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Google Top Stories SEO: How to Rank in Google News in 2021

Google Top Stories SEO_ How to Rank in Google News in 2021

Aggregated news outlet platforms are a preferred information source for a majority of online users because they are convenient and save time. People have access to syndicated content from various publishers and can list their interests, choose preferred publications, follow stories, and obtain personalized news briefings.

Google News is one of the most popular solutions and ranking there is an attractive opportunity for publishers to reach new audiences, boost traffic to their websites, and increase engagement.

However, the company is constantly changing and updating the rules that website owners should follow to have their content appear and rank in Google News and the platform’s other related surfaces.

In this article, we provide actionable advice on how to rank in Google News and improve your Google Top Stories SEO, according to the latest 2021 updates. Read on to find out!

Why Ranking Among Google News and Top Stories Is Important

Some call Google News the front page of the internet, and they might as well be right. People choose the Google News app or news.google.com as their preferred news source not only because of the popularity of the brand but because it makes it easier to see a story from different perspectives.

However, even people who don’t explicitly want to use the service may be exposed to it through the News tab in Search. As a result, a majority of internet users – willingly or otherwise – are granted access to the content Google features in News.

Why Ranking Among Google News and Top Stories Is Important

For publishers, this means that uploading RSS feeds, content URLs, and videos to Google News may grant them access to the largest conceivable audience. All they have to do in order to rank is cover interesting topics, provide quality journalism, and live up to Google’s user experience standards.

Furthermore, following a recent update, not only publishers but all websites that have a news section are eligible to appear in News. For example, an industry blog that publishes updates and stories about current events may also appear to users with relevant interests.

What consolidates Google News’s advantage over other content syndication platforms, is that it benefits from the company’s advanced AI and search engine bots that already crawl and index the internet. Google knows both the user’s search interests and habits, and the publisher’s content, and leverages this information to improve the performance of their platform.

How to Rank in Google News

First off, your content may appear on Google News even if you don’t have a registration and haven’t taken any additional steps other than uploading it to your website. All pages that are published under a news tag or in the news section of a website are eligible to appear in News and Top Stories.

The other requirement is that the pages have to be crawled and indexed by Google. If the bots identify the content as newsworthy, they may decide to show it in relevant sections of the platform.

However, there’s no need to leave things to chance, especially if you want to ensure a solid presence in News, build an audience, and increase traffic to your website.

Benefits of Google News for Registered Publishers

Benefits of Google News for Registered Publishers:

  • Monetization
  • Subscriptions
  • Paywalls
  • Branding
  • Better Visibility

Publishers that sign up enjoy a few added benefits, such as:

  • Monetization. Being able to monetize their content through in-platform ads.
  • Subscriptions. Enabling users to subscribe to their channel.
  • Paywalls. Creating paywalls for their content and deciding how to apply them.
  • Branding. Personalizing their page and content for improved brand recognition.
  • Visibility. Describing the nature of their content to make it more discoverable.

Website owners can apply to be featured in News and add their publications there through the Publisher Center. To be able to do so, they should first create an account for their organization.

Next, they have to add the publication they want to be featured and verify that they are the owner of the website or have legitimate access to it. An organization can apply with more than one publication and enlist them as separate brands.

Once the ownership of the website/s is confirmed, the company can submit its application for approval.

When the publication is approved, the owner can set up its profile and edit the way content appears to users by adding a logo, fonts, and uploading brand images. In addition, the organization can create user accounts with different levels of authorization.

The next step is to upload and curate your content, and set up a paywall if you need one.

How to Get Traffic from Google News

Being prominent on Google News is great for SEO – it may give your brand an authority boost, and increase your website traffic and popularity. However, first, you should make sure that you cover all of Google’s technical and quality requirements.

Part of the company’s marketing message, which promotes the service is:

“[…]our primary means to connect you with the most useful articles is to rely on our news algorithms, which look at factors such as the relevance and freshness of the content, as well as the expertise of the source, to determine the articles you see. Each of these factors is weighed alongside the others and would not be the sole reason for showing an article.“

For optimal performance, publishers should take into account all the factors at play and make sure that their content delivers.

Here’s what to focus on:

1. Work on Your E-A-T Status

According to Google’s content quality evaluation guidelines, the news is a Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topic. This means that it’s essential that your publication shows expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) and that your content brings exceptional value to the reader.

Here’s how publishers can live up to Google’s EAT standards:

  • Expertise. Deliver quality content created by experts in the field. Facts have to be backed by statistics, official sources, and legitimate quotes.
  • Authoritativeness. Maintain a spotless online reputation as a reliable information outlet that delivers credible information.
  • Trustworthiness. Provide contact details and accurate information about who’s behind your publication, including content creators, editors, and sponsors.

However, while it may seem tough for smaller publishers to compete against established brands with high authority, it’s not impossible. If your website complies with both the EAT regulations and the specific News requirements that follow, you have a fair chance at ranking.

2. Comply with Google’s News Policy

To have their content displayed in News and Tops Stories, publishers should also comply with Google’s News Policy. The articles and videos they upload have to strictly avoid high-risk topics, spreading misleading information, promoting hate speech and profanity, violence, and so forth.

Those regulations, generally, apply to all content that shows up in Google’s services. However, as mentioned, the news is a YMYL topic, so the filter is applied here with more diligence.

In addition, publishers should clearly disclose if the content contains any promotional, advertising, sponsorship, or affiliate goals.

