You’ve probably heard about the metrics behind the Google News algorithm from the stories about the company’s patent filing last year. As usual, Google tried to be as vague as possible about the details and keep as little of the secret sauce from getting out as possible. For anyone working on any kind of news site, this is an absolutely must read for everyone in your company!
The news algorithm offers unprecedented insights into Google news and offers powerful SEO opportunities for news websites. In this blog post, we’ll look at how we can use insights from the patent filing to fully optimize news websites to gain more traction on Google News. This is NSEO: News Search Engine Optimization.
Google News is Google’s controversial and heavily downplayed success story. The only snippets of official data from Google are about the traffic. A humongous 65 million unique monthly visitors (not to be confused with visits!), making it the 4th biggest news portal in the world. Needless to say, that being featured on Google News has very tangible benefits. Every major and aspiring news organization should make an effort to optimize their site and to appear more often on Google News.
The secret is out
These are the facts currently known about the Google News algorithm and how it determines which website to include in its news feed:
- Breaking news score, a.k.a reaction time, the amount of time it takes for you to cover a story (faster the better)
- Number of articles produced during a given time period (the more the better)
- Number of original named entities used (and possibly linked to as well) in the story (the more the better)
- Writing style
- Number of non-duplicate articles (the higher the better, duplicate articles are penalized!)
- Average length of articles (longer the better)
- Circulation/syndication of the story (more the better)
- Size of the staff (bigger the better)
- Number of news bureaus (more the better)
- Importance of coverage from the news organization (not necessarily dependent on size)
I divided it into three categories for better understanding. There is nothing really surprising about speed. The faster you are the better. It is interesting to note in the style category, that Google News considers an article better if it’s longer, which is something I don’t necessarily agree with. Size matters for Google.
Don’t be afraid, if you are a smaller news website, or you have just started. You too can compete for the attention of Google News. We will show you how.
NSEO, News Search Engine Optimization
So how can SEO help my news website? In a lot of ways. I will illustrate the key aspects of the algorithm, where a good and reliable long-term optimization can help, and where it can’t.
It’s pretty self-explanatory. You have to be faster than everyone else. This isn’t as straightforward as it first seems. Google only sees your published content as soon it was crawled. There are many ways to increase your crawl rate:
- Social activity (the more and the faster the better)
- Page Load Time (lower the better)
- Real Page Rank (due to the inconsistencies of updates and bugs, toolbar PR may not be accurate)
- Internal linking (the more the better)
SEO companies have a known track record of being able to help in these areas. There are indications that there is an exchange of information between the different Google products (Analytics, GWT, Chrome and G+) because even content, which is not linked too, is indexed sometimes. To be on the safe side; it would certainly not hurt to use them.
This is really subjective and SEO can’t really help you in this one. Keep in mind however, that longer content equals better content for Google, and for other search engines as well. Duplicate content should certainly be avoided at all costs, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. A good website infrastructure, a functional, fast CMS is a must for every news website.
You would think that you don’t have a chance to be included in Google News if you are not one of the big boys. You are totally wrong.
An easy way to increase your circulation and syndication is content syndication. Content syndication on quality websites only takes effort and time on your part. You have to submit your content and build relationships with as many content syndication and news portal websites as possible. News aggregators are a great way to increase your syndication as well. There are many ways to do this. Smaller news websites are not excluded.
There are alternative ways to increase the size of your staff(or make it seem so for Google), apart from hiring in-house full time writers. That is obviously the privilege of only the biggest players.
You can use guest posters and set up an author page for them and Google authorship for all of them. Google authorship will definitely help to get your authors recognized in the eyes of Google. There are many alternative forms to increase your staff size such as: part-time writers, guest writers, blog syndication, internships etc…
There are many good and reliable news bureaus available online. There are even alternative news bureaus, which are more accessible. You should mention them in your article and link to them as well. The more prestigious (and higher Page rank) the better. Edu and .gov and other top level domains are preferred. The more you include in your articles the better.
Specific NSEO factors to consider
These are the news website specific optimization steps you can take:
If you operate a news website, your content changes rapidly. Therefore Google implemented a News Sitemap specifically for news websites. This is just like the standard XML sitemap and you have to submit it the same way. However, it contains new news specific tags. Regularly updating and re-submitting your news sitemap should be part of your optimization strategy.
The role of authorship and author score can not be overstated. According to the official announcement of Google, authorship and author score will play an increasing role in the future, even in rankings. This is definitely a must for news websites. Having a good many high author score writers (or part-time writers or guest writers) on-board will be crucial for every news website in the times to come. This is such an important and crucial element of NSEO, that the next article I write will focus solely on Google authorship.
Imagine you go to news site for cricket related news. What you say counts even though you are probably small compared to other news websites covering many topics. However, when it comes to cricket you will be the one chosen by Google News.
Choosing the right niche(s) for you to cover is crucial as the more things you cover, the harder it will be to compete. Don’t forget, that the update frequency is still a crucial factor, so if you specialize in just one niche, you need to cover it extensively. The decision of what to cover and how deep to cover it should be given sufficient thought and should not be rushed. You have to find the perfect balance between quality and quantity to reach your optimal performance.
Search does not happen in a vacuum!
Imagine you are gym equipment company ranking very high for “big ass yoga ball”. All is well. However, a recent new economic stimulus package by Obama was nicknamed “big ass yoga ball stimulus package”. You are out of luck! All the news websites will rank for it instead of you and will continue to do so as long it’s “buzzing”.
The first place in this case will be determined between the news agencies based on their degree of optimization. This is an enormous opportunity for any news website and can drive in enormous traffic. In this case it is even possible to outrank local search results!
NSEO opens up powerful new optimization opportunities for news websites. Following these few basic rules you too can compete with the big boys and be featured in Google News!
For similar insightful advice and tips, follow us on Twitter. Don’t forget. You can ask us directly in the comments below. If something’s not clear, or you just want to say “Hi”. We would love to hear from you! Stay tuned for our upcoming in-depth article about Google authorship!