This is a guest blog post by Ahteram Uddin, who runs online marketing for the Times of India, the largest newspaper in the world. Yes– bigger than New York Times.
If you are into News aggregating business or your website has an industry specific News section you stand a chance to drive additional traffic from the Google News Search, which is very powerful yet simple tool to make it work for you.
I am going to tell you how to invite Google News Bot and rank your news in the Google News Search. I will try to talk about all ranking factors, best practices for the News optimization and answers to some frequently asked questions.
SEO for News
All right, so where do you find your News listed – On Google.com (or .co.in) like the one below
And on the Google News
I am sure you must have wondered at some point of time – how do these articles appear on Google and how does this work?
Well in one line I can say “Google crawls it, groups it and then rank it here” but this isn’t fair if I don’t tell you what exactly helps your News qualify for the listing and get that Free traffic and audience base. I am going to make an attempt to cover each factor in as much depth as possible.
How does Google discover my News articles?
CRAWLING- Much like Search bot, Google has these News Bots who are gonna go out to the news sites to look for the news articles. There are two ways Google retrieves these articles
- Discovery crawl – Google sees new URLs and makes a crawl and indexes it.
- News SiteMaps – This is a unique method of telling a News bot about your new content by including all your new URLs
If there are some articles or content that you don’t want Google to index and crawl you can always use a robots.txt file to ask them not to do so. Google respects the protocol, alternatively you can also use header tags for the same.
GROUPING- Once the articles are crawled they are brought back to the Google’s database for the grouping phase. Google has its own content classification idea, if you look at the below articles from TimesofIndia.com
In case of the above news Google looks at “Business, Sensex, BSE and Nifty” words and determines that this article belongs to business section and similarly looking at “India, Mumbai and Bombay” it makes out that this is geographically targeted to India. That’s how Google populates different editions like US, UK and India. The sections in Google News like entertainment, politics and health are also populated in the same fashion.
NEWS CLUSTER RANKING- The story ranking algorithm decides which story to place higher and then on the subsequent ranks. Once the Google is ready with the news clusters (group) it ranks them basis “Aggregated Editorial Interest”.
What (t.f.) do you mean by Aggregated Editorial Interest?
In the upper diagram what you see is small news that makes an impact on the smaller region or group of people. For example an N.G.O. is distributing free umbrellas to the poor people in New Delhi. This is a great human interest story this might be covered in a few local newspapers and a few news agencies might pick up. This is still a small story and not showing much aggregated editorial interest as compared to the announcement of Congress (I) forming government in the center, this will not only be covered in the local newspapers, will be covered by many news agencies globally, picked up by op-ed and there will be loads of follow up articles.
Therefore due to the larger aggregated editorial interest this news cluster will be picked up the Google to be placed above the news about NGO distributing umbrellas in Delhi.
ARTICLE RANKING- Article ranking helps Google post a cluster of news articles, so let’s say if there are around 300 articles about “new government in Delhi” Google has a way to determine which one to rank first and which one to second and so within the cluster. There are several factors for an article ranking but I am going to talk about the few most critical ones-
- Fresh and new – It’s essential for the article to be recent, substantial, and original and focused to the topic. Op-ed, satire, press releases and subscription are not eligible to lead the cluster.
- Duplication and novelty detection – Google always tries to give credit to the original and the novel content. Let’s say there was an article originally done by the economictimes.com and later another article on the same topic gets published by financialtimes.com with a reference to economictimes.com original article saying this story was broken by ET and mention it as their source of information. So now this article from ET might start ranking higher now because other people are sending reference to it quoting it as the original story.
- Local and personal relevancy – It is given weightage by section and story and more credit is given to the local sources which are likely more relevant to the news article. For example the news about NGO distributing umbrellas Google would prefer to choose Delhitimes.com rather than expressIndia.com which has all India reports.
- Trusted source – Google uses its historic data to decide what type of source works best for which section or geography. So if there are 5 stories published in a particular section and most of the people clicked the 4th one then Google records it in its database as the most relevant source for that type of news. Therefore over a period Google starts building a database of what type of news from what publication work best for which geography. This must be kept in mind that the trust weightage is allocated at the section level at not for the entire news source. For example economictimes.com may be more reliable source for Google news when it comes to the breaking business news but moneycontrol.com may be its favorite for the stock related searches. Similarly, WSJ could be a reliable source for the finance related news in the USA but not in India.
Q. What about News SiteMaps? What the advantage of submitting one?
Well, Google says they are not only useful to News Bot but to the webmasters as well for the following reasons:
- Provides greater control over which of your articles get publish over Google news that’s because as I mentioned above also they compliment discovery search. It tells Google exactly which articles are new and the ones to crawl.
- It helps you give Meta information about your each individual article. You can provide things like:
1. Publication date
2. Keywords – which help target your article both geographically and section-wise
This is very beneficial to large News publishers.
Q. Can Google bots visit our News URLs more than once?
The answer is YES!
Google Bot comes back to the article to find any updates, there are different crawl rates allocated to different websites depending upon their reliability, audience size, genre and geography. Google has confirmed this that they come back to find any update to the article within 12 Hrs of the first discovery.
Q. I have News content which is not just the text. I have videos and images too. How do I optimize them to appear in the News section?
Optimizing multimedia content:
Video content – You can create a Youtube video channel. Google says that they are in the process of supporting other platform like Metacafe etc. but it may take a while. Youtube is a trusted source therefore if you get visitors your videos would rank on top of the Google news as well. Remember to include rich textual description and transcripts every time you submit a video to Google as it helps them identify the category and geography of the video.
Images – There are five tips Google gave for the image optimization to get them included in the News Search
1. Use a large size image with good aspect ratio
2. Descriptive captions and alt text
3. Keep the image as close as possible to the title
4. Keep it Inline, don’t make it a clickable one
5. Google prefers JPEG
Q. Does it help to achieve better ranking in news searches if I have higher PageRank?
Google says PR plays a very small role in deciding the rank for a news article as compared to what it does for the regular web search. There is a simple reason for this – it really doesn’t make sense to compare the linking structure an article which was published minutes ago with the one which has been floating for years. PageRank has been used in determining a news rank but very delicately. These are those other factors we spoke about earlier like timeliness, freshness and relevancy to a category etc.
BEST PRACTICES – Here are couple of best practices indicated by the Google
1. Keep unique permanent URLs with at least 3 digits
2. Do not break up the article body, keep the entire news on a single page
3. Put date between the article and body
4. Titles matter, always keep an extremely indicative title of the story
5. Separate News articles from the press release by using a directory structure
6. Publish unique and informative content, if you get news from an agency try re-writing in your own words
“If there are some articles or content that you don’t want Google to index and crawl you can always use a robots.txt file to ask them not to do so. Google respects the protocol, alternatively you can also use header tags for the same.”
This may seem like a stupid question, and forgive my ignorance, but why would a publisher not want google to crawl content?
I realize that some news sites have their articles split into several pages so they can increase page views for advertising reasons. I find that practice annoying and detrimental to actual news. For me, a reader, I see keeping it all on one page as a good thing. Why is it good for the publisher of said article? Have you found that keeping content on one page is best for both readership and for news ranking?
The main reason to use robots.txt is to prevent duplicate content penalties. You don’t want Google to see the same content on two separate pages, most often an issue for news sites that move content from one section to archives.
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