3. Publish on Fresh or Trending Topics

One of the key differences between ranking in News and Google Discover is that News focuses only on new content, as opposed to showing older relevant pages as well. What ranks here is fresh, up-to-date information on topics the user is interested in.

Therefore, publishers that are quick to cover breaking news in real-time and offer timely insights into current events have better chances of making it to the Headlines section and the user’s personal briefing.

Google Discover Headlines

4. Create Original Content

Google states that one of the main goals of News is to promote and support original and independent journalism and expose its users to different points of view.

That’s another benefit for small-scale and niche publications that offer a different perspective on current events and strive to provide value to the reader. Building a reputation as a respected and truthful source of information may boost your Google News authority and presence, and vice versa.

5. Add Dates and Bylines

News videos and articles are not evergreen content and their time-relevancy is important both for Google and the reader. Time-stamping your articles will make them more eligible to appear in News and Top Stories.

In addition, make sure to include bylines with accurate information. News topics are sensitive information and people should know who created the content.

Furthermore, for better transparency, consider publishing author profiles, including the journalist’s bio, credentials, and area of expertise. This will make your publication more trustworthy.

6. Use Permanent URLs

To ensure the visibility of your content, you should use permanent URLs and take precautions when implementing website migrations. Changes in the links may confuse the algorithm and it may stop showing your content.

In addition, when registering your account, make sure to apply with the domain where all your content will originate from. For example, if you intend to publish articles from different sections of your website, you should add your main domain, “domainname.com“, as the registered property. Or, if you are only publishing news in a dedicated section of your website, such as “news.domainname.com, that should be the one you use.

You can Google’s detailed information on how to proceed with domains, migrations, and URLs here, here, and here.

7. Set Up Description and Category

When setting up your publication, make sure to write a description that is representative and categorizes your publication properly.

Accurate information optimized with the relevant keywords may make it easier for bots to understand what your topics are about. This will increase the chance that the algorithm shows your content to people who are the most likely to click on them.

In addition, it may make it easier for readers with relevant interests to find your articles and videos.

8. Add a Google News Sitemap

According to Google, creating a Google News sitemap may help publishers significantly improve their content’s performance.

“To help our crawler find the correct content from your site, follow our tips for sitemaps and News sitemaps. This will maximize your chances of having your content discoverable in Google News.”

9. Monitor Analytics

Using Google Analytics, publishers can track traffic to their pages and measure Google News’s performance. The HTTP referrals they should be looking for are “news.google.com” and “news.url.google.com”.

In addition, at the beginning of 2021, Google launched the Google News performance report in the Search Console. There, website owners can monitor what content appears in News and how well people respond to it, including impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and so on.

If an article or video performs poorly, you can investigate why and implement adjustments. Or, of course, content that is bringing in a lot of traffic could give you an idea of what you are doing right and what tactics deliver the desired results with your audience.

10. Create Labels

Publishers can add labels to their domain, website sections, or individual URLs to help bots understand and classify the content better. This can be done in the Publisher Center dashboard or via metatags.

The labels relevant in News and Top Stories are opinion, satire, user-generated, press-release, blog, etc.

However, you should only markup your articles and videos with accurate labels that match the content. If the bots decide that the content doesn’t respond to the category you choose, they may label it otherwise or show no markup whatsoever.

Google News and Google Top Stories SEO Tips

Content in Top Stories and the News bar of Search is automatically selected by Google’s algorithms. This means that it is not handpicked by an editor based on their preferences or submitted by publishers and approved.

Therefore, to improve their Google Top Stories SEO, publishers should make sure that their content matches the algorithm’s requirements.

3 Actionable Tips for Google Top Stories SEO

3 Actionable Tips for Google Top Stories SEO

  • Create High-Quality Content
  • Improve Core Web Vitals
  • Optimize for NLP

Here are the top 3 actionable steps you can take in this direction:

  • Create High-Quality Content. High-quality content provides a great user experience – i.e. people interact with it more, stay on the page longer, click on links, etc. And this makes the page more likely to be shown in Top Stories.

The algorithm selects the most relevant articles and videos that have higher engagement and address trending topics. Based on these signals, it decides whether to show them in Top Stories and the News Carousel in Search or not.

  • Improve Core Web Vitals. According to Google, core web vitals (CWV) are a high-priority factor when it comes to ranking in News and especially in Top Stories.

One of the goals of CWV is to set a standard that helps the Search’s ranking algorithm to choose between similar pages depending on how fast they load, how responsive they are, and how stable the content is while the page is loading.

The Top Stories algorithm relies on the same principle and prioritizes pages that hit the performance benchmarks.

  • Optimize for NLP. Google’s bots use natural language processing (NLP) to understand what the content they crawl is about, how to process it, and finally, how to classify it. If the text is confusing, not structured well, or badly written they may misinterpret the information or give up on figuring it out.

Publishers should optimize their texts for NLP, in order to make sure that the algorithm properly understands the topic, relevancy, and quality of their content. Otherwise, their articles and videos may meet all other standards but still fail to make it into Top News.

Bottom Line

Google News is a great way for businesses and digital publishers to reach new audiences and bring traffic to their websites. However, as the platform constantly evolves, there are constantly new technical and content rules that publishers have to comply with.

Nevertheless, what remains unchanged, is that high-quality independent journalism and interesting topics that are relevant and meet the top ranking priority factors for News make it into Top Stories. Combined with some technical SEO improvements and a spotless online reputation, these create the recipe for Google News success.

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