Have you ever thought about applying to have your site show up in Google News (the news search engine of Google)?
If you think being in Google News is a backdoor way to help your site rank better in the regular Google search engine, think again. A Google official recently stated that being on Google News doesn’t help with rankings in Google.
“… sites in the Google News index do not get any special ranking boost in the organic Google results. Google’s John Mueller said they are not seen as any more authoritative just because they are included in Google News. John said the organic search results do not use that as a signal.”
If that’s the case, why apply to Google News at all? Why bother trying to get your site accepted into Google News in the first place?
Here’s a good reason why: Google News can drive considerable traffic to your site. That traffic is all free and “organic.” And the traffic comes from Google.
The difference is, the traffic comes from Google News, not from the regular Google search index.
What is Google News?
Google News is the separate “News” search engine of Google.
You sometimes see a few News results inserted among the regular Google search results.
But if you click on the News tab at the top of the Google search page, you can see many more News results. (See image above.)
In other words, Google’s regular search engine and Google News are two separate engines. That means if your articles get included in the Google News engine, you could have two shots at getting visitors via Google.
And Google News can, indeed, drive traffic to small websites.
One of the differences between regular Google and Google News is that you must apply to Google News. Sites are not automatically included. That’s the opposite from the regular Google index, where there’s no need to submit a site for approval.
Three changes in recent years have leveled the playing field for small publishers. The changes made it easier to get included in Google News:
- It used to be difficult to get in to Google News because page URLs had to include a 3-digit code. Modifying a site to include 3-digits in URLs could be an expensive project for smaller sites. Luckily for small businesses, that 3-digit requirement was dropped.
- Google launched a News Publisher Center. This is a dashboard to manage your Google News presence. The Publisher Center simplified the process of applying for Google News inclusion. Small publishers with limited tech teams can more easily manage their News presence.
- The Google News Team improved communications with publishers. For instance, there’s a very informative and valuable newsletter for Publishers. There’s a dedicated Help Forum, too.
It’s easy to see how much traffic you are getting from Google News, through Google Analytics:
- Log in to your Google Analytics account. You first must have the Analytics code installed on your site, of course.
- Navigate to the left side menu. Click on the nested menus: Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals.
- If Google News is one of your top referrals, you will see it listed there on the Referrals page. If not one of your top referrals, put the following into the search box: news.google.com
- It will show how many visits via Google News you are getting.
How to Get Included in Google News
But what if your site is not in Google News yet?
If you would like to get included in the News search engine, follow these steps:
- Determine that your site is eligible. Not all sites are right for Google News. The Guidelines emphasize that News is not for marketing your products or services. Instead, it is designed for users to find useful content.
- Go to the Publisher Center. You’ll find a dashboard.
- Follow instructions to verify that you own your site.
- Then click the button labeled “Request Inclusion in Google News.”
You’ll soon learn whether your site has been accepted into Google News.
Learn How to Use Google News
After your site is accepted, you need to learn how to present your content to Google News. A special XML News sitemap should be generated. You will want to use meta keywords. Also, you should generate an “Editor’s Picks” feed and use the “Standout tag” to highlight your best content.
Are you thinking all of that sounds too technical? If you publish your site using WordPress, there’s a valuable plugin called the Yoast News plugin that makes it easy to handle tech issues like those.
The Yoast News plugin helps you manage how your content is presented to the Google News spiders. Yoast News is a premium plugin, not free. But it is worth the modest annual fee. It saves considerable time and money for small publishers that lack a full-time tech team.
One final pointer: check your Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console periodically. Read the error messages to see if any of your articles could not be crawled by the News spiders.
Crawl error messages tell you valuable information about the types of content Google News does not accept and why. These messages help you and your team understand the requirements better. (See list of News-specific crawl errors.)
Large publishing organizations like the New York Times probably have employees who work on Google News issues full time. They become experts. In a small publishing business, YOU may have to be the expert.
Don’t let any of that stop you, though. Today, the playing field is level for small publishers.
Image: Google News