Traditionally, news readers first picked a publication and then looked for headlines that interest them. Google changed that process with its computer-generated Google News site. Google News aggregates headlines from many news sources, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests.
Articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online. Google News also ranks based on certain characteristics of news content such as freshness, location, relevance and diversity. Google’s Maile Ohye further explains how Google News works in this video.
Google News provides 100,000 business opportunities to publishers every minute or 4 billion clicks each month. They also have 50,000 competing publishers and with competition this fierce everything that can give you an edge counts. Here is a list of editorial tactics that journalists can employ to increase traffic from Google News.
Publish informative and unique content – produce strong original content as opposed to repurposing or duplicating stories. Priority is given to articles that are recent, substantial, original and focused on the topic.
Use proper nouns – Google call them “original named entities” and they stand for the name of a person, place or organization. If a news source generates a story that contains a named entity that other articles within the same cluster (i.e. on the same topic) do not contain, this may be an indication that the news source is capable of original reporting.
Publish fast & update – Being early, as well as keeping on top of new developments, can increase chances of ranking high in Google News. Minor article tweaks are encouraged and can be interpreted as a developing story update.
Headlines matter – The headline should be indicative of the story at hand and contain meaningful keywords.
First paragraph – The first paragraph of a news article should convey the who, what, when, where, and why of the story in a few sentences (the more detail you can supply, the better).
Click-throughs – An article with a high click-through rate is seen as more relevant, with every click counting as a vote for the article, and is thus more likely to rank higher (headline, first sentence, authorship, image and video all affect click-through rate).
Use great photos – This is very important and often overlooked. Use large images with good aspect ratios. Include descriptive captions. Place them near the article title. More info here.
Differentiate – Analyze news from a unique angle and differentiate from what everyone else is writing about.
Forecast – News focus shifts. Understand the consequences of the breaking news and how the story will shift in the near future.
Be the brand – Readers don’t come to the bookstore or iTunes to decide between HarperCollins or Random House; they want to read a specific book by a specific author. The book or in many cases the author is the brand readers want. Similarly, news seekers don’t go to Google to search for CNN or BBC. In most cases they seek specific news. So whether you’re writing for a large national news organization or a local newspaper, you should always remember that you’re the brand people come to read, engage with, and follow.
It’s your turn now. Does the guidance above make sense to you? Do you know any other editorial tactics that I missed? Please share your feedback via comments. Thank you.