Whether you are a personal blogger, a company wanting to increase online sales, or (God forbid!) a spammer, the goal of Internet marketing is always the same: to increase and maximize relevant traffic to a website.
There are many ways to accomplish this, and an entire industry — in which I work, not that I am biased — has been founded on helping people and firms to achieve this goal. There is search-engine optimization (SEO), which ensures that Google classifies and ranks a website as accurately as possible; search-engine marketing (SEM), which builds upon SEO and uses tactics such as link-building; and social-media marketing (SMM), which aims to have content spread virally across platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
All of these tactics utilize a common strategy: to spread the word about a website throughout the Internet — in relevant, non-spam ways — as much as possible. Of course, Google is a primary target (or partner, if you prefer). Most websites that have incorporated SEO practices will be listed in organic-search results (what one does at Google’s home page), but specific places like Google News are also highly-valued because the traffic bonus can be substantial — and not all websites are included. Google reportedly denies most requests to be added (and rightly so, for reasons I will discuss later).
My other journalistic blog, Considerations, is included in Google News, and I receive significant traffic through that source. When combined with good keyword-research on a timely topic, an article on a current issue (regardless of the subject) can benefit. For example, an article of mine on whether Israel will attack Iran received, if I recall correctly, eight-hundred hits over two days just from Google News searches from keywords including “Israel attack Iran” “Iran nuke” — popular search-terms that, of course, I included in the headline and elsewhere.
How to Optimize for Google-News Search
But Google News, of course, includes articles and posts on topics in addition to current events. If one follows the correct tips and techniques, your site — whether it is a personal or business one — can stand a good chance of being included as well when you submit your site to Google News.
1. Remember that Google is a business whose primary purpose is to increase profits. The company is not going to help to promote your site unless it benefits them as well (unless, perhaps, you are a non-profit organization that helps people in some way). This theme underlies all of the following advice.
2. Produce newsworthy content. If you are a company whose website or blog lists only press releases and the latest sales, prepare yourself for immediate rejection — a current sale is not “newsworthy.” If you are a blogger who links to a mainstream-media article and then only adds a few sentences of original thoughts at the end, you will also be denied.
Here is why. Google beat all of the other search engines in the 1990s — remember AltaVista, anyone? — in part because the company’s algorithm was simply the best and finding the best and most-relevant search-results to users. Google has developed a brand that must always be supported and defended. As a result, Google News has a vested interest in including only publications who are thought-leaders — those who write comprehensive, original thoughts pertaining to the subject at hand. Google News focuses on quality, not quantity (unlike much of the Web, sadly).
If your company produces and sells “widgets,” then your website’s blog — your firm does have a blog, right? — should focus on discussing the widget industry in general in order to brand Widgets, Inc. (or whatever) as a thought-leader in the sector. Post lengthy, substantive articles on topics including the history of widgets, the production of widgets,the marketing of widgets, and the latest widget news — in independent, objective, general terms. Do not even try to use the space to broadcast sales and specials — it will smack of self-promotion. The goal of this part of the website — along with a section of white papers for in-depth discussion on technical and related matters — is to brand your company as the foremost expert on widgets. This will be newsworthy — both to potential customers and clients as well as sites like Google News. Google’s goal is to point web searchers to the best content related to their queries — and you can help Google, and yourself, by producing quality content.
If you are an independent blogger, take the time to write substantive articles on your subject rather than merely link to other sources. Otherwise, Google will think: Why should we promote this post rather than only the source to which he is linking? Be original, and add something significant to the discussion. But the sole blogger will face a serious disadvantage for the reasons in the next point.
3. Be an organization, not an individual. Say that Bob Smith is a reporter for the New York Times. What would carry more authority: A post at “Bob Smith’s Thoughts” at www.bobsmith.com or an article of his posted at the Times website? The latter, of course. Google wants to preserve its brand by having Google News present only authoritative sites — not any blogger under the digital sun.
