February 27, 2007

The Ultimate Guide to Google News publishing

by Brian Turner

Google News

If you’re building websites, you’re publishing.

And if you’re publishing websites whose focus is delivering information first, then you’re effectively an online magazine already.

If you’re a website publishing news, you’re effectively an online newspaper.

One of the great opportunities for news publishing is news syndication – it offers exclusive streams of traffic via news aggregation sites, and one of the most powerful of these is Google News.

Although there are a number of other news syndication outlets, this article will focus on leveraging your presence in Google News, while also providing information on other news syndication sites you can utilise.

What you need to get started

First things first – it’s not enough to have your own domain and website.

In general your news source must also be owned/administration by a recognised corporate body. This appears to be a basic quality indicator that Google uses.

Secondly, you need to prove that your company run news site is up to the challenge.

As it’s really easy for news sites to burn out, you should prove that you have a good track record of posting regular news. In that regard, I tend to leave my sites to develop for a minimum of 6 months before even thinking of submitting for Google News syndication, to prove that the site has a track record.

Of course, if you already have a reputation as an editor administrating news sites, you may be able to get syndicated much more quickly.

Technical issues

Okay, so you’re updating regularly and you’ve been accepted for syndication into Google News. That’s definitely not the end of the story.

There are technical issues that can really sink your site, so here’s a few common issues to watch for:

1. Links in titles

Google doesn’t like links in story titles. I’ve found with WordPress especially links in titles must be removed, so I provide a title in a h1 tag and a permalink below. This should work for both the Google News bot and human users.

2. Story length

Google doesn’t like really short or really long stories. You want to look at a minimum of 200 words or Google will treat the story as a fragment and not index it.

The longest story I’ve had in Google News was just over 1,000 words, but I normally wouldn’t push for that length.

Also note that sometimes the Google News bot can have problems indexing stories with user generated comments after the story, or else other significant content on the page. I’ve found publishing a RSS feed of titles and descriptions of forum posts on the same page can cause problems in some templates.

Of course, broken HTML can also generate problems with the newbot failing to index a story because it can’t tell where the story ends, so take take to validate the relevant code where possible.

3. Grammar

Google really does apply language processing tools to news stories, and if it thinks a story is badly structured and appears as fragmented sentences, will not index it.

Of course, Google’s processing is not perfect and sometimes perfectly good stories will fall foul of this, but it’s worth bearing in mind that if you want to be syndicated for news content, that you make the effort to write decent text.

4. Unique number string

Google News is very particular about ensuring that it only spiders unique URLs, to avoid indexing the same story multiple times.

Because of this, Google News requires that you have at least three unique numbers in the URL to identify the URL as unique.

A data time-stamp in the URL is a simple way in which to achieve this, ie:

domain.com/2007/07/13/story-url.html
domain.com/13072007-story-url.html
domain.com/13-07-2007/story-url.html
domain.com/13072007-411.html

UPDATE:

5. Multiple writers

Since June 2007 Google News syndication became a part of iGoogle – Google Universal.

From all accounts, this has made Google syndicated news sites more valuable to develop, with the apparent consequence of the Google News team being flooded with low quality submissions and news aggregators – neither of which they value.

So now Google News will insist on multiple writers being credited with stories for it to be accepted.

This doesn’t simply mean listing your staff writers – it means ensuring that the different writers are clearly credited on the news items they write.

I’ve had a couple of news sites rejected over the latter issue, but once corrected, there were accepted fine.

6. Add contact details

Another change since June 2007 is that Google News wants to see contact information clearly displayed somewhere on the site.

That means listing both a postal address and telephone number, in addition to an email contact address.

A weird consequence of this is that I’ve been receiving tech support calls from a couple of my news sites.

So do make it clear with your contact details that you only provide news, and not support based on the topic you cover – presuming this is the case.

7. Press releases

Another way to make your news site more unique is to openly invite press releases.

There are a number of agencies who actively seek news outlets in their vertical, so make it clear how they can contact you, and what you’re looking for.

Additionally, there are various press release distribution services who can provide press releases which cover detail unlikely to be covered in generic news outlets, but can make for great source content in niche news reporting sites.

Of course, don’t simply copy/paste press releases into your site – it adds no value. Ensure it’s rewritten so that the core story is representation, and justified using the content of the release.

Google News tips

There are ways to maximise your exposure in Google News, often by applying basic principles and basic ideals.

