Editor’s note: This post was updated on February 2nd, 2020 to highlight this note from Google.
“Publishers no longer need to submit their site to be eligible for the Google News app and website. Publishers are automatically considered for Top stories or the News tab of Search. They just need to produce high-quality content and comply with Google News content policies.”
A word of caution, however – Google makes the decision to include you based on an algorithmic evaluation, which means that there are NO humans at Google you can talk to and who could troubleshoot why you are not included. The best you can do is follow their requirements and best practices closely.
So without further ado:
Here are the requirements and best practices for getting into Google News:
At a high level, it takes the following to be indexed and ranked in Google news. All of these items are based on Google’s guidelines and industry research.
This is what Google says:
Ranking in Google News is determined based on a number of factors, including:
- freshness of content (content posted in the last 24 hours)
- diversity of content
- rich textual content
- originality of content
- User preferences for topics or publishers: learn more about how Google News stories are selected and how to see stories you want on Google News.
Additionally, we know that these factors are also critical for high Google News ranking:
- Meeting Google’s quality content guidelines, and news sites are considered Your Money or Your Life pages, so the bar for content quality is higher and includes transparent and robust information about the authors of each news article.
- A fast loading, mobile usability site.
- Clean XML news sitemap files that have unique, permanent article URLs that can be extracted by Google newsbot.
- News schema markup and relevant subscription markup on your pages.
- Accurate on page <title>, <h1> and <alt> tag markup.
- Inbound links.
- Social shares.
- Links out to other reputable sites.
- On page engagement and click through rate from SERPs.
Search Metric’s Media Ranking Factors study is the most recent industry study on Google news ranking factors highlights the following factors that impact ranking:
There are a few technical elements that you need to make sure are set up properly as well, including:
Your news article URLs:
- They need to permanent, unique URLs that you are not recycling or republishing at a later date. Here’s more from Google’s help files.
- Each URL in your news sitemap file needs to have content that is long enough and quality enough to be included in Google news.
You should create a News XML Sitemap file.
The Google News XML sitemap format is different than your regular sitemap. Here’s an example of that format:
Here are some other things to keep in mind:
- The sitemap needs to be less than 1,000 URLs
- Should only include URLs for articles published in the last 2 days.
- And it should update with fresh articles as they’re published.
Submitting to your articles to Google
Google now has 2 ways to submit your content for inclusion in Google News. You can sign up and license your content to Google News through the Google News Producer tool.
You can also submit your website for inclusion through the Google News Publisher Center. Even if you don’t do either, they might find your news content via a regular web crawl, especially if you have submitted that news formatted XML sitemap to Google via your Google Search Console account.
More about the new Google News Producer Tool
There seem to be quite a few benefits of signing up for this new tool. First of all, it gives you WAY more options to manipulate how your content appears in Google news searches and the Google Play Newsstand Android and IOs apps.
Note that you can set your logo and logo colors as well as contact information.
Also, you get additional analytics out of the box when you associate your Google Analytics account including automatic tracking of the following user actions:
- Reading an article
- Viewing an ad
- Bookmarking an article
- Viewing an edition’s section
- Interacting with content on common screens (e.g. Read now, Search, and Explore)
Again, a ton more options – associating an RSS feed, your social handles, your news photos, etc. You can also associate the font families that you use:
It also allows you to control the distribution with other Google products is also new, as is the ability to set your language and target language.
And there are new troubleshooting features that you don’t have in the old Google News interface, as News Producer allows you to troubleshoot your content directly in the Google Play Newsstand apps.
You have the ability to manage your on-site ads within this interface as well.
Only give Google-News bot access to your news articles via crawls
Google wants to ensure that Googlebot-Newscan only crawls news content – both on your site and via your sitemap file. You want to make sure that you only block Googlebot-News crawling of your non-news content, not the non-news Googlebot crawler. More about how to execute that here.
