How to boost the visibility of an online media outlet via Google News

What is Google News?

Google News is a Google platform, which stores a vast amount of news articles and pieces on recent events. There we can see large authoritative media outlets like Spain’s El País or As, or smaller ones in terms of traffic and popularity, like Revista Love or Cosas de Coches. Any news website is eligible to appear in Google News, so long as they meet certain conditions set by the search engine.

The primary goal of this platform is to organise the news, provide an optimal informative experience, and put valuable content and useful and interesting current news within the reader’s reach.

The primary goal of #GoogleNews is to organise news articles, provide an optimal informative experience, and put valuable content and useful and interesting current news within the reader's reach 📳📳Click To Tweet.

How can I include my website as a Google News source?

To request the inclusion of our website in Google News, we’ll simply have to submit a request to the Google News Publisher Center. Then, Google’s staff will procede to manually review the applying site, to verify whether it meets the set quality guidelines. Keep in mind that, submitting your application doesn’t automatically guarantee your website’s inclusion as a Google News source.

Before doing anything, you’ll have to verify through Google Search Console whether you’re the owner of the website you wish to apply with in the Publisher Center.

Then, you’ll have to log in to the Publisher Center with the same e-mail account you used to verify your property in Google Search Console.

Google Publisher Center

With that out of the way, we can now request the inclusion of our website in Google News from the Publisher Center, and to do this we’ll have to provide some information on the website, like its URL and news tags. As a general rule, getting approved as a Google News source ranges from one to two weeks, on average. To check whether Google has accepted our submission, we’ll have to go to the Publisher Center and see the application status, which early on will say something along the lines of that it’s being reviewed. Then, this status will change to “Included”, if our website meets Google’s quality guidelines.

Requirements for being included in Google News

We recommend that before submitting your website to Google News, you verify your compliance with Google’s general and technical requirements, because if you don’t qualify, Google will deny your application, and you won’t be able to resubmit it for 60 days.

Technical guidelines

Accessible and indexable content

We must not block crawling and indexing of any sections or pages sent to Google News via robots.txt or the meta robots tag of our website. Crawlers should be able to access all URLs we want included in News.

Article format

All news articles must be in HTML format. Googlebot cannot read PDF files.

HTML links

We should use the common link format, and avoid using non-HTML links, like JavaScript, graphic links, or links situated inside frames. Although Google is getting better at interpreting and running these types of links, we recommend to continue sticking to HTML. The syntax of an HTML link would be as follows:

<a href=»http://www.mydomain.com/»>Home page of Mydomain.com</a>

Technical requirements ⚙ to appear in #GoogleNews: 1⃣ Accessible and indexable content. 2⃣ News articles in HTML format. 3⃣ HTML links.Click To Tweet

General guidelines

Write news on current events

It’s very important to differentiate between articles and promotional content, namely ad reports and current news. If your website provides different types of content to the user, I advise you to submit to Google News only sections with information on recent events. Therefore, we won’t be sending things like:

  • Tutorials and how-tos.
  • Advice columns.
  • Job offers.
  • Ads for real estate property.
  • Strictly informative content.

From the Publisher Center you can choose the sections you want to submit to Google News. This way, you can directly discard sections of your website with content that doesn’t suit the requirements. You’ll just have to go to see the “Sections” in the Publisher Center and include the URLs to be submitted. For example, if your website is dedicated to selling and renting apartments online, but you also have a section oriented to posting current news on real estate, you’ll just have to let Google know that you only want it to pay attention to this content, and ignore the rest.

Date and author of the content

Google News only includes news articles published over the last few days, and for that reason it’s important that the search engine can correctly crawl the article’s publication date.

We recommend placing this information in a highly visible area of the page. For example, at the top of the article, like the English edition of El País pictured in the screenshot below:

El País author and date of the article

It’s very important to get this right, because we’ve seen cases where the crawlers were using other dates inside the article as the publication date, and they were nowhere near the real one. For example, sometimes they used embedded tweets, Instagram posts, or even the day of update.

