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:

Keith Flint Google News

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.

Google News for Publishers

First up – is your sitemap in place?

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.

Submitting your site to Google News

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…

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Site speed is an important ranking factor for Google and Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP) is Google’s latest initiative in its drive to speed up the web. AMPs are designed to serve users stripped-back versions of pages from your site. Design, Javascript and lots of functionality (like contact forms and comments) will be removed from the AMP version of your site, so this limits the amount you can do with users once they’ve arrived. But as AMP compatibility is a now a search-ranking indicator for mobile, it’s well worth providing AMP sooner rather than later.

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.

Standouts and Editor’s Picks

Google News for Publishers

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.

And finally, some tips on extending your reach

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.