With this principle in mind, Google News asks those who submit their sites to list how many writers and editors contribute to the website, and the company requests a link to pages detailing the staff biographies and the site’s contact information.
When I created Considerations in 2006, I gave it the brand name — even though the URL is my name — partly because I wanted to the site to convey that it would feature lengthy, substantive, analytical posts by various co-writers (whom often disagree with each other) on the issues of the day. The site — just like any corporation — would become more than the founder. Moreover, the full biographies and background of everyone at the blog are listed. Full disclosure is important in the Internet Age.
The same principle holds true for any blog or website. “Considerations,” as the name of a publication, carries more subconscious weight than just what “Samuel J. Scott” thinks — just as “the New York Times” is a brand that is greater than the sum of its writers.
If you are a company, your blog should be more than just the mouthpiece of a guy in Marketing. It should be a group effort. The vice presidents of sales, product development, and marketing — as well as the CEO — should all contribute their unique thoughts rooted in their experiences. This gives a blog much greater authority. Moreover, the blog’s “About Us” page should provide extensive biographies of every contributor as well as contact information for the company.
If you are a random person with a blog, you will likely not get listed — unless you are famous. After all, no one trusts an anonymous blog written by an invisible person whose experience and expertise is completely unknown. It would be better to gather a group of writers — whose identities and biographies will be public — together to discuss the topic of the blog. And think of a good name for the organizational blog.
4. Create an attractive website. Cliches exist for a reason — they are accurate. People, of course, should not “judge a book by its cover,” but they still do. And the same is true — and even more true — for websites in the Digital Age.
If your articles contain misspellings and grammatical errors, you will not get listed. If your website or blog contains dozens of ads — especially annoying ones like pop-ups or pop-unders — you will not be approved because Google News likes content-oriented sites, not ad-oriented ones whose sole purpose is to make a buck. If your design looks unprofessional, that is also a point against you — basic blog templates are numerous and free today. If your site scrapes content published by other sites or adds little original thought, your efforts will be pointless. If Google even thinks you are a spammer or otherwise engaging in black-hat SEO — well, you know.
5. Sell yourself to Google News. When you submit your site to Google News, there will be a field at the bottom in which you can place additional comments. This is where you can promote yourself — and where you can describe how your site helps Google itself.
First, I recommend taking the time to develop your site and garner traffic before submitting it to Google News. If you can tell Google in the application that you have a high PageRank, Alexa ranking, and so on — that would reveal that your site is indeed authoritative. Remember: Google News is a secondary source of traffic in addition to the primary SEO, SEM, and pay-per-click (PPC) methods. I would peruse our SEO-software reviews and then use one or more to improve your website or blog.
Second, tout your experience. When I submitted Considerations, I detailed my background in journalism, Middle East politics, and business to show Google News that I — along with the co-writers — was an authority on the topics that the blog discusses. If you are the world’s foremost expert on widgets, tell (and show) Google News.
Third, if your revenue strategy includes Google Ads — tell Google News. It cannot hurt. Every company wants to make more money.
Each of these recommendations has become more important because Google is in the midst of revamping Google News. As Matt McGee at Search Engine Land notes:
Google News has recently dropped “a number” of websites that it says were not meeting the company’s quality guidelines. At the same time, the company says it’s also reviewing its policies governing what sites are included as sources in Google News.
Personally, I am not surprised. As Google’s CEO himself observes, the vast majority of the Internet is a “cesspoll.” And Google News in particular wants to focus on authoritative content. Here and here are just two examples of a companies and websites manipulating Google News.
But if you want to increase your online presence to include Google News, remember these tips and use SEO-software reviews. If you would like any additional SEO-consultant services help, feel free to contact me as well.
Samuel J. Scott, a former journalist in Boston turned Internet marketer in Israel, is the founder and publisher of My SEO Software and Director of Digital Marketing and Communications and SEO Team Leader at The Cline Group. You can follow him at Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. His views here and elsewhere do not necessarily reflect those of his company and clients.