In the image below, you can see an embedded tweet, which is used in an article of an online magazine, and it contains a date that Google could take as the real one, if we don’t place the actual date of the news article in a visible place that Googlebot can easily crawl.

Embedded tweet

Even if we include the <publication_date> tag in our sitemap file, placing a visible date and time in the article is a requirement to appear in Google News.

Information about the media outlet

It’s highly recommended to create a page with a brief description or summary about your website, a short bio for all editors and managers, and a picture of each of these people to complete their profile. Here’s an example of how it can be done:

Editorial staff example

Contact information

You website should also have a page with contact information, telephone numbers, addresses, and/or e-mails, besides providing any useful data on the organisation and managing board.

In short, any data we can provide that will prove our media outlet’s credibility is welcome. Here’s an example of a contact page in The New York Times:

Contact page for an online newspaper

This section displays a more human side of your website, generating trust and credibility at the same time. Users welcome it, and Google knows they do, which is why it is among the factors it takes into account when considering the inclusion of a website in its news index.

Advertising

Advertising or any kind of promotional content should never have more prominence than the main content of the page.

AMP

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source initiative promoted by Google and a great number of media outlets worldwide, in addition to other technological partners. AMP was born aiming to improve download speed of websites on mobile devices. Validated AMPs are stored on Google’s AMP cache, which allows them to be published even faster.

If our pages don’t have an AMP version, we won’t qualify to appear in Google’s horizontal carrousel for searches made from mobile devices. Moreover, we’ll lose our chances of appearing for mobile searches altogether, because Google will favour AMP versions in its rankings, due to their increased download speed. This is achieved with lighter code, because they give up certain elements, amongst which are sidebars, related content, etc.

If our pages don't have an #AMP ⚡version, we won't qualify to appear in Google's horizontal carrousel for searches made from mobile devices 📱Click To Tweet

We talk more about AMPs in this post.

Recently, Google has also announced AMP Stories, which is a type of content in an audiovisual format, integrated in Google and specially designed for media websites. It’s an imitation of the well-known Snapchat stories, Instagram Stories, and Facebook stories. The goal of this initiative is to provide users with news in AMP, but using rich and visual content. There isn’t much information on this new format out there as of now, but if you have a media outlet, you should keep an eye on it. Google is already trying it out with media companies like CNN or The Washington Post (to be able to see it, you’ll have to open these links from a mobile device).

AMP stories

The Washington Post AMP stories

Google can deny the inclusion of a website if it doesn’t meet any of the aforementioned technical requirements. Similarly, it can put an end to a website’s activity in News, if it doesn’t respect or infringes any of the required quality guidelines, or if it incurs in forbidden or deceitful behaviours.

Google can put an end to a website's activity in News, if it doesn't respect or if it infringes any of the required quality guidelines 🚫Click To Tweet

Other recommendations

As opposed to the guidelines listed earlier (both general and technical), the recommendations given here are not mandatory. However, from Human Level we strongly encourage you to implement them.

Structured data

Regardless of whether your website has structured data or not, it can still get approved as a Google News source. Nevertheless, you should consider its implementation, as structured data helps Google to better understand the content of a website, by providing it with some additional information.

Structured data is implemented in a page’s source code, and its task is to describe the content of a website, as well as its properties. For example, if a website posts recipes, we can use attributes to tag the ingredients, a picture of the dish, user reviews, etc.

Recipe rich snippet example

If the website in question is an ecommerce, therefore, it sells products, we can use Product markup to let the search engine know about the product’s attributes: colour, reference, category, discount, images, review, size…

Product rich snippet

This way, Google can better understand the content of a website, which will help it to index more accurate pages, and display the most relevant results to the users’ search queries.

As we can see in the above images, structured data is shown to the user as a rich snippet. These types of results make the entry much more attractive, and concentrate a higher probability of being clicked on, than does a regular result. When we talk about rich snippets, we talk about the highlighted information below each search result, which can be a user’s review, the price of a product, the preparation time of a recipe, the date and time a concert is set to take place, etc.

