Google News is a computer-generated, free, global news platform, publishing newsworthy content from around the world. It is a part of Google’s search services ecosystem and it is accessible via direct Google’s subdomain news.google.com or by clicking news tab on the main Google Search page. It is estimated, that Google News aggregates headlines from approx. 50 000 approved websites. According to SearchEngineJournal over 60% percent of people trust Google for news vs other news sources.
Naturally, with such a trust ratio, popularity and huge demand, Google News became a number one spot, where many bloggers, publishers and webmasters would like to see their websites. To ensure quality and prevent news platform from spammers, Google requires all applicants to follow a set of strict rules and technical guidelines. There are no exceptions and requirements must be met by anyone who is willing to get into Google News publishing feed. From our experience, technical part is not the most important element of being accepted into G News, but we will get to that later.
What matters most in your Google News application?
There are four key elements that will improve your chances to be approved by Google news team:
1.Design of your website
2.Expertise within your niche
4.Quality (Not Quantity!)
We will break down all of them and analyse each one of them individually, but before we do this here is a little pre-history about how did we come up with the idea to start our website and how our site was accepted by Google.
Back in 2015 I noticed a new trend that was picking up quite quickly: hoverboards and electric self-balancing vehicles. All indicators suggested that this niche market will grow and that it has a lot of potential, therefore I decided to take a better look into that industry. But very soon, after numerous reports, that these vehicles are catching up fire quickly and manufacturers being sued for continuous copyright infringements, this industry started to face tremendous challenges which made this product almost unsellable. Moreover, in some countries (UK,China etc) new legislation was introduced limiting the usage of self-balancing vehicles on the public roads.
My initial idea was to develop an e-commerce store and start importing self-balancing vehicles from China. I also considered a drop-shipping option, but that would be not as much financially viable as to sell own product. However, after long hours, days and months of research and competition analysis I decided not to take this path. Instead, I started to focus on a different aspect of this industry – legislation and copyright issues.
Soon enough, I understood that opening “just another e-commerce shop” selling these gadgets, would be very difficult (although not impossible) to break it through in a very saturated market. On the bright side, there was a huge opportunity to start a magazine or news publication covering the latest in copyright and safety issues, new product releases and self-balancing vehicles industry.
I have build many successful blogs and online magazines in my career, but I’ve never had an opportunity to work on a Google News approved site. Therefore I set myself a goal to develop one by following Google’s guidelines. However, I must say that although I have planed and expected to be approved by Google News team at some point in the future, my ultimate goal was to build a well-designed and clearly structured website that would publish newsworthy content relevant to this industry (niche). And so I did.
I have enough programming and front-end web design skills, so I quickly came up with design concept that would fit this project and launched website based on WordPress CMS. I won’t go much into details why did I choose WordPress, but in my opinion there is no better CMS for news-content driven online publication. Also, using WP was relatively easy to follow technical Google News guidelines (structured data, news sitemaps, AMP, tags etc.) Visual presentation of your website plays a huge role in how it will be perceived by your visitors. Thoughtful UI/UX elements, clear navigation and website’s structure are essential parts of any successful website, especially of those that are willing to become part of Google News platform. Broken or hidden HTML elements, spammy-looking ad banners and links, inaccurately placed images and irrelevant content might rise serious concerns not only to your readers but also to the members of Google News approval team.
2. Expertise within your niche
At some point, I couldn’t manage anymore by myself to cover all available news material and to compete with other, more established online publications. Therefore I hired few professional writers/journalists to help me out with my daily editorial tasks. It’s worth to mention that I made a decision to expand not because Google News team prefers websites with more than one author, but because there was a need to improve our content and cover wider spectrum of subjects in order to better serve our readers. Eventually, writing and reporting on this market niche, made us experts in the field of self-balancing and electric vehicles. We became familiar with legislation issues, market growth predictions, trends, statistics, most popular brands and etc. This brings us to the second key element : expertise within your niche. I believe that covering very specific niche of this industry, differentiated this project from all other publications and played crucial role in our application.
3. Newsworthy content
Although we all understand conventional concept of news, there are lots of content that might be presented as newsworthy (term often used in Google News guidelines). This might include comparison of products or services, surveys, reports, patents, legislation issues, court cases and hearings, custom seizures, penalties and many others. In other words, you don’t have to be on-site reporter in order to produce newsworthy content. In this particular case, I used websites like uspto.gov or usitc.gov to find relevant content.
The final element that will improve your chances to be accepted into Google News is the quality of your content. Many believe that in order to become approved G News publisher, you must have loads of content, which is not true. As the title of this article suggests, our website was approved in less than 90 days. In fact this three months period also includes developing and design stages. I sincerely believe that quality and relevancy are the most important factors when it comes to your website’s Google News approval process. At the time when we submitted our website for review, it had only 27 high quality articles. As it turned out, it was sufficient for our website to be approved.
How long does it take for Google News team to approve your website?
In our case it took less than 24 hours to receive a confirmation email that our website was successfully approved. However, approval time might vary depending on how many applications Google News team received at that time. According to Google it also depends on which day or month you have submitted your application (e.g. on weekend or Christmas time).
What happens when my website is approved by Google News team?
Many expect that once your website is approved by Google News team, it will instantly get lots of traffic. That’s not true! The fact that your website appears in news.google.com news feed, does not automatically guarantee that it will bring you significant amount of traffic. That will be the case only if your news story will be featured in the “Top stories” (previously named “In the News”) box. Google won’t give away any details on how their algorithms “chose” those stories, but from our experience there are few crucial factors which helps to appear at the very top of the vertical search results (Top stories):
1. Strong social engagement (tweets,FB likes,shares etc)
2. High traffic
4. Word count and story length
Which brings us to the very beginning when I wrote that technical part is not the most important element of being accepted into Google News. I personally have seen many times when websites like news.ycombinator.com or even sites like Dribbble appear in the News section. This usually happens when story becomes “hot” and gets lots of attention,comments,shares and eventually – traffic. Two years ago, I wrote an article, which within 1 hour received nearly 200 shares and that story instantly appeared in Top Stories/News section. Of course that’s nothing compared to the amount of shares websites like Buzzfeed gets. But the point is, that you don’t have to be Google News approved website in order to appear in Top Stories section, nor your site has to be “technically” optimised for it.
I have to admit that getting into the Google News was a personal challenge to improve my content marketing skills rather than well planed and financially viable project. That is one of the reasons why I’ve sold this project and focused on my other online activities. There are many entrepreneurs out there that unsuccessfully trying to get into the Google News. You should always keep in mind that Google’s priority is to provide high quality content to its users. Focusing too much on guidelines and technical specifications, or in worst scenario trying to manipulate it, is one of the main reasons why so many publishers and bloggers fail. I noticed that a lot of webmasters are focusing on things that don’t matter; like AMP, thinking that AMP’ed up pages will help them to get into a Top Stories section. That’s not true. Traffic is the key. From our experience sites with the traffic of 100,000 unique monthly visitors and over have a really good chance to get into Top Stories. However, the core factors that matter the most are user experience, content and quality.