Google News Guide: How to optimize your site and article content to appear in Google News

Google News is one of the best ways to get visibility on Google, increase search visits, and grow a brand. This guide provides a roadmap for how to structure and fully optimize your site for inclusion in Google News.

Google News

Search visits from organic results are decreasing because Google is replacing above-the-fold and first-page results with experiences that keep searchers from leaving Google. A recent study showed that less than 50% of searches result in searchers leaving Google to visit a site. Organic traffic is starting to become anemic for many publishers except for one area, Google News.

Relevant, informative, and timely news is something Google gives prime visibility to in its search results. They have been investing and creating more resources for publishers, and are continually working on new and different ways to promote news content in its results. This trend benefits both Google and publishers.

Google benefits from continuing to be a destination for finding the best and most current news. They also benefit from advertisements in articles. The vast majority of Google News sources include advertising, and the likelihood of those publishers using AdSense is very high. Ad serving revenue, along with engagement metrics that Google is believed to collect via ad trackers, makes promoting and sending traffic to publishers very lucrative.

Google News benefits publishers by giving them free premium visibility, the potential for significant traffic, and as a result, revenue from ads. For example, if a publisher can get an article to display in the first slots of the Top Stories carousel, and they do it for a high volume search query, it can result in tens or hundreds of thousands of search visits. Another key benefit of being on Google News is that it can help build brand recognition and trust.

How to appear in Google News

This detailed guide provides a roadmap for how to structure and fully optimize your site for inclusion in Google News. It’s based on a real-life case study and contains some unique methods and tactics that I have yet to see published anywhere else. The site in this case study was included in Google News the first time it was submitted, so this guide may prove helpful for those who have previously applied but were rejected.

Two months after this guide was originally published, Google News changed its Eligibility Policy. They no longer require sites to request inclusion.

Publishers no longer need to submit their site to be eligible for the Google News app and website. Publishers are automatically considered for Top stories or the News tab of Search. They just need to produce high-quality content and comply with Google News content policies.

Appear in Google News via Publisher Center Help

On July 16, 2021, Danny Sullivan, Public Liaison for Google Search, published more details about how publishers can appear in Google News. Expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) were mentioned a couple of times in the document. Fortunately, EAT isn’t something publishers need to dwell on because it will be achieved automatically as a site and its authors write and publish original high-quality content over time. It will also be assisted by signals created by the optimization examples in this guide.

This guide takes you well beyond Google’s content policies and public recommendations and shows you how to fully optimize your site to have the best chance of getting your articles to appear in Google News.

What Google News cares about

Google News wants to provide original content that’s fresh, diverse, and trustworthy. The presentation of content should be visually clear, and it should also be easy for its crawler to detect, parse, and analyze.

Google News also cares about the transparency of authors and publishers. They want readers to be able to quickly identify who the real author and publisher is without having to do much research. Similarly, they want readers to be able to quickly find a publisher’s contact information, including their physical address and phone number.

Most importantly, the news source should practice good journalism. That means having clear editorial policies and standards, disclosing conflicts of interest, and publishing well written – grammatically correct, well researched, referenced, and fact-checked – content.

With Google News, there aren’t any shortcuts. If you want to be included in their feed, you will have to carefully craft your site and commit to writing high-quality news articles regularly. That’s what I did with Coywolf News, and this guide reveals everything I did to get included.

How to optimize your site for Google News

Every element of this guide is essential, even the little things. Unlike the WordPress Site Speed Optimization Guide, where some items are optional, I recommend that you add everything that’s covered in this guide.

Focus on the UX

Google News cares about how sites present content. It’s possible to have a site that focuses on things other than news (products, services, etc.) as long as it has a dedicated News section, and the article content is presented well.

The ideal layout for news articles and users is a mobile-first layout with a single column. The layout should make the article content the primary focus and be easily consumable. AMP, which is Google’s preferred format (but not required), provides the best example of how they want news content to be presented.

AMP Article Example
Example of AMP article found via Google News

I recommend excluding ads from articles if the main purpose of getting into Google News is for brand awareness, traffic, and funneling visitors to other parts of your site. However, if the main purpose is ad revenue, consider initially excluding ads or only adding a couple of ads to the article layout.

Google News is sensitive to ad placement and how much it displaces article content. If you include ads, make sure they only take up a small percentage of the above-the-fold browser window. I recommend only displaying one ad above the headline, and not inserting any ads between the headline, byline, and first paragraphs of the main body of the article. The goal is to display as much of the article content as possible above-the-fold on mobile and desktop.

Coywolf News doesn’t include ads and is also the archetype for how Google News prefers article content to be presented.

Article Examples
Example of an article on Coywolf News on mobile and desktop.

Make your site fast

Google cares about site performance, and that’s particularly true when it comes to news. Google’s preferred format is AMP but it’s not a requirement. At the time of this writing, AMP is given preferential treatment in the Top Stories carousel for mobile results. However, it appears high performing sites that don’t use AMP perform equally well to AMP on Google News.

