Google News: how to do SEO for news websites
There is no doubt that Google is one of the most powerful companies in the world. The search giant is responsible for determining a large part of the practices and technologies that will be used or abandoned by sites of all kinds.
Like every successful digital company, Google understands that there is no place for a comfort zone in this competitive Digital Marketing scenario.
Therefore, the company continues to create ways to generate value for users and provide tools for businesses of all kinds to benefit from their products and platforms.
One of these products is Google News, which can transform the traffic of news sites and greatly boost their results. If you run such a website, you’re in the right place!
In this article, you will see:
- What is Google News?
- Why invest in SEO for news?
- What are the criteria for Google News?
- What are the main errors to avoid when optimizing a website for Google News?
- What are the 6 practical steps to take the news from your website to Google News?
Continue reading and see everything you need to know to optimize your website with the help of Google News and improve your business results!
What is Google News?
Google News is a news aggregator with Google’s quality seal. This means that it is the company that curates the content of the news, presenting them following some criteria.
The first of these is obviously the user’s search intention. It is already clear that this is Google’s main goal when answering any search.
After all, it is understood that if their search intention is satisfied, the user will continue using the tool. That is, if you find the best possible answer to the question you asked the search engine, you will do new searches.
Another important factor is the navigation history and each user’s preferences.
This way, Google can present news based on what you like to read, in general, or show headlines as a response to a search performed on the site.
Why invest in SEO for news?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the best ways to make a website or blog attract traffic, but there is a small problem.
SEO takes time to start delivering results. And, as everyone knows, a news site needs to offer fresh, up-to-date content.
There’s no point in optimizing a news story today if it won’t rank well for 3 months, right?
But that’s not exactly how SEO works. It’s important to understand that search engine optimization is not about each content, individually, but about the site as a whole.
In other words, if you do SEO for your news site, Google will look at it with different eyes, and future news will have a better chance of ranking in top positions.
If you manage to be part of Google News, you can expect a considerable increase in traffic since the tool generates around 10 billion clicks per month for participating sites.
Going a bit deeper, placing your site on Google News can improve your domain’s authority and the number of backlinks received from other pages.
As these two factors are important in ranking search pages, counting on them is quite an advantage. This extends, of course, to the increase in direct traffic.
What are the criteria for Google News?
One would expect that, to maintain the aggregator’s quality and not harm the user experience, Google would stipulate some rules on who can or cannot benefit from the news tool.
And the first and most obvious is: you need to have a news website. News only. A news section on your blog or website is not enough because the company wants outlets with journalistic approaches.
Moreover, it doesn’t want to run the risk of highlighting low-quality news or news created only to make the reader buy products and services.
What are the main mistakes to avoid when optimizing a website for Google News?
First, it is important to clarify that the approval process for entering the Google News aggregator does not follow the regular search engine pattern.
In other words, the application journey is not as automated as you might think.
The company takes the issue of choosing relevant news sources so seriously that it has set up an evaluation team for sites wishing to enter the aggregator.
Humans are so used to using tricks that they understand when someone does the same. So there is no black hat tactic that can be used.
Either your site meets the requirements, or it will be denied.
Here are some of the worst mistakes you could make in the application process and how to avoid them.
Not having an exclusive news site
As we have already said, the evaluation process for sites wishing to enter Google News is manual. So, there is no trick you can apply to get your corporate blog approved.
There are no shortcuts, and it would be a big mistake to think that your blog or commercial website could be approved in the process. But what if you have an exclusive news section or category?
It won’t work either. Unless your site is exclusively about news, your chances are zero. And the reason is simple: Google doesn’t care about promotional content when offering fresh news to the user.
Produce content that violates the platform’s policies
Google’s aggregator also has policies about the type of content that can be published by sites that wish to be part of the platform.
Of course, ignoring these restrictions will put your site right in the denial stack.
