as a result.
Google News still tends to be a great source of traffic for publishers, and with the advent of Accelerated Mobile Pages – and a few key changes to the product – it felt the time was right for a post on the product. We've included some tips on how to treat breaking stories, a lowdown on Accelerated Mobile Pages and some advice on increasing – and sustaining – visibility across the platform.
In a past life, Google News was only really beneficial for news organisations in the traditional sense. But things have since improved! Google News now welcomes all manner of publications that cover stories on specific cultural areas. For instance, here's the NME rubbing shoulders with BBC and Sky News as its story appears in Google's rich cards:
If you want your publication could benefit from what Google News has to offer, then here's all our advice for getting the most out of the service.
You need an XML News Sitemap to ensure Google can actually list your content. News sitemaps are similar to standard sitemaps but with one big difference: they only contain articles published in the last two days. Google will still scan your standard sitemap for overall content, and scan your News sitemap separately. Google keeps each article on Google News for 30 days as standard.
If you don't run a News sitemap, take a look at Google’s introduction to sitemaps – this will take you through the basics and includes a number of links to sitemap creators. If your site runs on WordPress we'd recommend working with Yoast’s News SEO plugin. It costs $69 per site and creates a sitemap Google will love after you spend a little time configuring the product. For the likes of Craft, Drupal, ExpressionEngine or more bespoke content management systems, it’s worth taking a look at Google’s documentation or getting in touch with us for a chat.
Once you’ve got a sitemap that follows Google’s guidelines, head to Google News Publisher Centre to submit your site. Prepare a brief description of your site and wait for approval, which can take several weeks. Once you’re live, it’s time to look at how to optimise your site to attract News traffic…
Depending on which CMS you use, you may need a bespoke plugin built for AMP, though plugins are available for some systems. We recommend Automattic’s plugin for WordPress.
While lots of content is stripped from pages, ads served on certain networks can still be shown. Most notably Google Adsense, Doubleclick, AOL AdTech and Amazon A9, with more on the way. A full list is available here.
Google News now allows you to select certain stories from your site as “Editor’s Picks” to appear on the Google News homepage. Google’s aim is to help their users discover new sources of news, and as part of this aim they allow users to set preferences. If your publication makes it into their preferences you’re much more likely to gain clicks from the News homepage.
To participate, you'll need to create a custom RSS feed with up to five chosen stories. The feed needs to include your logo, an authors name and must always contain three articles. Google allows older stories in the feed but it only shows the feed if an item is added within 48 hours. More information on that here.
The Standout tag works similarly, but on individual stories. You can only use this on seven stories a week, but using this tag in your setup allows you to signal to Google that a story is original content produced by your team, giving it a higher chance of ranking on Google News.
Google crawls certain news sites more often that others, and one big factor appears to be the amount of articles it finds on each crawl, so posting plenty seems to have an effect on how quickly your articles are listed. As with SEO as a whole, however, avoid attempting to game the system. Posting fewer articles of a higher quality is in the longterm more beneficial to your ranking than frequently firing out low quality stories.
Getting listed quickly helps increase your chances of attracting users as a story breaks, but how should you run a breaking story that updates during the day? The best approach is not to create a separate article for each update, but instead update the original article each time. What’s important, however, is that Google knows you’ve updated the story. Make this clear by updating the title of the article. Google is essentially looking for one URL that serves as the best possible source of news on any given subject, rather than multiple separate articles. This helps divert search traffic away from Google News, too, as these sorts of articles tend to work better across search engines.