For many publishers, Google News is an important source of traffic. This is particularly true for publishers involved in the business of distributing news.

As a result, it’s no surprise that a Google SEO strategy for some publishers focuses heavily on Google News.

For those publishers, a new tag introduced by Google to help publishers surface their best content will be of interest.

This weekend, Google invited publishers to indicate which of their content is the crème de la crème of their work using a new ‘standout‘ tag.

The tag, which is structured like , is to be placed between the tags of pages.

To promote healthy and not abuse usage, Google is asking publishers to use the tag to cite their own content no more than seven times in any given week.

According to the post on the Google News Blog announcing the tag, “If a site exceeds that limit, it may find that its tags are less recognized, or ignored altogether.

Google, however, is hoping that the tag becomes more than just a tool for self-promotion. The search giant’s David Mydra and Justin Kosslyn explained that the tag is not just a tool for self-promotion:

Standout Content tags work best when news publishers recognize not just their own quality content, but also the original journalistic contributions of others when your stories draw from the standout efforts of other publications. Linking out to other sites is well recognized as a best practice on the web, and we believe that citing others’ standout content is important for earning trust as you also promote your own standout work.

According to Mydra and Kosslyn, there is no limit to the number of ‘standout‘ citations a publisher can provide to external sites.

Needless to say, Google’s new tag is one the latest efforts by Google to have the public and publishers help the company identify the best content on the web.

These efforts are driven by a simple fact: no matter how hard Google’s works to tweak the algorithms that are supposed to separate the wheat from the chaff, meaningful incremental improvements are often easiest obtained with the assistance of real people.

From this perspective, Google News’ ‘standout‘ tag could have a positive impact on the quality of Google News, however it does raise two key questions:

  • How much preferential treatment will Google treat ‘standout‘ tags from certain publishers? It’s unthinkable that a ‘standout‘ tag on nytimes.com, for instance, would be treated the same as a ‘standout‘ tag on a small but reputable blog, but if this assumption is correct, there will obviously be questions about whether the tag really helps standout content or the standout content of large publishers.
  • Will the ‘standout‘ tag promote a new form of SEO circle jerking on Google News in which publishing conglomerates link to their own properties, or the properties of favored partners?