Let’s see what it is all about and why this was just the last of a set of chain reactions started with an EU copyright regulation.
Google enabling publishers to specify how they want their content to show on the rich results
Google’s update explained:
Google uses content previews, including text snippets and other media, to help people decide whether a result is relevant to their query. The type of preview shown depends on many factors, including the type of content a person is looking for and the kind of device they’re viewing it on.
And it continued:
Google automatically generates previews in a way intended to help a user understand why the results shown are relevant to their search and why the user would want to visit the linked pages.
Before the update, Google automatically and for the most part generated previews from content extracted from publishers’ websites. A classic example is a featured snippet, or snippet of text extracted from articles on the web, with limited control from the publishers providing the content:
A featured snippet (one of the rich elements showing on Google’s search results pages) explaining “what is structured data” from the WordLift blog. We’ll see why structured data matter so much with the current Google‘s update.
The Google‘s update specified that when “the robots meta tag is added to an HTML page’s <head>, or specified via the x-robots-tag HTTP header” it is possible to specify four types of information:
nosnippet: the publisher can let the search engine know (through the HTML) that no snippet needs to be shown for that page.
max-snippet: enabling the publisher to specify the maximum number of characters Google can take from that page text to show a rich snippet.
max-video-preview: this new feature enables the publisher to specify the maximum duration in seconds that Google can show as a preview on the search results pages.
max-image-preview: enabling the publisher to tell what is the maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on the page.
While Google gave the options to a publisher to specify and have more control over what and how much of the information extracted from their pages would be featured as rich result. On the other hand, it also specified that those are not applicable to the use of structured data, where the publishers can instead give way reacher information to the search engine, compared to the simple HTML tags:
Content in structured data are eligible for display as rich results in search. These kinds of results do not conform to limits declared in the above meta robots settings, but rather, can be addressed with much greater specificity by limiting or modifying the content provided in the structured data.
Opting-out from the designation of European Journalistic Organization
As publishers concerns were growing over the last years; as the number of no-click searches has been increasing substantially and European regulators passed a new copyright law to prevent Google to keep freely extracting content from web pages. To defend itself from potential legal risks, Google took into account a mechanism to allow publishers to opt-out from these rich elements.
Indeed, as Google highlighted in the same update:
We recognize that site owners may wish to independently adjust the extent of their preview content in search results. To make it easier for individual websites to define how much or which text should be available for snippeting and the extent to which other media should be included in their previews, we’re now introducing several new settings for webmasters.
As the update was rolled out, publishers around Europe (especially in France) started to receive emails from Google explaining that they were designated as “European Journalistic Organizations”
As Google announced the new update, publishers in Europe started to see a notification in their search console (in the picture an example of an Italian publisher) where it stated that either the publishers changed the HTML specifics to explicitly tell the search engine to show rich results. Or opt-out from rich results through a new section of the search console.
In other words, to avoid legal troubles in Europe, and more specifically in France, where the copyright law is getting rolled out. Google‘s team started to roll out this update:
In the wake of new copyright law in France, Google will change the way it presents search results for European press publications to people in that country. Specifically, Google will no longer present snippets and thumbnail images in France for these publications unless publishers displaying content in France have specified how much of this content they want to show in search results.
In short, it means that unless publishers have explicitly opted-in to rich results, is Google consider them as part of the new copyright law (the copyright law didn’t give a specific designation of the publishers involved) it will designate them as European Journalistic Organization, thus the publishers will be excluded from Google advanced functionalities (Featured Snippets, Top Stories, Google News and More), with subsequent disastrous consequences on the traffic of those sites (many publishers’ traffic is dependent on these new features).
Structured data as implicit opt-in to Google’s rich results
Text snippets and thumbnail images can help people who are looking at your result by giving them a preview of your page and a better sense of how it relates to their search. To enable these text or image previews, usemax-snippet or max-image-preview directives. You can enable other special features andrich resultsby usingstructured data.
As in the update, Google specified that structured data would work in alternative to HTML tags in the text, Andrea Volpini asked Danny Sullivan, whether publishers could safely assume that by using structured data they were automatically opting-in to Google rich results:
Andrea Volpini from WordLift asking Danny Sullivan Schema Markup and Structured Data would automatically elect the publisher as opting into rich results, thus avoiding any negative results and traffic drop caused by the new European regulation.
