How to Make Search Engines Love Your News Site

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How to Make Search Engines Love Your News Site

If your website is all about news, there’s quite a lot that can be done to optimize your news site for search engines (and your users in the process). In this post, I’ll address a number of things you need to consider for your news website.

First of all, if you have a construction business and a news section on your website, that isn’t a news website. It will be a lot harder to get into Google News and your news might not be indexed as quickly as news on a website that is focused on news alone, like the Huffington Post or The Guardian. Google says this about it: “Google News is not a marketing service.” Send your press releases elsewhere.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

This goes for every website, but with the huge amount of people checking news on their mobile devices, you want to make sure this is done right on your news site. AMP’s goal is to show articles instantly on a mobile device, instead of loading the full-blown desktop site or all the fancy things we created in our responsive website. AMP strips all the design and fancy stuff and focuses on delivering the main content ASAP.

There’s a WordPress plugin by Automattic to create Accelerated Mobile Pages. This plugin by PageFrog is a nice extra for that. Be sure to read our latest recaps and definitely read this post Joost did about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for WordPress if you want more information about the subject.

Crawl Speed

You want your news indexed and indexed fast by Google. There are a number of things that can help with this. You obviously optimize site speed, but also make sure that XML sitemaps are available. Note that a news sitemap isn’t like your regular XML sitemap. Google has some guidelines for that:

  • Your news sitemap can only contain news from the last two days (and articles will remain in the news index for 30 days).
  • Update your news sitemap continually with fresh articles as they’re published.
  • The limit for URLs per news sitemap is 1,000 URLs.
  • Don’t create a new sitemap per new article, but rather update your existing sitemap.

More information about Google News sitemaps here.

Crawl speed will also be improved if you consistently post new articles on your news website. If Googlebot finds new stuff on your website with every crawl, it’ll come to your website more often. This also means you need to have a solid hosting server, so your website is up every time Googlebot visits your site. That very Googlebot might actually cause downtime, in case it visits your site too often and your server is crappy. Read more about fixing this here.

One more thing. If you serve excessive, unneeded content to that Googlebot, it’ll waste valuable crawl budget on less valuable pages. Optimize site structure, be sure to block unwanted pages via robots.txt or robots meta, and obviously avoid duplicate content at all times.

Site Structure of Your News Site

We’ve done a post on site structure for blogs that works pretty similar for news websites. In your news website, you’ll have articles on one side, and taxonomies like categories and tags on the other. Be aware of that second structure, as it might be more important than your articles that come and go. Optimize these taxonomy pages to your very best effort with these steps:

  1. Evaluate your categories
  2. Add sub-categories and tags
  3. Add pagination
  4. And again: Get rid of outdated content

Standout and News_keyword Tags

There are a few extra tags you can add to your news articles that will help you get indexed properly by Google: the standout tag and the news_keywords tag.

Standout Tag

The standout tag can be used to highlight your original reporting. It’s for news that you, as a news organization, have created yourself. This might lead to Google listing it as “featured” in the news results.

News_keywords Tag

We said goodbye to meta keywords a while back, but Google is still using a variation of that tag: meta news_keywords. Just for Google News, by the way. It’s not something magic that’ll make you rank better, but helps Google News to determine what your article is about. No use using this tag when you’re not in Google News already.

Update Your Article as News Comes In

You want to publish news as soon as you find it. Be sure to do so, and update your article during the day to make sure you’re bringing the right, current news. You don’t need to add a new article per update – please don’t. Google News wants you to keep a permanent link for your news article. What you should do, is update the title of your article, as that will tell Google your article is updated.

This will allow you to grow for instance a news article about an event during the event itself, so you’ll always have the latest news in the article that is already in Google News by then.

Let’s Ask the Expert

I asked Martijn Schreijbeler, Director of Marketing at The Next Web, what he considered the most important thing when it comes to running a decent news website. This is what he told me:

You ever wondered what makes SEO different for publishers than it is to, for example e-commerce stores? We have the same issues as they have, increasing search traffic, making sure pages don’t have duplicate content. Although our lives are a little bit easier as we don’t have to worry about content marketing with a 15-people strong editorial team.

In our case, we have to worry even more about the speed of our users with new supporting technologies coming up, like Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News which all have their ways to support content on another platform.

These are interesting times. I totally agree that it’s not just speed or structure that matters. You should always be aware that your audience uses a wide variety of apps, on multiple devices, to read your news. Martijn already mentioned a number of these, but what about Flipboard, smartwatches, and Nuzzel. You have decisions to make. Do you want to serve the full article on all these apps and devices, or would you rather have people click to your website?

Do you have sufficient social reach to leverage the ever-growing number of apps that recommend news based on your social followers and influencers? You just have to keep up with developments and find out what your target audience wants you to optimize for.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re running a news website and want to use Google News to the fullest. In this article we’ve told you about AMP, crawl speed, updating your titles, site structure, and our News SEO plugin.

Technological developments go fast. I am sure as soon as we all fix AMP for our websites, something new will come along. It pushes us to think about our websites and news sites in particular, as (speaking for myself) these are the sites we visit most on mobile devices.

I hope this article will give something to think about, something to work with. As always, I am eager to learn from your own experiences.

 

This post originally appeared on Yoast, and is re-published with permission.

Featured Image: Image by Yoast. Used with permission.

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Michiel Heijmans

Michiel Heijmans

Michiel is a senior online marketing consultant at Yoast. He was one of the first bloggers in the Netherlands and co-founded one of the first... Read Full Bio
Michiel Heijmans
Michiel Heijmans
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