To avoid that something like this happens — for lack of knowledge about the policies — here is a brief summary of what is prohibited:
- personal and confidential information: it is not allowed to divulge someone’s confidential information, not even in the name of a journalistic scoop;
- copyrighted content: no use of copyrighted content without authorization.
Besides these, we do not need to mention that content of hatred, apology towards crime, pornography, and similar are strictly forbidden.
Being too generalist
Why would Google News want a smaller website that talks about all kinds of subjects if it can already use big newspapers and news portals for that?
It’s important to know how to differentiate yourself to earn your space.
And one of the best ways to do that is to leave the broader picture aside and specialize in a specific news niche.
This way, it will be easier to be seen by the Google News team as a reference in that segment and be approved for specific news.
Make few updates on the site
Respected and active news sites are usually updated daily, preferably several times a day.
The aggregator evaluation team will take this into account to determine the seriousness and commitment of your site to deliver relevant news to the public.
With this in mind, it would be a serious mistake to publish a news piece every few days and think that this will be enough to take advantage of the potential reach that Google News offers.
What are the 6 practical steps to take the news from your website to Google News?
After avoiding the main mistakes in the attempt to have your news site accepted by Google News, it’s time to learn what to do, right?
Here is a step-by-step guide with the technical requirements you need to follow to get your website on Google News as soon as possible.
Some aspects discussed here are not considered mandatory, but applying them will help you improve your chances of being approved. So it is best not to skip steps.
Here is what you need to do!
1. Organize your URL structure
Google wants your news and categories to have static URLs, so the same types of articles are in the same URLs. This allows Google to crawl the same pages several times, without having to redirect them.
Because of this, it’s good to avoid dynamic URLs, as they don’t achieve much success with Google News.
It is more worthwhile to consider this Google preference and keep the URLs static.
2. Eliminate the weight of your content
Eliminating the weight of the content, in this context, means leaving it free of many styles and, especially, scripts that would run on the page.
Why is this so important? Because Google wants its content to be loaded as quickly as possible.
All the news content must be present in the HTML code when rendering the pages for the process to work well in the aggregator.
3. Optimize the site code
Keeping code clean is another fundamental step for your news site to be accepted by Google News.
But what does it mean, anyway?
In HTML code, the part that corresponds to the news content should be a continuous block, from beginning to end.
Many websites have a messed up programming structure, in which videos and related content are mixed with the code blocks that hold the news content.
The big problem is that this may cause Google to have trouble indexing the content and showing it to users.
And you already know: any problem in the user experience leaves your site further away from passing through the Google News sieve.
4. Create an XML map just for the news
Officially, Google says that having an XML map just for the news is not essential, but it is recommended.
So, to increase your chances of being accepted, it is worth following the recommendation.
Basically, you can create an XML map that lists the news published in the last 48 hours. If your content production is too high, it is important to limit the number of articles to 1,000.
Some experts believe that this XML map is the first source that Google uses when searching for updated content on a site. So, sort out your map before trying to get Google News approved.
5. Mark your news with Google structured data
Structured data are clues given so that Google’s algorithms understand what that page is about more quickly and easily.
It is important to mark your articles with them to make Google News aware of what your site covers and why it deserves to be considered for the first results.
You can be sure that your chances of getting a news story among the main ones on the Google home page carousel are much higher if you use structured data.
6. Make your application
Finally, after fulfilling the technical requirements and avoiding the basic mistakes, access the Google News Publisher Center.
From there, check your site’s ownership in Google Search Console and click on “request listing in the Google News index”.
After that, wait for 1 to 3 weeks and enter the site again to see if the request was accepted.
Yes, Google News is quite a platform. The amount of qualified traffic it can take to your news site makes it worth all the effort to pass the manual approval process.
Fortunately, now you have a complete guide with all the errors to avoid and the steps you need to make the most of this tool.
Understanding how Google’s algorithm works is one of the key steps to success in Digital Marketing. Want to know more? Download for free our SEO guide!