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How do I optimise my website for Google News?

We will use this Ask SISTRIX article to take a holistic view at both the questions of how to optimise a website and the content within, so that it will be admitted into Google News and how to achieve a good ranking within the Google News vertical.

What is Google News?

Google describes their vertical search “Google News” as follows:

Google News is a computer-generated news service that aggregates headlines from more than 50,000 news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together, and displays them according to each reader’s interests. […] Our articles and multimedia content are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other factors, how often and on what sites a story appears online. We also rank based on certain characteristics of news content such as freshness, location, relevance and diversity.Google News Publisher Help Center

Are Google News-articles shown in the regular web search?

Yes. Most of the time, there are three additional results on the organic search result page. Aside from that, you can gain access to the “Google News” vertical search by clicking on the tab “News” or by opening the page news.google.com.

Left image: organic search results for the keyword [olympics 2016], with the News Universal-Search-result marked in red. Right image: Google News tab selected. Exclusively shows Google News results

Left image: organic search results for the keyword [olympics 2016], with the News Universal-Search-result marked in red. Right image: Google News tab selected. Exclusively shows Google News results

The results for the news verticals in the organic search are automatically calculated by Google through their regular Google ranking algorithm. Only on the vertical search news.google.com, will Google use a special Google News algorithm for the rankings.

When will my website be included as a Google News source?

Before your website can be successful incorporation into Google News, it will have to go through a manual review by a Google employee. They will take a close look at the website in regards to the general-, technology-, and content-based-guidelines.

The technology- and content-based requirements which a website has to meet, in order to be included as a Google News source, are as follows. We will explain their optimization in more detail, further down the page.

Technological requirements for being incorporated into Google News

  • The website has to be search engine friendly and low in accessibility-barriers, which means the site needs to be accessible for both Google-Bot and the users
  • A special Google News-sitemap needs to be available and should be updated automatically
  • The European date format should be used
  • The URL for each article has to include a continuous ID with at least three-digits. This is not absolutely necessary anymore, but it will not hurt you to have them either
  • No 301-redirects are in use
  • If possible, you should use a special magazine- or news-theme for your CMS (WordPress for example). Most of the time, these kind of templates are already optimised in terms of the technological requirements
  • Please pay attention to the language in which you submit the Google News registration and, if necessary, translate the theme you are using accordingly. Google has 70 different regional versions of Google News on offer, in many different languages
  • The HTML source code of a news-article should ideally be without interruptions and in the following order: headline > image > date > text-body. A large ad between the headline and the news body, for example, might confuse the Google-Bot. Too many social media plugins are also known to make it worse rather than better
  • Pay attention to a fast loading speed for the pages/single URLs. If at all possible, stay below 200ms per URL/page.
  • It is also helpful if your document size is below 10 KB

Content-based requirements for being incorporated into Google News

  • You need a legal notice (imprint) with all possible contact information
  • All authors/editors need to be mentioned on either an editorial page or the imprint
  • The entire website has to be written and maintained by an organization with multiple authors and editors
  • It has to be clearly evident that the content of the news-article has gone through editorial supervision. Forums, individual blog entries, and other such sources are not included in Google News. The press character of the content-piece needs to be evident
  • Do not overburden the website and the news-article with advertisements
  • Regularly create (new and current) articles
  • The content has to have been written for your own website, ideally with editorial oversight
  • You need to create articles and other pieces of content with a high degree of freshness on a specific subject
  • Try not to publish content that has nothing to do with your usual subject-matter
  • You may not only have promotional pieces on your own activities as news-articles
  • There should already be as large a backlog of articles available as possible before you sign up for Google News

In the course of admitting a website as a Google News source, a Google employee will take a close look at your website, focusing on the above factors.

Google Help pages for publishing-houses and web-publishers:

How do I further optimise my website and individual articles for Google News?

Assuming that the technology- and content-based-requirements we mentioned above have been followed and the optimised website has already been accepted as a Google News source, then there are a number of additional options to further optimise you contents and site.

Website layout

The layout of both your entire website as well as each individual article is important. The fewer elements there are next to and between the actual news-content the better. The HTML source code of a piece of news should ideally be in this order and without interruptions: headline > image > date > text-body.

Content-based optimisation, level of freshness, and speed of the publication

When it comes to news-article rankings, then the level of freshness is crucial. If you publish a news-article first, before your competitors, then this article will have an advantage in the news rankings. Keeping up a constant and continuous stream of news can also be a plus. It is highly likely that algorithms like QDF (Quality Deserves Freshness), which is part of the Google Freshness Updates, are the cause for this.

A specific piece of news will always have to be published, or be part of a discussion on multiple news websites, in order to be displayed as a Universal-Search integration within the organic search results. If a certain topic or subject-matter is only published as a news-article on one website, then this topic may very well not be important enough to warrant the website a spot as one of three indented results (see the screenshot above) within the organic search results.

Google News-sitemap

Simply creating a regular XML-sitemap does not get you very far on Google News. You will need a special news-sitemap, based on the XML protocol and complete with the publishing date for each individual article. This Google News XML-sitemap should automatically update itself without delay, once a new news URL is published. Another thing to keep in mind is that only URLs from news-articles published within the previous 48 hours should be part of this sitemap, as Google only accepts the previous two days for the release cycle of news.

