Inside Google News: How to engage readers and increase traffic

parMaite Fernandez
29 sept 2011 dans Miscellaneous

Google News recently introduced a new feature geared to highlight the best content from publishers in Google News.

The news aggregator announced that media outlets can now add a "standout" content tag in their HTML code to stories they want to highlight, such as exclusives, exceptional original reporting, investigative projects and scoops. By using the tag the story could be displayed as “featured” in U.S. searches in Google News.

“To be clear, Standout tags are just one signal among the many signals that algorithmically determine prominence on Google News,” was explained in the Google News blog.

So what are those other signals that determine prominence in the news aggregator? What are the best practices that journalists and news organizations can follow to see their content rank high in the news aggregator?

David Smydra, product specialist for Google News, answered these and other questions during a recent workshop at the National Press Club. The event was moderated by search engine optimization specialist Vanessa Fox.

Smydra explained that there are two ways in which Google sends traffic to news sites: through web searches (which sends three billion clicks to publishers a month) and through Google News, which sends over a billion clicks a month to news publishers worldwide and has now 72 editions in over 30 languages.

The aggregator also has over 50,000 news sources and there are no editors or curators at any part of the process, Smydra said. “What the algorithm delivers, the algorithm delivers,” he said.

How the process works

Given a news event, Google News ranks stories according to different criteria.

  1. Fresh and new. Google News likes recent, substantial and original content focused on the topic. “You want to get the latest on the story,” Smydra said.

  2. Novelty detection vs. duplication. However, relying only in freshness can get a lot of news articles from organizations that are just catching up to the story. The aggregator tries to avoid picking up articles that repeat information and don’t add anything new.

  3. Local and topical relevance. A local source committing a lot of resources to a story is going to generate more content, longer articles and more detailed as opposed to other sources coming from outside.

  4. Trusted relevance. Google News ranks stories higher depending on the source. “Different sources have different areas of expertise,” Smydra explained. For example, Bloomberg will probably rank higher than a general news source when the content searched is a business story.

Tips to make your content easy to read to Google News

Smydra and moderator Vanessa Fox also named a few best practices that will make your content Google-friendly.

-Include the link to sources and other related articles. It helps web searches and makes sites more useful and engaging to people, Fox said.

-The more contiguous the article is, the better. If the story includes the headline, the date, the author and the article contiguously, the easier it is for Google News to read it. Having a lot of ad blocks or elements that break the article doesn't help.

-Include some sort of attribution or byline, even if it’s just “staff.” It helps to rank the story because it gives it credibility, Fox added.

-If your publication has a paywall, it can still be included in Google News. The aggregator uses a first click free system that allows users to read some articles for free.

-Blogs can be included in Google News. However, Google establishes that multiple authors have to work in the blog and include contact information to be considered a legitimate news source.

-Videos can also be crawled. There are now two ways of getting video content crawled: through the creation of a YouTube channel or by embedding videos in stories. It is always advisable to use good titles and good descriptions when uploading videos, Smydra said.

Other tools useful for publishers and journalists are Google Webmaster Central and Google Help Center, which includes a useful FAQ for publishers.

To see a video of the workshop, click here.