While structured data doesn’t influence rankings, that is, its inclusion is not going to get our results to occupy more privileged positions, they can help improve our page’s CTR, as the probability of a user clicking on a rich result is higher. Presently, Google displays rich results for products, recipes, events, reviews, apps, videos and articles.

It’s just some additional information, which serves to complement what is already shown in a normal result, and it helps it to get more prominence.

#StructuredData doesn't influence rankings of the media website, but they can help to improve the page's #CTR, as they help to make it a more prominent result❗Click To Tweet

Below, we’re going to list the structured data that can be implemented on news portals.

  • NewsArticle and Article

This, together with “Article” is one of the most important markup types for online media websites. It is used to tag the main content of the page.

In the case of news websites it is recommended to implement the “Article” microformat for regular articles, and “News article” for news articles. News articles are daily news reporting current events, which, as opposed to regular articles, are of a more temporary nature.

To ensure the correct implementation of microformats, we can use Google’s structured data testing tool.

  • Author

This markup allows us to indicate the author of the news article. It’s not as crucial as the previous one, but it’s use is recommended whenever it can be implemented.

  • DatePublished

Using this markup we can let Google know the article’s publication date. This way, crawlers can understand more easily how old an article is. Let’s remember that Google News only adds posts no older than 24 hours from the date they were published, which is why this markup type is so significant, and you need to keep it in mind as one of the optimisations when submitting your request to be added to Google News.

There are other types of structured data, which aren’t as important, but we can consider implementing them all the same. For example, to markup comments made by users.

Google News Sitemap

A Google News sitemap has the same purpose as any sitemap, for pages or images. The primary goal of this sitemap is to facilitate for Google the process of locating the URLs of the news on our website. If we help Google to discover news articles published on our site faster, we will have a higher probability of appearing in Google News before any other media outlet that posted a piece on the same subject, but did not sent it through the sitemap, because it will be more difficult to reach. Although the sitemap file doesn’t guarantee that news included in it are going to get indexed, it enables us to leave a series of tiny “crumbs” that crawlers can follow and get to our news more easily.

We shouldn’t send the news sitemap before our website has been review and included in News, because in that case we might get some errors.

Google doesn’t give preferential treatment to websites with a news sitemap. However, it’s best to configure this file so that crawlers can reach pages, which they haven’t been able to get to using other common crawling methods.

Despite the fact that the goal and purpose of a news sitemap is the same than that of a sitemap for images or pages, the news sitemap needs to follow some specific guidelines if we don’t want it to register any errors, and for it to be processed correctly.

Include URLs of articles posted in the last two days

News articles older than two days (starting from their publication date) should not be included.

The image provided below shows an extract of a media website sitemap for the 20 March of 2018. As you can see, the first two news posts included in the sitemap have a publication date of 20 March of 2018 also, which is correct.

News Sitemap

Similarly, we can see how the last two news articles are no older than 48 hours, and their publication date is Sunday, 18 March:

news sitemap publication date

Even though news articles get removed from the sitemap after two days, they will continue to appear in Google News, usually for about 30 days.

Sitemap update

We recommend updating the sitemap as frequently as new articles are published. This way, we can supply Google with the most recent news, for it to crawl, index, and return them as Google News results for relevant queries.

Maximum number of URLs

We shouldn’t add more than 1,000 URLs to our news sitemap. This is the maximum number of URLs allowed as per Google’s guidelines. If you have a large website, and you want to add more URLs, you’ll have to distribute them between several different sitemap files, and use a sitemap index to manage them. This limit is established to ensure that the server isn’t posting large files in Google News.

Specify the correct tags

We must ensure that our news sitemap uses the correct tags that Google set as mandatory:

  • The <publication> tag, has two subtags which must be included too: <name> and <language>.
  • The <name> tag is in reference to the name of the news source. For example, in the case of The Guardian newspaper, we could put it like “THE GUARDIAN” all in caps, or “The Guardian”. Let’s imagine we go with the latter version, in which case that’s how it should appear in Google News’ vertical carrousel, and Google.com carrousel for the appropriate search queries. As for the source name, there are no restrictions. The only thing to keep in mind here is, that the chosen name must match the one appearing in the news.google.com articles.
  • The <language> tag indicates the language of the publication. The correct date and time format to use in this tag is ISO 639, with 2 or 3 characters.
  • <publication_date> indicates the date and time your article was published. The publication date must be specified using the W3C format, with the full date (YYYY-MM-DD) or full date and time, including hours, minutes and seconds, together with the time zone (YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssCZH).