And he called for John Muller to double-check. John Muller replied:
That’s correct. Regardless of designation as a European press publication, if you use structured data in the way that meets the requirements in the developer docs, then the page can be eligible for being shown as a rich result.
In short, that means structured data might work as an implicit opt-in mechanism for publishers to get Google‘s rich results, even in case they might have been designated by Google as a European Journalistic Organization.
Beyond traditional search: The importance of open data
The team at WordLift has been advocating for the use of open data since its inception. At its core, open data enable machines to talk to each other, not only by enabling a clear understanding of the information provided on web pages. But also by empowering relationships among the data contained in these pages. Structured data, as they are fully accessible, making open data possible.
Thus, granting access to machines of the data provided on a web property. That is why structured data become more and more important on the landscape of evolving search, where we move away from the traditional ten blue links, toward a richer navigational experience. Therefore, structured data become important not in its own sake, but as a tool that enables open data to become accessible to machines.
What do you need to do next?
Just to recap what we said so far.
Google is enabling publishers to have more control on what to show in Google‘s rich results, by adding HTML tags and structured data on their pages. At the same time in light of a European Copyright Law Google is giving the options to European publishers to opt-out, so that is what you need to do:
Don’t do anything: If you haven’t been designated by Google as a European Journalistic Organization.
Opt-out: If you have been designated by Google as a European Journalistic Organization but you do want your content to be featured in Google‘s rich results.
Google is enabling publishers to have more control about the kind of information they pass as Google‘s rich results by using HTML tags.
While these tags are important to assert more control on what or how much of the content from your pages can be extracted by Google. The update also highlights that as an alternative, and more powerful way to do so, there is structured data markup (Schema markup) which can be used as a more granular way to pass detailed information about web pages.
As France is among the first countries to roll out a European copyright law (so-called “Link Tax”), to cover itself from legal risks Google started to roll out an update also to other European countries. As the copyright law didn’t specify what publishers could be designated to be opted out from Google extracting the content and repurposing it as rich results. The tech giant started to select a group of publishers as European Journalistic Organization. In short, where regular publishers automatically opt-in to Google rich results. European Journalistic Organizations need to explicitly opt-in to Google rich results.
European Journalistic Organizations can prevent this designation, either by explicitly opting-in to rich results, or by simply making sure to have structured data tags.
This update shows the growing importance of structured data for Google, in order to extract specific content for users. It also shows how search is becoming more divided. In short, as we go on the gap between the traditional index (with its ten blue links) and Google‘s rich results actually widens. And while the two are still connected today, we can imagine a day (not too far in the future) where the traditional index, won’t talk anymore to the other index, that related to rich results.
In the new way of thinking about search, and discovery online, structured data as a tool that enables open data to thrive becomes a key component for machines and search engines to evolve. And with that publishers need to adapt.
And a more political consideration. The web is a global phenomenon, there is no escape from that. A regulation issued by the EU has the potential to influence how Google works on a global scale.
Audio update on Google’s update from SEOisAEO podcast
We know that even if SEO and Content Marketing are crucial operations for every business with a long time period growth strategy, sometimes many people decide to bet all the budget on Paid advertisement. Why?
Every business which plays a role in a different industry knows that one of the best channels to attract leads is to provide useful content on the web, but SEO seems to need too much time in order to rank and start getting leads for your business. This is not an absolute truth, of course, SEO is not as immediate as paid advertisement, but working on it in a few months you could have built a great business saving a lot of budget. We work in the SEO industry and we know perfectly well that the only thing that really matters to clients are numbers, you can fill your their publishing amazing articles and breathtaking pictures, but if you do not optimize them working on SEO you’ll never get positive numbers in terms of results. Today I want to focus the attention on the publishing industry, a specific sector where SEO has always played a crucial role which grew day by day due to Google’s updates.
Google Discover and the Top Stories are cannibalizing a large part of the traffic, that means if you want to bring traffic to your site, you have to get in one of these advanced features of Google and better your editorial strategy.
I want to share with you some of our numbers creating a checklist with the 5 best SEO case studies we have collected during our experience in the publishing industry.
Get comfortable and find the best solution could suit your business.
