Google News is only relevant if you own a news-based website. Even then, it’s only important for certain categories (the ones found in the left navigation on news.google.com). But if you have a news-driven site or even a news section on your site in one of those coverage areas, Google News, which is Google’s auto-curated news section, can be good — sometimes very good — for traffic.
The mistake made here by websites is having a news strategy that requires help from Google News. That’s a very bad idea, because just getting in can be a challenge, though there isn’t much control you have even if you have the best news in the world. Google does not explain the specific criteria for being accepted into Google News, and it’s definitely a moving target. It is worth mentioning that you want to have a nice look and feel for your site, so those reviewing the site will be impressed.
Having a site that is already Google News-approved can help for future sites, but the process is never completely clear. Google offers some guidelines, but following then does not guarantee inclusion. Not following them also does not always guarantee rejection.
It’s Google’s world, and the company does not have to accept your site or explain why it was rejected. A rejection, however, comes with a 90-day wait before you can try again. We’ve had sites get in right away before they actually met the stated criteria and other, more seemingly correct sites get rejected multiple time before getting in.
At some point in the approval process an actual person looks at your site, and this might account for why a website is rejected, then submitted again with no changes and accepted. With the websites for two sister newspapers — sites with the same layout, technology, and similar news content – we saw one get accepted and one get rejected.
There’s no exact science to this. Reading Google’s current guidelines on the topic always helps, but here are a few things that always seem to work:
1. Actually have good content: Google accepts sites that have poorly written content, but its goal is finding good sites, so you stand a better chance if you actually do a good job and offer well-written, properly edited news.
2. Actually be news: Google news also has opinion (like a newspaper), but it doesn’t have Buzzfeed-style lists, clickbait, slide shows or other non-news content. You might have a great content site where you write Dawson’s Creek fan fiction, then act it out with cats, but that’s not news, and applying to Google News would be a waste of your time.
3. Have multiple contributors: Google does not want one-person blogs, even if they are newsworthy and the one person is really good. You’ll also want multiple sections, so if you are doing environmental news, you may want an op-ed section as well as a technology section associated with the site.
4. Don’t be too short: A recent Google algorithm change for overall search penalized shorter content, which Google sees as a way to game the system. This is true in Google News, too. Think 225 words minimum for most content, with varying lengths.
5. Don’t try to trick Google: Even if it works in the short-term, basing your content on an idea that exploits loopholes in the Google system will ultimately fail. Google takes protecting Google very seriously and will catch on to whatever trick you think is smart.
Google News has also become a little less valuable in recent months because the company has changed how it displays results on its regular search page. Basically, Google most times used to display an “In the News” box as part of its normal search results. Now, it shows that box much less frequently and includes Twitter, YouTube and other site results in it.
That has made Google News a less effective means of finding audience for news sites, as many more people search on Google than visit Google News directly.
Still, Google News has an audience, and it can drive significant traffic your way. It can be an excellent part of your strategy if you have appropriate content; just don’t assume you’ll get in or that your work is done once you do.
Getting into Google News can be a game-changer for your site. But Google only wants sites that contribute something meaningful to the news they deliver. If you do find yourself approved by Google News, you can see immediate traffic increases ranging from 50% to 500%. If you are not a content site with strong news offerings, avoid submitting your site. Google tends not to approve sites unless they are content-specific.