Here’s overview of how Google News rankings work, and what SBS can do to optimise News for rankings.
The process is divided into 3 steps:
A. How does Google discover News articles?
- Crawling – Google can crawl sites looking for News articles using a modified form of Googlebot.
- News Sitemaps – This is a unique method of telling Google about your new content by including all your new article URLs.
A News Sitemap is different from a standard XML Sitemap because it includes a different set of meta-data.
- Publication Date
- Geo Locations
- Keywords – to aid in classification
News Sitemap also assist in the speed of publication of articles to Google News, because Google checks News Sitemaps more frequently.
Importantly News Sitemap can assist in the next stage of the process, grouping, because you can specify Genres, Locations, and Keywords. Google has recently indicated indicated it will read on page meta-data for Keywords as well as site maps.
In both cases, this data assists in grouping although it also has an affect on ranking because the speed to publication improves “freshness” factor.
B. Grouping new articles
Once the articles are crawled they are brought back to the Google’s database for the grouping phase. Google has its own content classification scheme.
Google seeks to classify the article into broad groups:
- Sports – it also has a more detailed grouping, which includes different sports.
By using Google’s groupings in the “keywords” component of the site map (and now in on page meta-data) you can assist Google to easily group the articles.
There are two components to ranking.
- The ranking of the overall story (whatever the source) called a cluster. eg. Racism in EPL cluster in the Football category.
- The individual articles within a story cluster eg. Your ranking within the Racism in EPL cluster.
1. Cluster rankings
The rankings of story clusters are based on what Google calls “Aggregated Editorial Interest”.
Basically Google determines the value based on how widely the story is reported, across groups of people, and geo-locations.
2. Article ranking
There are some basic onsite factors recommended by Google:
- Keep unique permanent URLs with at least 3 digits
- Do not break up the article body, keep the entire news on a single page
- Put date between the article and body
- Separate News articles from press releases by using a directory structure
Most publication site should should already comply!
These are the factors most relevant to client’s I have worked with, as they determine the position of the article within the story cluster.
- Article titles – Titles matter, always keep an extremely indicative title of the story.
- Fresh and new – It’s essential for the article to be recent, substantial, and original and focused to the topic. Op-ed, satire, press releases and subscription are not eligible to lead the cluster. If you get news from an agency we recommend where practical re-writing in your own words.
- Duplication and novelty detection – Google always tries to give credit to the original and the novel content. Let’s say there was an article originally done by you and later another article on the same topic gets published by another publisher with a reference to you as their source of information.
- Local and personal relevancy – More weight is given to local sources which are likely more relevant to the news article.
- Trusted source – Google uses its historic data to decide what type of source works best for which section or geography. So if there are 5 stories published in a particular section and most of the people clicked the 4th one then Google records it in its database as the most relevant source for that type of news. Over a period Google starts building a database of what type of news from what publication work best for which geography. Trust is done at the group/local level, not for the entire new/geo-location.
So, for example, what you are looking to establish your publication as a trusted source for news the “soccer” or “rugby league” in Australia.
The two biggest factors affecting click thru rates are:
- Brand recognition – a user clicks on the news sites they already read or trust. There is not much short-term optimisation you can do to achieve this, as it is tied to the overall marketing and presence of the organisation.
- Article titles – Punchy and clickable article titles!
Listed below are the top 10 ranking factors as determined by a panel of experts. I have already covered most of these except apart from Social Sharing, which warrants a whole separate article:Read More »