Krishna Bharat wanted information from multiple news sources in the aftermath of 9/11. So he created a program that crawled major news websites and displayed consolidated lists and descriptions. This was how Google News was created.
Since then Google News has gone mainstream and become the de facto standard for many to track breaking and industry-specific news.
Google News is currently one of the top five visited news portals in the world - reason enough to get your site in the mix. And outside of direct traffic, many people also end up on Google news through their email news alert service, RSS readers and referrals from their friends and colleagues. And because of the customizable nature of Google News, you can get targeted traffic from niche industries.
There are also serious SEO benefits. If a website is prominently listed in Google News, other websites and bloggers will link to that news article as a citation. So getting your website included in Google News must be part of your SEO strategy.
But, as you might suspect, getting in isn't easy. Here are some basic rules to get listed.
1) Original Content: Simply reproducing news from other websites will not work. You need to have original content on your website.
2) Multiple Authors: Simple blogs with good content will not get included in Google News. This is because Google News wants multiple authors to "qualify" a website as a news source.
3) Organizational Structure: Google News includes articles only from sources that could be considered organizations; generally characterized by multiple writers and editors, the availability of organizational information, and accessible contact information. Hence, reviewing a website should give evidence of an organization.
This may seem like a very difficult task but below are 10 tips that should help you before submitting your site to Google News.
1) Website Template: Your website should look like a news source. Avoid any template that remotely resembles a blog. The design of your home page is important and should clearly mention which industry your website covers.
2) Content Management System: Your website Content Management System (CMS) should be geared to handle news-type content. Your CMS should have a URL rewrite engine so that it generates flat-search engine friendly URLs - those with keywords, rather than something like "yourwebsite.com/article.asp?=123.?456." This not only will help in crawling, but also in Google News ranking. Avoid a CMS that generates more than two variables in the URLas it can create crawling problems.
3) Article URL: Each article URL should be unique and contain a unique number consisting of at least three digits. The Google News crawler cannot index an article with this URL: http://www.website.com/news01.html. It can, however, crawl an article with this URL: http://www.website.com/news001.html. Google News cannot crawl an article URL with four digits, which resembles a year (http://www.website.com/news2008.html).
4) About Us and Contact Pages: Make these pages prominent on your website and one click away from the home page. A "Contact" page should have your organization's name and contact information. You should also have a URL that is a directory of contributors and provide names of all your authors and editors, preferably with their email addresses. Try to give more information about your company and what it does in the "About Us" page.
5) Article Format: Each article format should include a title, author name, publication date and time (optional) and a minimum of 250-300 words in the article body.
6) Article Title: Set the <title> tag on the HTML page to the title of the article. The title should be displayed prominently above the text of the article, such as between <h1> tags. Avoid hyperlinks in the title. Title length should be 2-22 words. However, try to avoid very long or very short titles. If you are covering some big publicly-listed companies, include their name in the title. This will help your article appear if anyone is tracking those companies, either in Google News or through their email alert service.
7) Number of Articles: Chances are, a website with 10 total articles applying to be included in Google News will be rejected outright - it doesn't give the impression of authority or heavy activity. Therefore, I recommend that you have at least 100 articles before you even think of completing the application form.
8) Article Frequency: Try to add at least three new articles every day. The more new articles you add the better, because once an article loses its "News" value, it will stop getting visitors from Google News.
9) Images and Video: As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Having a few images will make your news site stand out. And the same goes with videos. However, articles that are solely images and/or videos will not be included in Google News.
10) Advertising: Avoid too little or over-the-top advertising. Too little means your website does not attract enough visitors, whereas too much advertising might make one question your motive in getting your website listed with Google News.
Once you have covered these 10 points, apply for Google News inclusion. You will be asked to provide your site location information (City, State/Province, Country) and contact information URL and a URL that lists a directory of contributors. You can also select what topic(s) your site covers on this page. The Google News team will then respond to your request, generally within a few days to a week's time. If your website is rejected, don't give up. Many times, the Google News team gives a reason for not including your website. Correct the oversight(s) and reapply.
Once you get an inclusion confirmation you can check which articles were crawled by using this command in Google News - Source: Website name. If your website contains paid content, use the "First click free" concept. Configure your Web servers to not serve the registration page to Google crawlers, identified as "User Agent - Googlebot." You can configure this in a way so that the first article view by a Google News user doesn't require a subscription. But all other links on this article page are trapped, which means if the user clicks anywhere else on the page, then they will be prompted to sign up.
After getting listed with Google News, your priorities should be ensuring trouble-free running of your website and adding the latest news to attract traffic. Below are some general tips which should help:
1) Webmaster Tools: Create an account with Google Webmaster Tools for News. It's very useful in trouble-shooting your news website.
2) Hosting: This will help smooth crawling for the Google News bot. And if your article hits the first few spots in Google News for an important keyword, you will likely see some serious traffic which will need stable hosting. If there are any problems with hosting, you will see indicators in webmaster tools - errors in crawling or
3) Article Updates: Avoid article updates, because currently Google News crawls each article URL only once. Hence any update to an article after Google News has crawled it will not be reflected on Google News.
4) Google News Sitemap: Creating a Google News Sitemap will not affect your rankings. But having a Sitemap gives you more control by informing Google News which articles specifically to crawl. Sitemaps also allow you specify meta-information about individual articles, such as their publication date or keywords that help determine where your article belongs in Google News.
5) Feeds: Have RSS feeds for your news so that your visitors can subscribe. Use Feedburner to create feeds that are compatible with the most popular feed readers. Have a button on your home page where readers can click to subscribe to your feeds.
6) Content Ideas: Subscribing to press release distribution feeds will help you get the latest information coming out of your industry. You can create a journalist login with PRNewsWire, BusinessWire, MarketWire or PRWeb and set your preferences for receiving press releases. These releases can give you ideas or certain figures to help
you create unique news articles. Apart from these, you can also subscribe to RSS feeds from industry websites or set email alerts for some industry keywords on Google News.
Google News is not the only player in the game, but it is the largest and most likely to send you hordes of visitors. Listed below are two other websites where you can submit your news site:
1) Yahoo News: Apply for Yahoo News inclusion at http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/news/forms/submitsource.html.
2) Topix.net: Find relevant news categories at http://www.topix.net/ then click the Feedback button at the bottom of the page. On this page, under "Are we missing a news source?" you will find a link to submit your site.
The aim for your news website should be to publish the latest industry news and articles and garner a loyal readership. If you work diligently, you will start generating thousands unique visitors a day through Google News alone. In turn, this will open up advertising opportunities on your website and help cover some of the initial cost of setting up your site, create resources for improvement and even generate income for your business. And that's always a worthwhile endeavor.