Block Googlebot-News crawling to any pages that are not news
You can either do this via your robots.txt file (if all of the content is in a particular folder), or you can add a meta tag to all non-news pages with the following formats:
Here are some common meta tags you can add to your HTML pages:
To prevent specific articles on your site from appearing in Google News, block access to Googlebot-News using the following meta tag: <meta name=”Googlebot-News” content=”noindex, nofollow”>
To prevent specific articles on your site from appearing in Google News and Google Search, block access to Googlebot using the following meta tag: <meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex, nofollow”>
To prevent specific articles on your site from being crawled by all robots, use the following meta tag: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”>
To prevent robots from crawling images on a specific article, use the following meta tag: <meta name=”robots” content=”noimageindex”>
To inform us that an article should be removed from the Google index at a certain time, use the following meta tag:
<meta name=”googlebot” content=”unavailable_after: 25-Aug-2011 15:00:00 EST”>
Specify the time and date in RFC 850 format. This meta tag is treated as a removal request. It takes about a day after the removal date passes for the page to disappear from the search results. However, for the tag to function properly, it must be included with your article when it’s first crawled.
Make sure you have fast loading article pages
Google uses your sitemap file to discover new URLs to add to its crawling quota and then ultimately it’s the index. You need to make sure that your pages load quickly enough so that Google Mobilebot can discover the URLs. You can check your mobile page speed with on the Think with Google site, using Chrome’s LightHouse audit tool, via your Google Analytics page speed timing report, or by running the site/page through GTMetrix.com.
Use Structured Data Markup
Make sure that your news articles use the news article markup.
Proper structured data in your news, blog, and sports article page can enhance your appearance in Google Search results. Enhanced features include entry in a top stories carousel and rich result features such as headline text and larger-than-thumbnail images.
(Google’s implementation instructions are here.)
Here’s what the articles would look like with the markup:
Check to see if your competitors are using AMP
This is where you should check to see if you’re still ranking, but not being rewarded with top rankings based on your competitor activity.
Are you competitors using AMP and being included in the news carousel and you are not? Are your competitors using other types of structured data markup that is giving them an advantage? You can check by using Google’s Structured Data testing tool.
Not in Google News (and you feel like you meet the above criteria)?
Here are some things you can check:
1. Have you checked whether your content quality meets the content quality for Google News guidelines?
Here’s more about that issue from Google’s help files:
According to our analysis, having many low-value-add URLs can negatively affect a site’s crawling and indexing. We found that the low-value-add URLs fall into these categories, in order of significance:
- Faceted navigation and session identifiers
- On-site duplicate content
- Soft error pages
- Hacked pages
- Infinite spaces and proxies
- Low quality and spam content
Google goes on to finish by stating:
Wasting server resources on pages like these will drain crawl activity from pages that do actually have value, which may cause a significant delay in discovering great content on a site.
2. Do you have aggressive server errors?
Server errors can also cause a problem on larger sites:
Again, more from Google:
“If the site responds really quickly for a while, the limit goes up, meaning more connections can be used to crawl. If the site slows down or responds with server errors, the limit goes down and Googlebot crawls less. Even if the crawl rate limit isn’t reached, if there’s no demand from indexing, there will be low activity from Googlebot.”
3. What if you are in the Google News Publisher network, but can no longer find your articles in Google News?
Here are the things that you should check:
- Log into your account and check to make sure that Google is not having issues with your news XML sitemap file.
- Check to make sure Google News-bot can extract your articles by using the troubleshooting tool within your Google News Publisher account.
Here is a sampling of the type of errors you might see:
Article disproportionately short
Here’s more from Google about the specific crawl errors:
3. Does your site have mobile usability issues?
The site currently has mobile usability issues and considering that mobile usability is a larger ranking factor for news sites (see Google’s announcement here), this area is impacting indexing and ranking for mobile search queries:
4. Are your bio pages for your authors too thin?
Google has somewhat recently added News articles that are now considered Your Money or Your Life pages as you can see from their latest Google Human Rater Guidelines. This means that there is a higher bar for what it expects on your bio pages, and depending on what type of news site you are, perhaps Google expects even more information about the expertise and authoritativeness of your authors.
