Google News, indie publishers patiently track each other’s learning curves

By Sally Duros

While Google News evolves and learns more about the emerging local news ecosystem, indie publishers might improve search results by revisiting Google’s technical guidelines for News Publishers.

Among the most important are establishing a news sitemap, paying attention to Google technical requirements and understanding the behavior of Google robots. Also make sure that your webmaster has made your site Google friendly.

“So far, Google News has indexed about 35 sites that I pointed them to and I continue to identify sites for them,” said Michele Mclellan, who manages the BlockbyBlock initiative. “Google News is working hard to deepen its understanding of the crazy, ever changing news ecosystem and I feel very gratified that BlockbyBlock and The Patterson Foundation are helping.”

A site’s visibility should improve if you persist with machine-like concentration, evaluating and implementing step-by-step the advice provided by Google. Of course, if you have a webmaster, following these specs should be on his or her to-do list.

You first must register your site with Google News. Then make sure you are using a news sitemap, for which Google provides very specific instructions. Reading through Google’s  Technical Requirements will help you avoid some common misconceptions and reading about Robots will help you understand whether you might be unwittingly doing something to keep Google’s crawlers away.  Google offers tips on creating a Google-friendly site at the Webmaster Help Center.

Google’s links address just about every problem the Googlers could think of,  but then every site owner has encountered mysteries that can’t be easily explained. In that case, you can join a conversation about common problems on a special Google news publisher forum.

Something that sounds promising is the Editors’ Picks RSS feeds, which allows a news site to provide five links to original news in a bid to have it displayed on the  Google News homepage. Google has very specific specs for these submissions if you decide to give them a try.

One thing that could make a difference that Google hasn’t implemented yet is tagging by zip code. But Google is quick to point out there’s an easy way for users to request news from a zip code and personalize their use of Google News using Google reader.

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Ruffin Prevost, Editor at Yellowstone Gate, weighed in on the BlockbyBlock Resource Page with his experience getting listed with Google News.

“(The week of March 2) two skiers died in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park. I covered the story for my own site, Yellowstone Gate, as well as for Reuters. If you search Google News March 8 for “Grand Teton avalanche,” the most recently posted story comes up first, then my piece for Yellowstone Gate appears, next to a “local” tag. The links below that story are from Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and other sources, and they’re all versions of the Reuters wire story I also wrote.

“So I’m actually beating MYSELF as a local reporter for my own web site, coming up earlier in the search results (with a thumbnail image) ahead of national media giants using my Reuters piece. It may sound like I’m bragging (maybe just a little), but I’m really just trying to show that Google News gives a preference for local sources on big stories.”

Here’s an image provided by Prevost of how Google News looked that day.

Sally Duros is a social journalist working toward the next generation of successful, credible online newsrooms. Connect with her on  and on twitter at saduros.


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2 Responses to Google News, indie publishers patiently track each other’s learning curves

  1. Sally Duros says:

    Hi Ruffin — Thank you for your detailed comments. It’s good to hear that Michele’s efforts with Google News are paying off and that it is making a difference in bringing Yellowstone Gate additional traffic and a faster feed into the news stream. Thanks also for mentioning Yoast. It is an excellent plug-in that demystifies and channels SEO.

  2. I got a call from Sally earlier this week about Google News, but was in Yellowstone Park and couldn’t get back to her in time. So here are my belated thoughts on Google News.

    Thanks to help from Michele Mclellan, my site, Yellowstone Gate, got listed early this year by Google News. I had tried to submit my site last year using their web-based forms, but it was rejected for a number of arcane reasons. Michele has been helping the folks at Google News better understand the role and importance of independent community news sites, and to their credit, it looks like they’ve been responding favorably.

    Being listed in the Google News feeds has funneled lots of additional traffic to my site that I otherwise never would have gotten. It’s also much faster than straight web search indexing — your stories can (and will) show up in Google News (and web searches that find it via Google News) within minutes of posting. For me, this is a big advantage, because I’m often able to get a breaking story online and in the news feed minutes or hours before the big national outlets. It helps me exploit my “homefield advantage” over the giant corporate media players.

    Sally is 100 percent on-the-nose when she says that you have to “persist with machine-like concentration, evaluating and implementing step-by-step the advice provided by Google.” Following all the rules for how you format and submit your material is key to getting your site to play well with Google’s news algorithms. The process is highly automated, and Google understandably requires you to make your content fit their “machine,” rather than customizing their crawlers to work on your site.

    I publish with WordPress, and use a plug-in called Yoast (yoast.com) to automate the process of generating a sitemap. The plug-in is free, and is mainly geared toward Search Engine Optimization, but it has an add-on for Google News that knows exactly how to present your content in a way that best allows Google to crawl, categorize and index it. It also has options for removing a particular post from your news feed (so if you’re posting a short piece about how to use a new feature on your site, for instance, it won’t show up in the Google News feed).

    If you’re hitting a snag, definitely read through the Google News message boards for publishers. Odds are, someone has already asked (and answered) your question. It may not be the answer you want to hear, but most any issue you can imagine has been discussed. When all else fails, post a question to the Google News team and ask for help. They don’t answer every question, but yours might be one they take a fancy to and decide to respond to.

    Most of all, don’t give up. It’s easy to hit a brick wall and throw up your hands and decide it’s not worth the trouble. But once you have an automated system set up that allows Google News to index and feature your content, there’s virtually no additional work you have to do to realize an ongoing return on that investment: a steady stream of new traffic every time you post a story.

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