How can you consistently lead the news in search when hot stories are breaking?

That’s a difficult enough task on its own. But publishing success isn’t only about dominating in Google News. Far from it.

Building a viable news business requires multiple revenue streams powered by evergreen content, informational/educational resources, and ongoing audience engagement, as well.

SEO for news organizations is a unique beast, and it’s a space that moves at breakneck speed.

Marketers in this space are constantly being challenged by new features and opportunities in search, savvy competitors, and Google’s ever-evolving understanding of what makes news… well, newsworthy.

Here’s just a small taste of the interesting conversations you may have missed on the first day of NESS, the inaugural news SEO conference from the NewsSEO.io community.

1. E-A-T and News SEO with Lily Ray

“Google News and Google Discover are probably the two areas where E-A-T matters the most,” said Lily Ray, Sr. Director of SEO and Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital.

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Lily shared tips from Danny Sullivan’s recent GNI Community News Summit presentation in her discussion of the importance of E-A-T in news ranking.

Google doesn’t want to see all news articles authored generically “By Staff,” he had said. Show readers and search engines who is behind your content.

Google builds up an understanding of your site’s authority over time and doesn’t necessarily understand the concept of brand, either.

Some believe that big brands have an inherent ranking advantage. But in organic and particularly for news, Google develops an understanding of which topics the site demonstrates E-A-T for, instead, Ray explained.

Tag pages are one of the greatest untapped opportunities in SEO, Ray said in her presentation, to the extent that it’s one of the first things she looks at with a new client in publishing.

She used an example from People.com to illustrate how publishers can optimize tag pages by adding FAQs, videos, images, related tags, and more.

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Ray also recommended that publishers break out their tag pages and check topical performance.

Creating more content on a topic you aren’t ranking well on could be a waste of resources, she explained. And poor tag page performance could be an indicator that Google doesn’t perceive much E-A-T in your content on that topic.

Later in her presentation, Ray shared that she has seen content that doesn’t do well in organic perform better in Discover. This causes her to question whether Google has a different E-A-T calculation or weighting for Discover content, she said.

You should therefore target and optimize for organic search and Discovery separately.

Articles that pose a question in the title tend to do well in Discover, for example.

Related: A Guide to Optimizing for Google News, Top Stories, and Discover

2. Making Good Use of Google Tools & Schema Markup for News SEO

Valentin Cornez is the ​​Global Lead and Co-founder of Google Insights tools for publishers.

In his presentation, Cornez shared, “Most news publications are not applying the right markup on their pages. We recommend that publishers have the proper news schema on all pages.”

He added, “If you have video on your site, use the video object markup. Make sure you’re maximizing your chances to appear in rich snippets.”

Valentin recommends that publishers use the free tools Google makes available as part of its Google News Initiative:

Google News Initiative free tools for news publishersScreenshot from Google News Initiative, October 2021

3. Fresh vs. Evergreen Content Tips From The New York Times

“Keep the timestamp fresh. In a breaking news situation, readers don’t want to see an outdated timestamp. Freshness is key,” advised Christine Liang, Senior Director of SEO at The New York Times, in her presentation.

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What can trigger a timestamp update?

  • Rewrite the meta description.
  • Add new quotes.
  • Swap out images.
  • Embed videos.

For evergreen content, NYTimes uses the format /article/ in place of the /year/month/date format used for time-sensitive news.

Liang added that she’s seen other news organizations drop the folder and have the evergreen live right on the root level.

Realted: What Is Evergreen Content & Why Should You Care?

4. Experts Debate Dates in URLs: Yay or Nay?

In addition to his excellent presentation, Barry Adams was on hand throughout the NESS event to respond to attendee questions. One participant asked whether dates should appear in URLs, either for news or evergreen content?

“I’m not a fan of dates in URLs but I’ve seen publishers that use them and it doesn’t seem to hinder rankings at all,” Adams responded.

“Also, Google SERPs don’t really show URLs anymore, so having the date in there is not directly visible to end users before the click,” he added.

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“One of the problems I have seen with dates in URLs is that Google is showing the wrong date in the SERPs,” Dan Smullen from Mediahuis IRL commented in the event chat.

Attendees from Conde Nast, Future PLC, and other media companies confirmed they see this, too.

Liang said, “Inaccurate datestamp is a major headache. we try to remove as many conflicting datestamp signals as possible (or at least try to align them) on the page.”

And Kyle Sutton from the USA TODAY network said, “Google may also display a prominent date on the page, like original publish time, which can make a story look artificially dated even if it’s been consistently updated.”

The above conversation prompted Edward Hyatt from the Wall Street Journal to ask of the group, “Do we think that dates in URLs are thing of the past? Or important moving forward?”

The consensus among those who responded was that any SEO impact from having a date in the URL is a thing of the past, with one simply saying, “Dinosaur.”

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Mara Model of Hearst Magazines expanded on the sentiment and explained, “I think dates in the URL were once impactful – Google liking brand new content. Now I think it has reverted back to no dates in the URL and having legacy content perform. Just my opinion.”

5. Promotional Links in News Content

Melissa Fach from Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader asked, “Can the internal links you use in editorial or evergreen content, say for example, to push someone to buy a product, impact Google News inclusion? Do those links impact authority?”

Both Ray, who was giving Q&A, and event organizer John Shehata agreed that the inclusion of promotional links in editorial or evergreen content will not negatively impact Google’s perception of your site’s authority.

However – and this is a big caveat – that is assuming that you are using the proper Sponsored or NoFollow tags for those links.

The biggest consideration is that you’re clearly demonstrating the trustworthiness of your content, they said.

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Related: When to Use Nofollow on Links & When Not To

More Hot News SEO Topics from NESS

When asked which NESS teachings were surprisingly or particularly important, Oleg Korneitchouk from Business Insider said, “Speed and being first to publish are so important that you are better off publishing a short blurb just to be first, then updating article later (which also helps with the timestamp + maybe headline bumps).”

Getting visitors to sign up for your newsletter is essential, too. To that end, NESS tweeted:

Technical SEO “knowledge bombs” dropped by Barry Adams were insight gold for news SEO, where fast indexing wins the race, said Dan Smullen.

“The impact of optimizing server response times, & monitoring Adsbot crawl activity in GSC can both negatively impact crawl budget,” he tweeted.

Smullen also highlighted Liang’s advice on publishing breaking stories in chunks of 50-100 words of text spaced out in ongoing updates as a top takeaway from the first day of NESS.

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NESS is put on by NewsSEO.io, an organization described as “the largest FREE online collaboration community for all SEOs, Audience Development & editorial teams working for publishers, news & media sites.”


Featured image: Viktoria Kurpas/Shutterstock





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By Rose Milev

I always want to learn something new. SEO is my passion.

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