Windowsreport.com, is an independent online publication founded in the Fall of 2012 and based in the UK, that covers Microsoft’s Windows platform along with its related products and services, all in the aim of contextualizing the wider implications of their development in the world of technology. Problem: Their traffic stalled for a long period of time.
Solution: As agreed with the client, they needed something more instead of the traditional SEO improvements they could find on the web, that’s why we decided to build a linked graph for the magazine on data.windowsreport.com and we re- designed how content is organized by using the entity-based content model. Results: Over 1 Mln new organic users per month Read more
Tharawat Magazine is one of the world’s foremost publications on family-owned businesses. With over a decade of experience and a thousand published articles, we have established our publication as a source of inspiration for business owners and experts alike.
Problem: Tharawat Magazine’s team wanted to introduce an SEO approach in their editorial workflow in order to grow their traffic.
Solution: When we started working with them we quickly noticed that they were under-utilizing the wealth of content we had. WordLift stepped in, cleaned up and structured over 1000 articles to increase their visibility. The accelerated returns over the last 5 months are a result of our editorial team’s understanding of how to read the traffic data to make editorial planning more SEO friendly. Results: +321% in terms of traffic. Read more
SalzburgerLand Tourismus (SLTG) is the agency responsible for marketing, development, and promotion of tourism in the region of Salzburg. Its main challenge is to attract and engage travelers from around the world, to meet their needs at the right time and to develop new travel products.
Problem: attract world travelers from around the world with first-in-class engaging content. Solution: In this case we had to build the digital pathways to bring travelers in SalzburgerLand, We started studying travelers’ behavior using regional open data on inquiries, bookings, and visits along with search intents. This analysis helped us define (and re-define) market segments, personas, and information needs for each target group. We organized existing and new content around different travelers and at the end we had created their own enterprise knowledge graph using linked data and semantic technologies. Results: +92.65% more users via organic search Read more
7wData is a blogging platform to foster innovation & matchmaker between people and products, and foremost is here to trigger your data appetite
Problem: build a one-stop place where you can find all information regarding data, but needed something specific to interconnect the content assets.
Solution: In this case we built the knowledge graph and it also interconnects the content assets, with a minimal effort. At the same time, it prepares and optimizes its content for search engines and voice search, which allows people to find my content in an even easier way.
Results: +60% more users via organic search Read more
Espiritismo.tv is a Brazilian platform for spiritual videos and lectures. The editorial project is aimed to provide a complete television channel with a range of insights, seminars and readings focused on the world of spirituality and inner growth.
Increase the website visibility and getting good rankings on the search results and bring more visitors to the website.
Increase the time spent by viewers on the website pages.
Solution: They started using WordLift to create their own vocabulary, enriching the taxonomy of the website with entities linked to Spiritism and revolve around this subject. The creation of Espiritismo.tv’s vocabulary, as well as the strategic enrichment (and marking) with the quality content of each of the entities created, has been at the heart of the strategy for almost a year. Results:
number of website users has increased by 198% and 3 videos from the site featured on Google Discover, which earned them 80,000 impressions in two days.
In conclusion, I want to be sure you know that what we do is not just for publishers, actually every online business needs Semantic SEO, Structured Data and a Knowledge Graph. This is the future of Search engine marketing and this is the right moment for gaining an advantage over your competitors.
We are excited to share that WordLift is now officially a WP Engine’s Featured Plugin. This news is not only important for us, but also for our current and potential clients and partners. Read more to know all the important details and advantages of this announcement!
WP Engine’s Recommended Plugins: how WP Engine Solution Center works
Since its launch in 2010, WP Engine has become the leading WordPress digital experience platform, providing digital solutions for companies of all sizes, managing and delivering compelling websites. In 2017, WP Engine launched the Solution Center, a directory of 3rd party services, plugins and softwares that provides users with the opportunity to enrich their website with the best plugins in the WordPress ecosystem.
We are proud to announce that WordLift is now officially one of them, along top players like Cloudflare, Amazon, HubSpot and Automattic. It confirms our commitment to continuous innovation in the context of modern SEO and digital marketing in general.
WP Engine + WordLift: the most effective solution to double-up the power of your website
In a few words: when used together, WordLift and WP Engine have the potential to unleash the power to gain you more traffic and help you find a wider and better audience.