Below is an extract of a news sitemap with the full date and time format, and the hour, minutes, seconds and the time zone:

News sitemap full date and time

  •  The <title> tag must specify the title of the news article exactly as it appears on your website.

Title tag news sitemap

  • <news_keyword> is the tag Google uses to classify the news posts in its index. We do not recommend including more than 8 keywords. The keywords included in this tag must be directly related to the event or recent development in question.

The order in which these tags are included doesn’t have a bearing on their relevance.

Where does Google display the news?

We can see the news included in Google News from any device: smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, etc. Here’s a breakdown on how they are displayed on each device:

Mobile

  • Google.com’s vertical search

This section of the SERPs includes a selection of the most recent news regarding the event the user searched for.

Google News tab

  • Featured news carrousel

In this block of the SERPs we can see displayed up to 10 news pieces, and all the results are directly related to the user’s search query.

This type of results are more visually appealing than the conventional ones, and they appear on top of the organic results.

Usually, on mobile devices this carrousel appears accompanied by two links (at the top), which point to news pieces related to the event the user searched for.

Google News carrousel

Nevertheless, these news can easily be confused with the conventional results, as they do not include any visual element to attract the user’s attention.

In the case of the previous image, for example, there’s a higher chance the user will end up clicking on one of the carrousel’s news articles, instead of links located in the upper part of the SERP.

Besides the carrousel of the “Featured news” section, appearing below the first organic result, there are other relatively new results of a similar nature, combining the characteristics of the regular result with those of the carrousel:

Related news carrousel

As for the third result, we can see the title and extract of the news piece, and with it a list of several featured news articles in carrousel mode. These news pieces belong to the same website, and it’s content related to the event the user searched.

Once again, we would like to stress on the importance of applying AMP to the pages of your website if you want them to appear as part of Google’s carrousels, both in the upper section with featured news, and the results below we’ve just talked about.

Desktop

  • Google.com’s vertical search

News articles are listed in a very similar format to the regular results: we can see the title, the source of Google News, publication date, and sometimes, a brief summary of the piece.

Desktop Google News results

  • Featured news carrousel

For the time being, this section of the SERPs we always see the same three articles. In any case, the user can find more information on the event if they click on the link below the carrousel, and they will get redirected to the main Google News page.

Google News carrousel

  • Featured news block with results without graphic elements

In this case the format is more similar to a regular result, as no images or other visual elements are used. Regardless, we’re still getting visibility by appearing in the upper part of the page, on top of organic results.

Google News featured

For calculating the ranking of the results in the carrousel and the news shown in vertical search, Google uses its usual algorithm.

Out of all featured results we’ve examined previously, in terms of visibility the most relevant one is the featured news carrousel, as it’s the first thing the user sees when they enter a search query. The rate of users who go to Google News vertical search is infinitely smaller when compared to the number of users who will end up clicking on one of the results displayed in the carrousel.

This carrousel pushes down the organic results showing only the media websites that have adapted their pages to the AMP technology.

However, many media outlets request being included in Google News, but they don’t get to see a positive impact in terms of organic traffic for the website. This is because their news articles do not reach the Google News carrousel, and sometimes, not even the first page of vertical search. We must work on our SEO, at an on page and off page level if we want to get the best position in the rankings.

As you can see, Google News is almost an indispensable tool to use if we have a media website, or if our website has a news section. Undoubtedly, it’s an option to consider if we want to get better visibility for out content.

Have you got your content included in Google News or are you thinking about submitting your application? Before you submit your request, we recommend you to work on the advice provided in this post to successfully complete this process.

Rocío Rodríguez
Autor: Rocío Rodríguez
Consultora Search Marketing en Human Level.

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