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.