Here’s a strong example of a good bio page:
And here’s more from Google’s guidelines about what they are looking for:
Users tell us they value news sites with author biographies and clearly accessible contact information, such as email and physical addresses, and phone numbers.
Here’s more from a Google News Help forum answer:
Does the person or organization has sufficient expertise in the topic? If expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness is lacking, experts use the Low rating to your site.
In news, you need to specify an author attribution. The author is an always human (an individual reporter), not a company name or website. (You need to) create a separate profile page for authors. Specify the author’s name, a photo, a biography, his/her office address and phone number, Email…. On each article (news), you include a byline with the author’s full name and an author short bio below with a faceshot.
If there is no author bio, thus no indication the author is a professional journalist or an expert in the field. On (the about) page (Contact), you need to specify company name, office address, office phone number, office E-mail, business time, editor’s name.
5. Did you recently move to HTTPs?
Did you set up a new account with Google News for your HTTPs version of the website? If not you will see an error when Google crawls your https sitemaps like this:
Here are Google’s news publisher recommendations for when you change your domain (or move to HTTPS):
When you plan to change your domain name, let us know Changing your site’s domain without notifying us may cause your site to be dropped from our news index. In order to give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding an interruption in crawling, please follow these steps:
After the switch is completed, submit the URL of your new site. Depending on the nature of your website change, our team will give you next steps. For certain types of changes, we change your site URL immediately. For others, we must review your site for quality purposes. After the change is made, you can verify that articles from your new domain are included. After verifying ownership for your new domain, update our record of your section URLs and associated labels within the Google News Publisher Center. If you’re using a Google News Sitemap (recommended) create your news sitemap with your new domain, and resubmit it in Search Console.
6. Did you update your sitemap file in Google News to HTTPS?
Is your old sitemap file still valid? Did you add your new https sitemap file to your new HTTPS Google News Publisher account?
Your new HTTPs news sitemap file can generate errors if the name in the sitemap file and they are not registered in your Google News Publisher account. Here’s what that error looks like:
Additionally, here are Google’s recommendations around how the sitemap file needs to match the domain:
The protocol you use in your sitemap should match the protocol of your site URL in the Publisher Center (e.g., if the URLs in your sitemap start with https://, the URL listed in the Publisher Center should also start with https://). If you need to change the protocol of your site URL to make it consistent with your sitemap, contact us.
7. Are you handing your subscription-based content in a Google-friendly way?
Here are Google’s recommendations about how to handle subscription sites properly.
Sites with paywalls are strongly encouraged to apply the new structured data to their pages, because without it, the paywall may be interpreted as a form of cloaking, and the pages would then be removed from search results.
There are only two options Google recommends for handling subscription content: daily metering or lead-in.
We recommend that publishers start by providing 10 free clicks per month to Google search users in order to preserve a good user experience for new potential subscribers. Publishers should then experiment to optimize the tradeoff between discovery and conversion that works best for their businesses.
Lead-in is generally implemented as truncated content, such as the first few sentences or 50-100 words of the article. Lead-in allows users a taste of how valuable the content may be. Compared to a page with completely blocked content, lead-in clearly provides more utility and added value to users.
To indicate that you are either providing metered or lead-in content you need to adjust the schema markup on the page.
Here’s an example of the proper markup to use for subscription content: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool and here’s the developer resources for implementing the proper code.
Note that Google has also rolled out Subscribe with Google which is currently in beta with a few first-mover publishers, expect that the functionality will be available to more publishers in the future.
Need help diagnosing your Google news ranking issues?
Drop us a line and we can take a look, or you can join to be a member of our Free Content Library and download our cheat sheet that outlines all of the requirements.