By: Ananyaa Venkat
November 22, 2022
Table of Contents
Every site deserves a fair chance at ranking #1 on Google and news websites are no exception to this rule of thumb.
If you are running a news website, you probably know that your niche is one notch more competitive than any other industry, especially because hot news keeps pouring in almost every hour.
That said, I know it’s a pain to rank at the top of Google and retain the #1 ranking in the long run in the news industry.
But, there’s always a solution only waiting to be found, right?
And here is yours.
Yes, if you do SEO for your news website the right way, you can conquer and rule the world of news and journalism.
Let me walk you through Google News SEO one step at a time. Come on in.
What is Google News?
Created by Krishna Bharat, Distinguished Research Scientist – Google in September 2002, Google News is a dedicated news aggregator that allows users to discover the latest news across the globe in just a few clicks.
Ever since the rollout of its beta version in 2002, Google News has kept evolving to help users access upto the minute news articles based on freshness, authority, location, language and so much more.
The news aggregator consolidates news from tons of sources online and brings the best to both desktop and mobile users alike.
Another step ahead, the Google Discover feed features personalized content based on the user’s specific interests.
How Does Google News Work?
Initially, publishers had to manually submit their News articles to Google in order to get them indexed and ranked by the search engine days.
However, that’s all just an old story now.
Following the launch of the Google News Publisher Center in 2019, Google has started ranking News articles algorithmically.
As I mentioned earlier, Google eyes various parameters to rank news articles. Here’s a look at the factors the search engine giant takes into consideration to rank them.
- Relevancy – How relevant the news is to a particular search query.
- Interests – The user’s Google News settings, their reading behavior and their past Google activity.
- Location– The user’s geographical location to unlock a local news experience.
- Language– The language in which the user prefers to read the content.
- Prominence– The number of articles a news website has featured about the given topic and how the topic is trending.
- Authoritativeness– The strength of E-A-T signals that vouch for the reliability of a particular news site.
- Freshness – How recent and updated the story is about a particular subject matter.
- Usability– The accessibility of the content, including the page loading time, page design, browser compatibility and more.
Based on how your news website performs on these grounds, Google ranks it on its search results. The better the performance, the higher the rankings.
What Does the Google News Landscape Look Like?
As you specifically optimize your website for Google News, it is essential that you know the segments the news aggregate includes. So, here we go.
- Top Stories – Highlights the breaking news and headlines for the day.
- News For You – Features recommended stories based on the interests and the search history of the user.
- Following– Shows personalized news pieces based on the topics, saved stories and the location and language settings of the user.
Ranking in the Top Stories section is what you have to aim for. That’s how your news website will be easily discoverable online and your brand popularity will go up.
Why is Google News SEO Important?
Still wondering why your website needs Google News SEO? You are not alone.
Ask yourself one question.
What is that you want for your news website? Visitors.
Yes. The more people land on your website, the more popular your brand becomes.
That’s exactly what Google News helps you with.
Think of it this way. As one of the biggest digital news aggregators, Google recommends reliable and up-to-date news sources to millions of readers across the globe.
Every time your site appears on Google, it means that the search engine recommends its users to read your news and that brings more organic traffic to your site.
That’s precisely why Google News SEO is critical for news websites and publishers.
Why Does E-A-T Matter for Google News Optimization?
E-A-T denotes Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness.
- The Expertise of the content creator.
- The Authority of the website and the content.
- The Trustworthiness of the content, the author and the website alike.
So, is it a Google ranking factor?
No. It is a critical Google Guideline that digital content creators, publishers and marketers can’t miss out on. While it is not a ranking factor in itself, it influences Google’s ranking factors predominantly.
E-A-T was first mentioned in 2014 in Google’s Search Quality Guidelines.
So, why does E-A-T matter for news websites?
Google’s Quality Raters chiefly focus on E-A-T guidelines when determining how well a particular page addresses the user’s requirements.
If the page meets Google’s high content standards coupled with a great user experience, it will secure a high E-A-T score.
According to Google’s Guidelines, the content has to be created by an industry expert, published on a high authority website, be reliable and add value to the users.
This is more true for niche-specific news websites because people resort to online news sources now more than ever.
In fact, Google directs about 6 billion clicks to global news and media sites and the search engine certainly doesn’t want to mislead them.
So, to rank higher or secure a spot in Top Stories on an aggressively competitive landscape like Google News, it is paramount to pay extra attention to E-A-T.
To know more about E-A-T, check out our in depth article.
Tips to Optimize Your Website for Google News in 2023
Okay. Now let’s get to the most interesting part of the story. Let me pinpoint things you need to focus on when optimizing your website for Google News.
Optimize Your Images
Google displays relevant images within a story when featuring news articles. That said, you need to make sure you pick relevant images for your news articles.
How about making it easier for Google?
Use Schema markup to signal Google which the main image of the news write-up is.
Most people succeed at including relevant images in news articles. But, what they miss out on is the image size.
So, does image size matter? Yes.
BEWARE. The wrong image size can have a negative impact on your Google News visibility, especially in the Discover feed and overshadow your SEO efforts.
Make sure your images are at least 60 x 90 pixels. Opt for standard image formats, including JPEG, PNG, WebP and SVG.
However, we recommend adding images with a minimum 1200 pixels width as the majority of the news websites that fail to rank on Google Top Stories section have low image quality as one of the limiting factors.
Additionally, if you are using AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), having a 1200 pixel wide image is a prerequisite.
Google doesn’t crawl or index blocked files. So, ensure that the robots.txt file is not blocking access for Google spiders to crawl the image.
Focus on Your Internal Linking Structure
Failing to link your tag pages or topic pages properly will cost you more than you think in terms of Google News SEO. It can take away a lot of SEO opportunities from you.