Why page speed and structured data are crucial for your website
Page speed is an unquestionable strength when it comes to website performance: not only it gives users a better experience, but also it incentivizes Google to show your pages first instead of the slow-loading pages of the majority of your competitors.
Using these two powerful tools together means you won’t have to worry about your website’s effectiveness again. In fact, while WP Engine provides you some unique advantages that can boost your digital experience, WordLift combines semantics and other Artificial Intelligence technologies to do what an SEO expert would do: grow the organic traffic of your website and improve audience engagement.
If you are an SEO expert… WordLift will provide you vital assistance with your digital marketing tasks by letting you focus on the quality of your content while boosting SEO.
If you are a publisher… you’ll get all the profits of an SEO expert, plus the advantage to compete amongst the big fishes out there by making your content stand out in search engines. That means appearing in the first results of Google as well as being featured in the news carousel, Google Discover or in the SERP rich snippets.
The shift from keyword search to a queryless way to get information has arrived
Google Discover is an AI-driven content recommendation tool included with the Google Search app. Here is what we learned from the data available in the Google Search Console.
Google introduced Discover in 2017 and it claims that there are already 800M active users consuming content using this new application. A few days back Google added in the Google Search Console statistical data on the traffic generated by Discover. This is meant to help webmasters, and publishers in general, understand what content is ranking best on this new platform and how it might be different from the content ranking on Google Search.
What was very shocking for me to see, on some of the large websites we work for with our SEO management service, is that between 25% and 42% of the total number of organic clicks are already generated by this new recommendation tool. I did expect Discover to drive a significant amount of organic traffic but I totally underestimated its true potentials.
A snapshot from GSC on a news and media site
In Google’s AI-first approach, organic traffic is no longer solely dependent on queries typed by users in the search bar.
This has a tremendous impact on both content publishers, business owners and the SEO industry as a whole.
Machine learning is working behind the scenes to harvest data about users’ behaviors, to learn from this data and to suggest what is relevant for them at a specific point in time and space.
Let’s have a look at how Google explains how Discover works.
[…] We’ve taken our existing Knowledge Graph—which understands connections between people, places, things and facts about them—and added a new layer, called the Topic Layer, engineered to deeply understand a topic space and how interests can develop over time as familiarity and expertise grow. The Topic Layer is built by analyzing all the content that exists on the web for a given topic and develops hundreds and thousands of subtopics. For these subtopics, we can identify the most relevant articles and videos—the ones that have shown themselves to be evergreen and continually useful, as well as fresh content on the topic. We then look at patterns to understand how these subtopics relate to each other, so we can more intelligently surface the type of content you might want to explore next.
Embrace Semantics and publish data that can help machines be trained.
Once again, the data that we produce, sustains and nurture this entire process. Here is an overview of the contextual data, besides the Knowledge Graph and the Topic Layer that Google uses to train the system:
This research is limited to the data gathered from three websites only, while the sample was small few patterns emerged:
Google tends to distribute content between Google Search and Google Discover (the highest overlap I found was 13.5% – these are pages that, since Discover data has been collected on GSC, have received traffic from both channels)
Pages in Discover have not the highest engagement in terms of bounce rate or average time on page when compared to all other pages on a website. They are relevant for a specific intent and well-curated but I didn’t see any correlation with social metrics.
Traffic seems to work with a 48-hours or 72-hours spike as already seen for the top stories.
To optimize your content for Google Discover, here is what you should do.
1. Make sure you have an entity in the Google Knowledge Graph or an account on Google My Business
Either your business, or product, is already in the Google Knowledge Graph or it is not. If it is not, there are no chances that the content you are writing about for your company or product will appear in Discover (unless this content is bound to other broader topics). I am able to read articles about WordLift in my Discover stream since WordLift has an entity in the Google Knowledge Graph. From the configuration screenshot above we can actually see there are indeed more entities when I search for “WordLift”:
one related to Google My Business (WordLift Software Company in Rome is the label we use on GMB),
one from the Google Knowledge Graph (WordLift Company)
one presumably about the product (without any tagline)
one about myself as CEO of the company
So, get into the graph and make sure to curate your presence on Google My Business. Very interestingly we can see the relationship between myself and WordLift is such that when looking for WordLift, Google shows also Andrea Volpini as a potential topic of interest.