You can use the fee-based Unlimited Sitemap Generator by XML-Sitemaps.com for the automatic creation of you Google News XML-sitemap, for example. This sitemap generator can be integrated with almost all systems and, next to a dedicated news XML-sitemap, you can also generate video- and image-XML-sitemaps.

Use the meta-element (meta-tag) “keywords”

Google News uses the meta-element (meta-tag) “keywords” in order to classify news-articles. This does not mean you should go overboard, though – only use up to a dozen keyword-phrases per article. Google also has a list of all possible keyword-phrases for news-articles.

Please also make sure that you use the Google-specific meta-element “news_keywords”.

<meta name="news_keywords" content="Olympics, Brazil 2016, Australian rowing">

All keywords are treated as equally important. The first search-phrase is as important as the last. Please do not write the same phrases or words into the news_keywords that you already use within the Title-Element, the H1-headline, or an ALT-attribute for one of the images in the news-article.

Image optimisation

The image for the news-article, which is part of the headline > image > date > text-body order, is measurably responsible for the click rate, also called CTR (Click-Through-Rate), of the search result. It will also be shown as the news-content’s preview picture within the organic search results, as well as on news.google.com.

In order for the image to be shown as the preview picture on Google News, you need to host the picture on the same web-host as all the other files for your domain. A caption below the image is also very important for the news-article. Make sure you use a fitting ALT-attribute for the image itself and provide the picture as a JPG file – with a small filesize, of course. The picture itself should not be part of a link, though.

Textual optimisation

Freshness, topicality, subject-relatedness, as well as the speed of the reporting on a specific subject-matter or topic are all ranking factors on Google News.

Technically, an article only needs to be 80 words to be considered for a news-article. However, we would advise to use a minimum of 125 words for headline-news, as well as a minimum of 250 words for every other type of news.

With this recommendation of at least 125 and 250 words, it is important that none of these words are linked to both internally or externally. Additionally, you should write the 250 words for a news-articles in one piece, without splicing a social media plugin or advertising block in between the text.

Title and H1-headline optimisation

Keep it brief and to the point. Use concise titles and headlines which are encouraging to click on/ find out more. If possible, you should have the focus keyword at the very beginning. Also keep in mind that the CTR (Click-Through-Rate), also called click rate, is a ranking factor and influences how often results from a specific news-source are shown within a Universal-Search integration in the organic search results.

Avoid reader comments or load them per AJAX

Giving your readers the possibility to comment on your articles may, under certain circumstances, turn out to be a problem for the ranking of individual news-articles. The article can even be removed from the news-ranking.

This user generated content, also called UGC, may be the reason why you are getting the Google News-errors “article fragmented” or “article to short”.

This problem may occur if users can comment on an article and these comments become readable for the Google Bot through the news-article’s HTML source-code. This may unintentionally either harm or interrupt the evaluation or processing of the news-article through Google. One way to prevent this from happening is closing down the comment function for news-articles altogether. If you sill want to allow comments, Google recommends loading these comments, or any other kind of user generated content, as AJAX calls, which “hides” the content from Googlebot, or makes it impossible for Google to read.

Use structured data with the schema.org markup

At the moment, it is anyone’s guess whether structured-data is (currently) a ranking factor or not. Still, there is no harm in using structured date according to schema.org. Searchengines profit from it either way. This is the reason why you should make sure that you are using the correct schema.org-syntax for your Google News articles.

If you have incorporated a video after the 250 words, which we talked about in the “textual optimisation” section, then you can use the Video Rich Snippet Generator for schema.org Markup to make sure the markup is correct.

Decrease the loading time for news-articles / optimise PageSpeed

Aside from a high level of freshness, and a lightning fast publishing speed for your news-articles (be the first!), you have the loading speed of a URL as another ranking factor. The optimal result would be if a news-article can be loaded and rendered in a reader’s web browser within 200 milliseconds, tops. You should therefore check and optimise your news-site, or rather each individual URL, in regards to their PageSpeed.

The SISTRIX Optimizer provides assistance in the form of an automatic OnPage analysis of your website, which will show you all relevant SEO mistakes. You can also use the Optimizer to determine the exact loading speeds of individual URLs.

The SISTRIX Optimizer measures the corresponding loading speed for each individual URL, so you can figure out exactly what you need to optimise

The SISTRIX Optimizer measures the corresponding loading speed for each individual URL, so you can figure out exactly what you need to optimise

Aside from the optimisation possibilities we mentioned above, you should also think about a migration from your current hosting packet, or the (virtual/dedicated) server you are using, at the moment. Using high uptime solutions or a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can have enormous advantages when it comes to PageSpeed. Recommendable solutions are the Google’s App Engine as well as Amazon’s CloudFront.

Video explanation by Matt Cutts / Google on the subject

If I report the same news story as someone else, is that duplicate content?

I have a news website. I heard Google doesn’t like duplicate content, but I can’t make up news! What can I do to stay in Google’s favor?

Additional information on the topic:

Google:

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