Why is that?
Google leverages its Knowledge Graph to establish connections between entities. The more the entities, the more confident the search engine grows about a particular topic.
So, when you create tag pages and interlink them properly, you help Google to easily associate these pages with corresponding entities.
Let’s say, for instance, you have two different news articles about “Mark Zuckerberg” featured on your website.
When you interlink the two articles, you enable the search engine to associate them with the existing “Mark Zuckerberg” entities in the Google Knowledge Graph.
Here’s an example from Forbes.
This Forbes article about Mark Zuckerberg includes a link to another source about him in the same domain here.
When I click on that link, I get redirected to the below page again on Forbes.
That’s how Google establishes connections.
Every connection makes the entity grow a bit stronger and Google counts on the site as a relevant source of information for the entity “Mark Zuckerberg”.
That improves the chances of the site appearing on Google News for the specific entity “Mark Zuckerberg”.
On the contrary, if you are not taking advantage of these interlinking opportunities, your news site is at risk of going unnoticed.
Create Evergreen Content
Publish evergreen content on your news website.
Yes. I was as skeptical as you are now when I learned that tip.
Despite being a highly dynamic space, news websites need evergreen content to drive organic traffic.
Let me give you an example.
When a reader comes across a news article about the Canadian president Justin Trudeau or just wants to know more about him, they are likely to come up with a similar query.
That’s why you need to create evergreen content to drive more traffic or retain your existing visitors.
Going back to the example, whenever you publish a fresh news piece about Justin Trudeau, you can link back to your evergreen content.
This will also help boost your topical expertise from Google’s perspective. So, the search engine is likely to consider you a subject matter expert and direct more organic traffic to your site.
Build Clear Crawl Paths
News website owners naturally focus more on new articles than old ones. However, this paves the way for older articles to get buried deep down in the site’s architecture.
But why do they matter?
Google may not be able to crawl older articles with a chaotic crawl path or associate them with the new ones.
Let me give you a practical example.
Many digital publishers use “load more” buttons or infinite scrolls for pagination of article lists. Unfortunately, these practices block Google bots from crawling older pages.
This is because the search engine crawlers only follow links. They can’t click on buttons to access the content.
Given the scenario, the web traffic to those pages will be held back. You certainly don’t want that to happen to your site.
That’s why it is essential to build robust crawl paths that allow search engine spiders to access older articles in a hassle-free way.
Include Author Bio
As mentioned earlier, your site’s E-A-T plays a vital role in making or breaking your position on Google News, especially in the Top Stories section.
But then, many publishers fail to include their author bios and editorial policies at the end of the news article. Such a practice will affect the E-A-T score drastically and bring down the site’s online visibility.
You don’t want to be one of them, right?
Always make sure that you add a short author bio that speaks for your expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Improve Server Response Time
A slower server response time is a serious setback for your website’s SEO.
No matter how well you optimize the other components of your site, your site will still be very slow if it has a poor server response time.
To make things worse, a slower server response time is likely to open doors to crawlability issues.
If that’s the case, make sure you switch to a reliable web hosting service that offers a faster server response time.
The faster the server response time, the quicker the crawling. It’s good if your Time To First Byte is less than 200 milliseconds.
Choose Your Navigation Links Wisely
As you probably know, navigation links are links that you create to allow your website visitors to move across the various parts of your site seamlessly.
But they aren’t just that.
Google looks at your navigation and sub-navigation links as a sign of topical expertise.
When these links are relevant, they fetch you great SEO benefits. So, make sure you pick them carefully.
Avoid Content Syndication Issues
Content syndication occurs when the same content is published across multiple sites. This is often a result of publishers contributing to a network of publications in their portfolios.
Content syndication isn’t a problem unless there’s a manipulation of Google’s algorithm for better rankings.
However, as Google aims to fetch the most recent news relevant to a search query, content syndication may trigger the ranking of wrong URLs.
So, how to solve this problem?
Whenever you publish similar news articles across multiple sites, make it a point to link back to the original content.
That way, Google will know which page to rank higher.
Site Monetization Vs. User Experience
Promotional activities such as featuring pop-up ads and banner ads are a good way of monetizing your news site.
However, never forget that user experience is equally important.
That said, never let ads and other promotional offerings affect your page loading speed or design. After all, usability is one of the key factors Google takes into account to rank your site.
Striking the right balance between site monetization and user experience may be difficult to begin with. But, it is never impossible.
Work towards achieving it and once you get the knack of it, you will reap double-fold benefits.
Perform a Site Audit
Every site is unique and so is yours.
Keep away your judgments and scrutinize your news website closely from an objective perspective. Begin by performing a site audit.
That should help you identify and fix errors and optimize pages that may otherwise escape your notice.
Remember that these amendments may not necessarily be big. Sometimes small changes are more than enough to create a massive impact. This holds true for news SEO as well.
Let’s say, for example, one of your pages is not ranking. The reason may be the robots.txt file blocking access to it or an unoptimized featured image.
That’s exactly how a small issue fuels high impact.
Weed it all out with an end-to-end site audit.
Make Improvements Consistently
Every baby step counts, not only in life but also in SEO. In other words, SEO is an aggregate result of consistent efforts and not a magic that unfolds overnight.
Everything from optimizing your visual assets to strengthening your internal linking structure leads to better site architecture and bolsters your SEO.
Suppose you want to achieve 30,000 monthly traffic for your news website. You can’t expect all 30,000 visitors to jump out of nowhere. Every small traffic boost is a sign that your SEO efforts are working.
That’s why it is important to make SEO improvements to your site on a daily basis.
Don’t worry if the progress is gradual. Instead, focus on moving another step closer to your SEO goals every day. That’s what matters ultimately.