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If you could get your website content syndicated and ranking well on Google News, it would be an awesome way to generate traffic, but how difficult is this?

We decided to explore what it takes to perform well in Google News by starting our own general news site from scratch (it’s a German site at www.noows.de) and it helped us learn a whole lot.

Pages listed within the Google News channel have higher clickthrough rates (CTRs) and because Google News results are sometimes blended near the top of search listings pages, they present an opportunity to be listed high on the first page, even for competitive search terms you might struggle to rank highly for using traditional Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  

Get accepted as a news source

Before doing anything, you need to request that Google includes your site as a news source, prompting the Google News team to review the site to deem whether it’s worthy of inclusion. 

Obviously one of the key things they’ll track is whether the site is frequently updated with news. This can be very specific news related to your niche. But it must constitute news, not analysis, opinion or informative articles.

When our site was accepted, our initial strategy was simply to republish stories from the major news agencies.

At first we didn’t change any of the content and needless to say it didn’t rank well, but when we started rephrasing the stories just a little - changing them by say 50% – we noticed an improvement in rankings.

Create timely fresh content, and lots of it

Gradually we started generating our own news content, as well as continuing to rephrase stories from news agencies. And we could see for ourselves that rather than generating in-bound links – which is a key factor in natural SEO - what’s most important in news is creating lots of timely, fresh content.

If search volume around a particular story is increasing, Google’s news crawler seeks out pages with the freshest content relevant to those high volume searches. So you have to look out for those spiking stories and get in quick with your news. 

Some site owners initially put out a very short summary story (around 100 words) just to be among the first so they can get ranked highly in the index. This buys some time to follow up with a more in-depth version of the same story later.

Keyword research and enticing headlines are a must

Of course some traditional SEO techniques are still important. You need to do your keyword research and make sure you have a well optimised headline, teaser and body copy. Put the most important and frequently searched keywords in the headline and at least once in the teaser.

Google tends to group similar news items into news clusters so that readers can view a variety of different angles on the same story all listed in one block. And one of the challenges is trying to work out which keywords Google’s systems will use to identify the cluster.

Because of the strong competition for Google News rankings, Google takes account of CTRs on individual news snippets when deciding how highly specific stories should rank.

So in addition to choosing the right keywords it is important to create attention grabbing headlines which entice readers to click through. News articles with higher CTRs remain visible for longer in news Universal Search results and are displayed more often.

Pay attention to the technical stuff

You need to fulfil some basic technical requirements to make sure your content gets picked up by Google’s news crawler.

This includes ensuring a good clean HTML structure as the news crawler is quite sensitive and often you’ll get errors if you use complex HTML code. If you include galleries or images in the middle of your article content, for example, Google finds it difficult to recognise the content of the whole article and will mark it as fragmented or not news related.

You’ll also need to maintain a news sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools that automatically updates each time you publish a new article.

Our experiment with Noows.de eventually got to be the 28th most visited news source in Germany with 40,000 to 75,000 daily visits and a team of three editors. It’s actually more successful as a news source than some established news publishers with much bigger editorial teams.

So if you do have the inclination, it is quite possible to rank highly within Google News. And probably easier than many people think.

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Published 17 February, 2011 by Horst Joepen

Horst Joepen is CEO of Searchmetrics and a contributor to Econsultancy.

6 more posts from this author

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Dirkjan Vis

Quote: "Our experiment with Noows.de eventually got to be the 28th most visited news source in Germany with 40,000 to 75,000 daily visits and a team of three editors."

Did all of that happen by just optimizing for Google News? Are Germans so Google News addictive? Here in The Netherlands I was even wondering if it was worth my time to optimize for Google News before I read your article. But now I read this, it should be my first priority? :-)

over 5 years ago

Joe Friedlein

Joe Friedlein, Director at Browser Media

Good article Horst!

We get a lot of traffic from Google news and all the points you make regarding how to approach it are spot on (especially the 'enticing titles' bit - our biggest ever single spike of traffic was from Google news on the http://www.browsermedia.co.uk/2009/12/22/google-nexus-one-phone-only-available-to-google-apps-users/ article - it was a deliberate attempt to create panic by posting something controversial (and totally unfounded) in a time when everyone was going nuts about the nexus one phone.

One thing that I would say though, is that bounce rates for people reading news articles are often very high and mass volume of traffic doesn't necessarily lead to increased revenue.

I have never worried about high bounce rates - the user is interested in the content of your article and it is wrong to assume that all visitors should then find out more about your site (although it would be a good sign if they read more related articles).

To be honest, I also don't worry about lack of enquiries / leads etc from Google news traffic - if you concentrate on creating good content (in high volume), then you WILL see more links over time and your increased domain authority should help boost rankings across the board.

As you say though, not everyone grasps the potential that Google news offers for traffic generation.

over 5 years ago

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Horst Joepen, CEO at Searchmetrics

@Dirkjan: Not sure what online portal or business you are in - but in our case of a news portal Google News in Germany for sure is the key traffic driver with the biggest potential. Before putting all eggs in one bag consider other potential drivers like Google Places, Shopping, Video,... for your business.

over 5 years ago

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Martin

The title of this article sounded really interesting, however the article doesn't really say anything that isn't available on the other 1000s of sites covering this subject.

over 5 years ago

Paul North

Paul North, Head of Content and Strategy at Mediarun

One of the major benefits Google News brings us isn't traffic but links. Many people/sites compile their newsletters and research their blogs using Google News search. Our stories often get cited and linked to as a result.

While your advice is certainly sound, Horst I can't help being slightly concerned. If everyone just rehashes news agency stories, all Google News will become is a collection of hundreds of versions of the same handful of stories. It's well on its way to being that already, thanks largely to the decline of news gathering practices among the mainstream press.

I would like to sound the cry for people to produce their own news. Write about your local area, your own industry: the things no one else is talking about. Contribute, don't mimic.

over 5 years ago

Paul North

Paul North, Head of Content and Strategy at Mediarun

Sorry - I've just re-read and seen you did produce your own news.

over 5 years ago

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Freddy

Online news is effectively controlled by about 4 sources... and most online news these days are poorly rewritten press releases. The busiest journalists in the world are Filipino housewives on ODesk.

Free news = you get what you pay for. Spend a couple quid and get the Economist if you want real stuff.

over 5 years ago

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Agam Panwar

Rest is fine...I just can't believe the stats...Germans only read news??? ---""Our experiment with Noows.de eventually got to be the 28th most visited news source in Germany with 40,000 to 75,000 daily visits and a team of three editors."

If its real its impressive...

over 5 years ago

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whoisbid

Why not rewrite the whole thing after reading several accounts instead of changing it 50%? Surely that takes an enormous amount of time?

over 5 years ago

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Horst Joepen, CEO at Searchmetrics

@Agam: Check it out yourself - unfortunately AGOF rankings and reports are only in German: http://bit.ly/huqwqt - you will find noows.de on rank 28 in the 2nd table of the article.

over 5 years ago

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whoisbid

Amazing to see that Europeans are here!

over 5 years ago

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Jon Leon

We actually looked into creating a Google news site and fresh content is crucial, but not just fresh, incredibly regular too.

We were advised that at least 3 unique stories should be published every day.

I like the tip about writing a short summary first and then padding out the story later!

about 4 years ago

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Cavanaugh

This info is priceless. Where can I find out more?

almost 4 years ago

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