1. Use images

If you can use images in every story, you increase the chance of clickthroughs to your site. Google News often displays a random image next to collected stories, so even if your story isn’t in the first set listed, if your image appears by them, you still have a shot at getting clickthroughs and traffic.

Additionally, if your site is listed in the top stories, either as the lead item or below, it can only help not simply in terms of traffic, but also for branding.

There is a ton of stock photo sites out there, so if you’ve taken time to invest in your news site, why not invest a small amount of cash in copyright-free images you can leverage for extra traffic?

2. Keywords

The basics of SEO applies to news stories. Ensure you have your keywords in your titles and body text.

This isn’t simply about SEO and helping search engines figure out how to relate your story content – you really need to think hard about headline writing.

3. Be unique

Don’t you hate seeing Google News filled with headlines that all look the same? If you’ve already read one of those stories, you’re not going to read the others.

So even if you have to write the same story as everyone else, at least try and make it sound different.

Even better, most stories have multiple angles that are only covered by multiple publications. So if you pay for people to rewrite stories, get them to rewrite multiple stories into a single one.

This is especially important for organic link development – people are much more happy to link to content that reads as unique and different from every other version of the story.

4. Experiment

Think of news traffic as like a bell curve – the start is when the story breaks, the middle is when everyone’s reporting the same story, and the end is when the story is trailing off.

Sometimes it’s much better to be at the front and tail-end of a story. Sure, the traffic is smaller, but it’s much easier to grab a bigger share of that traffic than insist on posting the same story at the same time as everyone else.

If images, luck and authority don’t put your story link prominently on Google News during the heavy traffic period, you have zero traffic share from a lot. At the front and the end of the bell curve you can grab larger share from less traffic which can still bring in significant numbers.

In fact, one of the biggest attention grabbing stories I ever published was done a day after everyone else. However, instead of reporting the same story as everyone else, it was unique and different – but because people were looking for the previous day’s story and saw something different it didn’t simply capture the end of the bell curve – it generated it’s own as people discussed it.

Examples of Tips at Work

Okay, so I gave some tips – let’s see them in action.

Example 1: Here’s an example of how image and keywords can help dominate a news item. Look at the below – it communications strong branding for Platinax by having both the image and the headline as top of the related stories:

Google News 1

Example 2: Here’s where images really come into their own. For a keyword search on Google News for Microsoft, competition is tough. But even if you can’t make it to the front of the related items section, images can still leverage traffic:

Google News 2

Example 3: Timing can be everything. In this example, Platinax runs top on a search for “Apple TV” despite more authoritative news sources also covering the story. The difference is, the Platinax story was posted at the end of the reporting bell curve, and so makes it easier to achieve visibility. It also makes Platinax look more authorative itself:

Google News 3

Google News and Webmaster Tools

One of the little mentioned aspects of Google News publishing is that if you sign up with Google’s Webmaster Tools, you get a new set of sections covering the news aspect of the site – crawl errors, stats, etc.

Google News 4

This is really helpful because this is where you can be alerted to potential crawl issues – articles too short, fragmented, or too long.

Recently one of my other news sites stopped being indexed by Google News – the news stories posted were not being syndicated. A check up in Webmaster Tools showed Google found the article too long.

A little debugging later and a small XHTML error introduced in a recent template modification for the site meant Google couldn’t tell when the news item finished, so was aborting the crawl. A little validation check soon corrected that, but it was great that Webmaster Tools could alert to potential issues in the first place.

There’s also a News section under the statistics tab, which provides further information on what has been crawled in the last hour, day, week, or month.

Google News 4

Again, this is really useful – if there’s a problem with your stories not being picked up, you can quickly try to work out issues by setting up test posts and seeing if latest crawls are still having problems.

ADDEDNDUM: Google News will only spider those URLs which have been manually accepted into their crawling database. Something to consider if you move your news source to a different domain, as Google’s Newsbot will not follow redirects to the new content.

Overall

If you’re publishing websites and those websites have news sections, then you need to look seriously at regarding yourself as a news publisher.

In this regard, Google News provides a very powerful way to tap into exclusive traffic channels and help get your content in front of your targeted audience much more easily.

By applying a few simple tactics – applying images and timing your stories – you can also try and find a way to leverage your own website user experience to better leverage a presence on Google News.

Discuss this in the Internet Business forums

Story link: The Ultimate Guide to Google News publishing

 

Leave a Reply




 

Previous: «
Next: »

Visited 11872 times, 1 so far today

Posted in: Marketing