TopRank Marketing Editor

SES SJ: News Search SEO


Online Marketing Blog readers are well aware: news search engines offer a great way to receive targeted traffic related to breaking topics or to help with a public relations launch.

What are the latest ways businesses and media are using content to tap into the power of news search?  Mark Jackson, SEW Expert & President/CEO, VIZION Interactive moderates this group to dig deeper:

  • Dana Todd, CMO, Newsforce
  • Allison Fabella, SEO Manager, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Greg Jarboe, President & Co-Founder, SEO-PR
  • Lisa Buyer, President & CEO, The Buyer Group
  • David Radicke, Consultant, SEO, SEM, Web Analytics, Radicke eCommerce
  • Maile Ohye, Senior Developer Programs Engineer, Google

Mark led this session with a brief introduction of each speaker and quickly turned it over to let the panel members give their presentations.

Maile Ohye, Senior Developer Programs Engineer, Google

Maile shared in detail specifically how Google News works. Simplified, it is a simple three step process:

Crawl it – Googlebot crawls news sites that follow protocols

Group it – classification of news is important, like stories and categories are grouped

Rank it – a small story has a small effect on publishing activity. A big story has a large effect causing rapid, independent publishing activity worldwide. Google ranks stories by “aggregate editorial interest.”

Maile also took the time to stress that: “we do not have favoritism based on those who advertise with us.”

Optimizing all the elements of a news story:


What factors go into how articles are ranked within a cluster?

  • Content that is fresh and new
  • Duplication and novelty
  • Local/personal relevancy
  • Trusted sources
  • Many additional


  • Create YouTube channel and submit it to Google
  • Textual descriptions/transcriptshelp


  • Large images
  • Descriptive captions with alt text
  • Prefer jpeg to png


  • Unique permanent URLS with 3 digits
  • Don’t break up the body
  • Put dates between title and body
  • Titles matter
  • Separate original content from press releases
  • Publish informative, unique content

Dana Todd, CMO, Newsforce

Dana shared the idea of building a “strategic keyword calendar” for your digital PR.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be proactive with keywords you were targeted for future PR efforts?  You actually can be proactive by using trend data to your advantage and research your “news search future.”

Start old school:

  • Assemble 12-20 of the print pubs that your audiences read most
  • Look online for their editorial calendars
  • Look for commonalities between topics, find trends throughout the year
  • Map out on a spreadsheet

Now combine it with SEO:

When you discover trends, plan your PR programs surrounding them to attract consumer and reporter attention.  But be sure to look for trends that actually have search volume.  Meet two audiences:  consumer and news.  Plan stories that incorporate keywords and launch in conjunction with “hot” times of year.

Allison Fabella, SEO Manager, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Allison shared several useful bits of information, including:

Cool tools for finding the next hot story:

  • Google Trends
  • Twist (Twitter trends)
  • Facebook Lexicon
  • MediaCloud

Headline writing do’s/don’ts:


  • Use clever, cheeky headlines on stories
  • Abbreviate:  “Heat Wave in Atlanta” vs. “Smokin’ in the ATL”
  • Bury the lead


  • Pick your search phrase first
  • What’s the story about (in 2-3 words)
  • When relevant go geo
  • Train early and often
  • Share successes with your team

XML Sitemaps

Web & News Sitemaps – use sitemap index, divide into sections

News sitemaps, specifically:

  • Include pub date, timestamp & article ID
  • Include only last 72 hours of stories
  • Don’t use a sitemap generator (might not be robust enough) – but contact Google if you are having trouble, they will help you with creating sitemaps

CMS Gotta Haves

  • Auto-populated title/description/slug
  • Short URL’s
  • 301 redirects (not 302s)
  • Article ID in URL

David Radicke, Consultant, SEO, SEM, Web Analytics, Radicke eCommerce

Getting into Google news can get consistently drive large amounts of traffic to a news site able to deliver consistently hot content.

What makes it difficult to get there?

Tons of competition:

  • News Wires that work directly with Google and have a relationship to work together and make a canonical version of the news
  • Number of stories on homepage of Google News change constantly
  • Many people are scraping stories too
  • Large publications tend to appear first

Algorithm changes in Google News can ruin all traffic if you site is dropped from the Google News index:

The above shows the traffic levels brought by approximately 120 Google News referrals and what happened when the site eventually was dropped from the news results.

How to work with Google News?

  • Follow the rules which are public
  • No “black hat” has ever been successful – Google News is closely watching their system
  • Meet tech requirements (proper News XML sitemaps)
  • Publish 365/7 (everyday)
  • Original content
  • Don’t rely on just Google News – they can always remove you

Lisa Buyer, President & CEO, The Buyer Group

Lisa shared the power of Twitter for media relations.

Good media relations on Twitter:

  • National media connect with sources via Twitter
  • Traditional media are embracing social media

What are traditional media doing on Twitter?

  • Following CEOs
  • Promoting their publication’s top stories
  • Interaction with their readers/fans
  • Not necessarily there to be pitched – the key is to build relationships

Greg Jarboe, President & Co-Founder, SEO-PR

News search and social media marketing are closely linked – news content feeds social and social content is feeding the news.

More traffic comes from blogs than press releases – so the content must be social.  With that said, press releases can be starting points for that content that appears on blogs, so they still have a place.

How to use press releases to inspire social content that also feeds the engines?  Create an amazing story/promotion/contest aimed at engaging the social web.  Act as the leader to help tell that story and encourage it to spread.

  • Find trends with lots of search volume (use keyword research to plan your social campaigns based around news search volume).
  • Use multiple press releases throughout the process to help tell your story:  one announcing the story/contest/promotion, then one about the engagement in the social web (use this to put those social media users or bloggers who are participating in the spotlight).  Then one about the final outcome.
  • Use email and one-to-one connections to help spark the news.
  • Above all else, bring people and media influencers into the process – make those people the story itself.

Learn more search marketing strategies from 2009 SES SJ coverage by TopRank Online Marketing

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  1. Wow, that’s really detailed coverage Adam. Thanks for attending and doing such a great job of outlining the key learnings. I hope you enjoyed the content at SES this year- I know I did! The News Search panel was certainly compelling and gave me a lot of new ideas and information.

    Dana Todd, CMO
    Newsforce, Inc.

  2. Avatar Matt Gorden says

    It was an excellent overview of how google searches for news. BTW the large images & preference of jpeg over png format sounds pretty interesting to me!

  3. Thanks, Adam, for providing a play-by-play account of how Google really locates relevant information for news searches.

    As a news buff myself, I prefer getting the latest news bits on the Internet since it offers additional features that can’t be rivaled by television or radio.

    Where in the world can you get updates almost every minute, complete with sound bites, photos, videos and other add-ons but the Internet (bear in mind — Twitter)?

    Oh, and the bit about larger pictures and JPG over PNG sounds great, too!

  4. very nice help around google crawl thanks

  5. Thanks for the great information on Google News. The preference of jpeg over png images sounds interesting. Could this be down to png’s not being supported in all browsers?.