In these examples, we see that from Google Search I can start following persons that are already in the Google Knowledge Graph and the user experience in Discover for content related to the entity WordLift.
2. Focus on high-quality content and a great user experience
It is good also to remember that the quality in terms of both the content you write (alignment with Google’s content quality policies) and the user experience on your website is essential. A website that loads on a mobile connection in 10 seconds or more is not going to be featured in Discover. A clickbait article, with more ads than content, is not going to be featured in Discover. An article written by copying other websites and patently infringing copyrights laws is not likely to be featured in Discovery.
3. Be relevant and write content that truly helps people by responding to their specific information need
Recommendations tools like Discover only succeed when they are capable of enticing the user to click on the suggested content. To do so effectively they need to work with content designed to answer a specific request. Let’s see a few examples “I am interested in SEO” (entity “Search Engine Optimization“), or “I want to learn more about business models” (entity “Business Model”).
The more we can match the intent of the user, in a specific context (or micro-moment if you like), the more we are likely to be chosen by a recommendation tool like Discover.
4. Always use an appealing hi-res image and a great title
Images play a very important role in Google‘s card-based UI as well as in Discover. Whether you are presenting a cookie recipe or an article, the image you chose will be presented to the user and will play its role in enticing the click. Besides the editorial quality of the image I also suggest you follow the AMP requirements for images (the smallest side of the featured image should be at least 1.200 px). You also want to make sure Google has the rights to display your high-quality images and this can be done either using AMP or by by filling out this form to express your interest in Google’s opt-in program. Similarly, a good title, much like in the traditional SERP is super helpful in driving the clicks.
5. Organize your content semantically
Much like Google does, using tools like WordLift, you can organize content with semantic networks and entities. This allows you to: a) help Google (and other search engines) gather more data about “your” entities b) organize your content the same way Google does (and therefore measure its performance by looking at topics and not pages and keywords) c) train our own ML models to help you make better decisions for your business.
Let me give you a few examples. If I provide, let’s say the information about our company, and the industry we work for using entities that Google can crawl. Google‘s AI will be able to connect content related to our business with people interested in “startups”, “seo” and “artificial intelligence“. Machine learning, as we usually say, is hungry for data and semantically rich data is what platforms like Discover use to learn how to be relevant.
If I look at the traffic I generate on my website, not only in terms of pages and keywords but using entities (as we do with our new search rankings dashboard or the Google Analytics integration) I can quickly see what content is relevant for a given topic and improve it.
Use entities to analyze our your content is performing on organic search
Here below a list of pages, we have annotated with the entity “Artificial Intelligence“. Are these pages relevant for someone interested in AI? Can we do a better job in helping these people learn more about this topic?
A few of the articles tagged with the entity “Artificial Intelligence” and their respective query
Learn more about Google Discover – Questions & Answers
Following in this article, I have a list of questions that I have answered in these past days as data from Discover was made available in GSC. I hope you’ll find it useful too.
How does Discover work from the end-user perspective?
The suggestions in Discover are entity-based. Google groups content that believes relevant using entities in its Knowledge Graph (i.e. “WordLift”, “Andrea Volpini”, “Business” or “Search Engine Optimization“). Entities are called topics. The content-based user filtering algorithm behind Discover can be configured from a menu in the application (“Customize Discover”) and fine-tuned over time by providing direct feedback on the recommended content in the form of “Yes, I want more of this”, “No, I am not interested”. Using Reinforcement Learning (a specific branch of Machine Learning) and Neural Matching (different ways of understanding what the content is about) the algorithm is capable of creating a personalized feed of information from the web. New topics can be followed by clicking on the “+” sign.
Topics are organized in a hierarchy of categories and subcategories (such as “Sport”, “Technology”). Read more here on how to customize Google Discover.
How can I access Discover?
On Android, in most devices, accessing Discover is as simple as swiping, from the home screen to the right.
Is Google Discover available only in the US?
No, Google Discover is already available worldwide and in multiple languages and it is part of the core search experience on all Android devices and on any iOS devices with the Google Search app installed. Discover is also available in Google Chrome.
Do I have to be on Google News to be featured in Discover?
