It’s kind of strange how much people trust the information they find on Google, don’t you agree? We know how the internet works, people can write whatever they want as fact and publish it to the web. It’s amazing the things that people will believe! At some point Google began to feel the responsibility of placing accurate content and reputable websites into the top organic search results. As their algorithm advances, the chances that the information returned to you is useful and true and relevant increases. Or at least that’s the plan.
In March of 2018, Google launched the Google News Initiative (GNI). At one point I started wondering if Google was planning to make a play for a real News Business. Employing journalists, live coverage, the whole deal, just to further their war on fake news. But if you read about it, they seem pretty committed to their ongoing support of News Publishers. Philipp Schindler, Google’s Chief Business officer touts “paying $12.6 billion to ad partners and driving 10 billion clicks a month to publishers’ websites for free last year”.
There are three main focuses of GNI:
Elevate and strengthen quality journalism
Evolve business models to drive sustainable growth
Empower news organizations through technological innovation
One of our favorite quotes from the article: “Over the past few years, we’ve worked with publishers to elevate accurate, quality content and stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation.”. As part of our ongoing efforts surrounding our partners and our own properties at Penske Media Corp, we actively work with editorial teams to increase their standards of news coverage. It’s an ongoing battle, but one our SEO team deems a worthy cause.
So where is Google News right now?
On January 17th, Google published an article on their Webmaster Central Blog titled “Ways to Succeed in Google News”. Framed as pleasant, helpful tips, to us it speaks as a warning. More like, The Only Way to Succeed in Google News.
Taking these updated guidelines straight from Google back to our editorial teams, highlights include:
Headlines must be clear – the fluffy, clicky post titles might work for your weekly newsletter, but they aren’t working for Google News.
Posts must have accurate times – Freshness is a factor with news results, so make sure your date appears at the top of the page and use structured data. Then make sure your post immediately hits your news XML sitemap. Also, no faking content updates. If you truly update the content to make it better or more accurate, then you can update the date. But if not, always leave the date as the original.
Our properties must be HTTPS – on one of our properties, StyleCaster.com, we were a little late to the game on getting the site to HTTPS. The site experienced a drop on August 1, 2018 (Google “medic” update). After the drop, we went through a variety of recovery tactics that didn’t move the needle much. At the end of October, the site was migrated to HTTPS and literally days later took an upwards trend. That, paired with a deeper focus on on-page best practices and today their organic search is stronger than ever.
Be transparent with your authors and your site contact information. Google wants to make sure there’s a face behind the site, one that isn’t trying to deceive customers or readers. Put your contact info and author bios/social handles out there for all to see.
Saving the best for last, this one is important. Avoid duplicate content. Let’s first start with the definition. Now, when I hear people worry about duplicate content, my mind tends to go to scraping. Scraping content is where another site maliciously copies/pastes your unique content and tries to pass it off as their own. Doesn’t give you credit, no back-link, nothing. Typically, this would be automated but could also be manual. Complete plagiarism. But Google’s actual definition is a bit broader: “Google News seeks to reward independent, original journalistic content by giving credit to the originating publisher, as both users and publishers would prefer. This means we try not to allow duplicate content—which includes scraped, rewritten, or republished material”. Several sites in our network create News content, but not the ‘boots on the ground’ journalism kind. Does that make it rewritten? Is Google trying to weed that type of news out of the search results? Make sure you aren’t just re-writing someone else’s original news content and then posting. This won’t perform in Google News unless you add your own point of view or unique supporting information of some kind.
Implementing Google Accelerated Mobile Pages increases your chances of appearing in the News or Top Stories carousal location at the top of the search results.
Only time will tell how Google News will evolve throughout the next few years. But we can all agree that if you’re posting false or misleading information or purposefully deceiving your readers, your future as a Google News partner is coming to a close.
Find out more on the Google News Initiative here (GNI).