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Google News and SEO practices

Conflicting priorities

Many people regularly use Google News to access information about current affairs from a myriad of different angles. Meanwhile, many publications and businesses ask that their news stories are included – but a large proportion of these submissions end in rejection.

Like Google’s mainstream search, Google News has evolved to stay one step ahead of the so-called 'black hat' purveyors of search engine optimisation (SEO) – avoiding tricks such as keyword-heavy content that has little or no value to readers, despite being styled as news. However, in its stringency, Google News has become notoriously difficult for genuine news providers and well-behaved SEO practitioners to penetrate.

This is frustrating for those working hard to meet the Google News quality guidelines without success, especially as the platform features websites of poorer quality which were accepted before the tightening of its criteria.

What do readers like about Google News, anyway?

Google News turns traditional media consumption on its head by being topic-led rather than publication-led, which is useful when seeking a balanced perspective of the day's top stories. It was devised by Dr Krishna Bharat following extensive news coverage of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, to view headlines from numerous sources simultaneously and thereby make common points easily discernable.

People still turn to particular publications for specific features or writers, but Google News gives a quick overview of everything else – and sometimes alerts people to the kind of article they wouldn't usually go looking for. It is disheartening, however, to search for a news topic and be served with contrived, shallow content ruled by self-promoting organisations. This is exactly what Google News's application process seeks to shun.

And from an SEO perspective?

It’s no secret that Google is the world's most popular website, with 153.4m monthly visitors and a 91.28% search engine market share in the UK (Nielsen, December 2011; Experian Hitwise, January 2012). Visibility in its search results is indisputably vital to the success of websites and therefore the fortunes of many organisations.

Okay, so that's Google as a whole, not the News element. But any regular visitor will know that results for its subsections – which also include Images, Videos and Maps – often appear at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Each subsection also has a large and dedicated number of direct users. Finally, the technical SEO benefits of links from Google News are significant and can boost a website's rankings.

Being rejected by Google News

Google is open about what it wants to see when assessing Google News submissions, but less so when it comes to reasons for rejecting them. Several businesses have taken to forums to express their dismay at having carefully considered these requirements, only to be refused with a vague answer.

In October 2011, the staff of US horror film news website Terrorflicks posted on Google’s help pages: "We are very frustrated as to what we're doing that would get us denied. We work very hard to produce high quality news and we limit our ads. We do not copy content and we make sure we edit every article. We have around 10-15 writers, a developer and two editors. Our success depends on getting into Google News. If we can't get in then we might as well shut down the site."

How DO you get into Google News?

As evidenced by the former point, Google's guidelines do not provide a perfect formula. Interpretations of 'quality' and 'unique content' differ wildly; and some businesses simply may not realise how obvious their promotional content is.

Search guru website SEOMoz offers some additional Google News submission tips, which go into detail about topical content and commentary on stories. You can't guarantee inclusion, but you can give yourself the best chance by behaving like a quality news source – making your content current, frequent, relevant, dynamic and truly appealing.

So, there you have it: If you want a spot in Google News, think about it from the reader’s point of view – and don’t take shortcuts. If you fear your output has the distinct air of Google 'bait' about it, instead of featuring real stories, Google’s selecting editors will probably think so too.

Liane Baddeley

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