No, Google Discover uses also content that is not published on Google News. It is more likely that a news site will appear on Google Discover due to the amount of content published every day and the different topics that a news site usually covers.
Is evergreen content eligible for Discover or only freshly updated articles are?
Evergreen content, that fits a specific information need, is as important as newsworthy content. I spotted an article from FourWeekMBA.com (Gennaro’s blog on business administration and management) that was published 9 months ago under the entity “business”.
Does a page need to rank high on Google Search to be featured in Discover?
Quite interestingly, on a news website where I analyzed the GSC data, only 13.5% of the pages featured in Discover had received traffic on Google Search. Pages that received traffic on both channels had a position on Google Search <=8.
Correlation of Google Discover Clicks and Google Search Position
How can I measure the impact of Discover from Google Analytics?
A simple way is to download the .csv file containing all the pages listed in the Discover report in GSC and create an advanced filter in Google Analytics under Behaviour > Site Content > All pages with the following combination of parameters:
Filtering all pages that have received traffic from Discover in Google Analytics
Discover is yet another important step in the evolution of search engines in answer and discovery machines that help us sift in today’s content multiverse.
Keep following us, and give WordLift a spin with our free trial!
Google Top Stories is a powerful way to boost mobile SEO and CTR of news content. In this article, we describe a real-world implementation, what it takes to be picked up by Google and how to measure the traffic impact.
When Google first introduced the top stories carousel it had an immediate impact on the news and media industry that started to embrace the support for AMP pages. Top Stories are a modern, ultra-performing card-style design to present searchers with featured news stories in Google SERP.
Top Stories Carousel in Google Search
Getting featured is far from being a straightforward process as there are several requirements that need to be fulfilled and these requirements belong to different aspects of modern SEO: from AMP support, to Google News support (not required, while highly recommended), from structured data, to content editing, image preparation and page speed optimisation.
We take on a small handful of clients projects each year to help them boost their qualified traffic via our SEO Management Service.
Let’s dive in and look at very basic by analyzing what we have done to bring this ultra-performing search feature to one of our SEO managed service clients. Before doing that, as usual, I like to show you the results of this work.
The effect of the top stories as seen from the Google Search Console.
The top stories news carousel is an ultra-performing SERP feature that strictly depends from your organic rankings.
Here is the checklist you need to follow to grab this mobile SEO opportunity.
1. Enable AMP
A top stories carousel is presented in the Google Developers Guide as a Search Feature that requires the implementation of AMP. So you need to support AMP on your website either as native or paired mode. Unless you are starting to develop a new project from scratch you are going to use AMP in paired mode. This basically means that you are reusing the active theme’s templates to display AMP responses. With this configuration, AMP uses a separate URLs, whether the canonical URLs for your site will not have AMP. You can use the AMP Test Tool to make sure that your pages comply with Google Search requirements for AMP.
1a. Comply with AMP logo guidelines
You need to make sure that the logo used to represent the publisher that is used in the structured data from AMP fits in a 60x600px rectangle, and either be exactly 60px high (preferred), or exactly 600px wide. A logo 450x45px would not be acceptable, even though it fits within the 600x60px rectangle.
Remember also when you have a logo with a solid background to include 6px minimum padding around it. Wanna see an example? Here is WordLift Publisher’s logo.
2. Use structured data to markup your articles
Google describes the news carousel as “a container that includes articles, live blogs, and videos” and what helps Google understand the content on the page is the required structured data. So the second step is to make sure that you are supporting one of the following schema types:
2a. When in paired mode, make sure to have the same structured data on both canonical and AMP pages
Depending on how you are generating your AMP you might end-up, as it happened to several of our clients, with a different structured data markup on your canonical and AMP pages. This shall be prevented, it is inconsistent and can’t prevent Google from showing your articles in the top stories carousel (we learned the lesson the hard way). The indication about using the same markup is provided in the Google AMP guide.
WordLift is fully compatible with the AMP Plugin (developed by Google, Automattic, and XWP) and AMP pages can inherit the schema.org markup of the canonical page and share the same JSON-LD. Read all about how to add structured data markup to AMP here.
3. Use multiple large images in your markup
Google in the article schema guide for AMP articles requires to provide, in the structured data markup, images that are at least 1.200 pixels wide and that have 800.000 pixels in total. This is not all – the guides also specifies that for best results publishers shall provide multiple high-resolution images with the following aspect ratios: 16×9, 4×3, and 1×1.
Alt text are important and should be as specific as possible in order to describe images to visitors who are unable to see them.
This is an essential aspect of accessible web designand it is also strategic for image SEO. Google strives for indexing and serving high-quality and accessible content to its users and we shall do our best to support this process.
We heard of a case, in the US, where a website did not appear on Top Stories until they improved the alt text on the featured images (the main image of the article). They were (as a lot of publisher do) re-using the title of the page as alt text.
While this might work, in some rare cases, it is not considered an accessible practice and should be avoided.
4. Remember that being part of Google News is not required but…it helps a lot!
Google can feature any article matching the above criteria in the top stories carousel based on its organic algorithmic selection but…the reality is slightly different. Let’s see why:
The Top Stories Carousel is indeed a SERP feature that evolved from the Google News box and serves the same goal,
While the main difference of the top stories carousel is that content is NOT restricted to outlets Google News approved in reality, as a result of the “fake news” scandal that exploded in November 2016, less-than-reliable sources (and smaller sites that are not in Google News) have been removed from the top stories carousel (NewsDashboard published data showing more than 99% of desktop news box results and 97% of mobile news box results are from Google News sites).
So unless you have the authority of Reddit, Yoast and alike there are much more chances for you to land in the news box if you are Google News approved. If you want to dig deeper on the relationship between Top Stories and Google News go follow this thread on the Google News Help Forum.
4a. Follow the editorial guidelines of Google News
Google provides news publishers with a set of content policies to ensure a positive experience for the readers. It is not only about being newsworthy and keep on writing fresh new content but it also about limiting advertising, preventing sponsored content, malicious links or anything that can be considered hateful, offensive or dangerous.
In order to be featured in Google News there are few technical aspects to be considered:
Prevent article fragmentation. If you have isolated sentences that are not grouped together into paragraphs you might get an error and your article will be rejected from Google News.
Write articles that are not too short and not too long. This basically means to write more than 80 words and prevent your pages from being too long to read. We usually see that between 600-800 words is a good match for a Google News article.
Make sure to write headlines of maximum 110 characters.
“I would recommend doing more work, or more obvious work, on original reporting – fresh, new, original facts and information that isn’t published elsewhere.” Chris Andrews (Platinum Product Expert) answering a question related to Top Stories.
5. Speed, Speed and again Speed
News readers want to be able to find fresh updates as fast as possible — and, especially on mobile people care a lot about the speed of a page. A top story is a mobile SERP feature that ispurely organic-driven. If you get to the top 5 results of Google you can get it and it will be an extra boost for your traffic, if you are not top ranking you will not get your spot in the news carousel (in most cases at least). Starting in July 2018, page speed has become a ranking factor for all mobile searches and this means that your website needs to be blazing fast.
How to track when you have been featured in the Top Stories
Tracking traffic generated from the Top Stories is not immediate and can only be done by looking at specific queries from the Google Search Console, using third-party tools like Semrush or RankRanger or look for specific patterns in Google Analytics.
The simplest way I found is to start from the Google Search Console by filtering results for Rich Results and AMP Articles.
Google Search Console configuration
When you see a spike, you can look from a mobile device the related keyword and hopefully found the matching article. Remember also that a given result might only occur in a specific country. This article here, for example, was only visible from Google in the US so we could only detect it by changing the territory in the Google Search preferences and using the incognito mode.
From Google Analytics we are also able to spot a top story by looking for a peak like the one below. As you can see that traffic, in most cases is only there for a 48-72 hours maximum.
Google Analytics for the article that entered the carousel.
Given the relationship between Google News and Top Stories you might want to analyze these patterns by filtering top articles in Google News. This can be easily done in Google Analytics by knowing that Incoming readers with referrers of ‘news.google.com’ or ‘news.url.google.com’ are from Google News.
Once again there are plenty of SERP feature optimization chances that we can leverage on when combining structured data with more traditional SEO factors and, they do create an enormous difference for your audience reach.
Article updated September 13th, 2019 following the change in the Google News Algorithm.
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