Google News Result
Example of a Google News result with a non-AMP article ranking on mobile.

There are many reasons why you should consider using AMP. Here are a few:

  1. Google has historically given preferential treatment to AMP in the Top Stories carousel. However, the AMP ranking factor for mobile results is being replaced by Core Web Vitals in June 2021.
  2. It’s optimized for speed and UX by default
  3. It’s easy to add to WordPress through the use of an AMP plugin

There are also several reasons why you wouldn’t want to use AMP:

  1. It creates two versions of the same content
  2. It’s difficult to implement the same branding and UX as your non-AMP pages
  3. It’s unnecessary if your site already performs well (more about that after this list)
  4. If a single item in the code doesn’t validate, Google excludes the affected AMP pages from its search results

Using AMP is a strategic decision that depends on your resources and needs. If you’re an established publisher that’s competing with other established publishers, then AMP is a requirement. But if you’re a smaller or newer site, it’s probably not necessary or worth the trouble.

In the previous list, I mentioned that AMP was unnecessary if your site already performs well. While that’s not true for the Top Stories carousel as of this writing, it will be true in the future. Ben Morss, Developer Advocate at Google, has confirmed with me that a significant amount of work is being done to give high performing sites that don’t use AMP equal weight to AMP pages.

Have a clear headline (hed) and subhead (dek)

Google crawls pages for its News Index the way it does for its Search Index. For Google News to determine the correct headline (hed), you should follow their best practices for article titles.

I also recommend adding a subhead (dek) after the hed. I use the dek for two purposes. First, it’s an opportunity to expand on the hed and provide both Google and the user a keyword-rich synopsis of the article. Second, it can also be used for the Meta description.

Hed and Dek example
Example of hed and dek on Coywolf News.

Dynamically using the Excerpt for dek and Meta description in WordPress

In WordPress, I save the dek in the Excerpt section.

Using the Excerpt for the dek and Meta description.

In my theme, I insert the dek after the hed using the get_the_excerpt function.

<h1><?php the_title(); ?></h1>
<?php echo '<p>' . get_the_excerpt() . '</p>'; ?>

To use the excerpt as the Meta description, I use the Yoast SEO plugin. You can do this in the WordPress admin by clicking on SEO > Search Appearance > Content Types. On the Posts card, remove entries for the Meta description if any exist. Then type %ex, select Excerpt only from the dropdown menu, and then save changes.

Excerpt Meta Description
Using the Excerpt for the Meta description in Yoast SEO plugin.

Optimize the byline

The byline should come after the hed and dek and include the author’s name and the publish time. I also recommend including the author’s Twitter handle.

The author’s name should link to a detailed page about the author, which I’ll expand on in the next main section. The Twitter handle should link to the author’s Twitter profile page. And the publish time should include the date, time, and time zone. It should also be encased within a <time> element.

Byline Example
Example of byline on Coywolf News.

Dynamically inserting the author’s URL in WordPress

By default, WordPress has an input field for saving a user’s website. After you save a website for the author, insert this code on the article template (e.g., single.php), and it will display the author’s name and create a link to the website.

<a href="<?php echo get_the_author_meta('user_url'); ?>"><?php the_author(); ?></a>

Dynamically inserting the author’s Twitter profile link in WordPress

Including a link to the author’s Twitter account requires the Yoast SEO plugin, because it adds the option to save a user’s social network links. After you save the author’s Twitter username in the User admin, insert this code, and it will display the author’s Twitter handle and create a link to their profile.

<a href="<?php echo get_the_author_meta('twitter'); ?>">@<?php echo get_the_author_meta('twitter'); ?></a>

Dynamically inserting the article timestamp in WordPress

Displaying the publish date and time is one of the most important items to include for Google News. The following code example uses the the_time function. I do not recommend changing the output for datetime (do not alter the_time('c');) but you can modify how the date and time appear on the page if you would like.

<time datetime="<?php the_time('c'); ?>"><?php the_time('m/j/Y'); ?> <?php the_time('g:ia T'); ?></time>

Provide detailed author and publisher information

Google News wants publishers to be as transparent as possible. They state in their Content policies:

Visitors to your site want to trust and understand who publishes it and information about those who have written articles. That’s why news sources on Google should provide clear dates, bylines, information about authors, the publication, the publisher, company or network behind it, and contact information.

The best way to interpret the Content policy is to assume that you can’t give them too much information about the author and publisher, but you can give them too little. That’s why I recommend including a short author bio after each article, creating a detailed author page, and including the publisher’s contact details on the footer of each page.

Add a short author bio at the end of articles

Google News doesn’t want readers to have to look hard for details about the author. That’s why it’s a good idea to include a short author bio at the end of each article. This is the short bio I display on Coywolf News.

Short bio
Example of short bio on Coywolf News.

The short bio is dynamically inserted from the Biographical Info saved in the User admin on WordPress. I use the get_the_author_meta function to insert it onto the page.

<?php echo get_the_author_meta('description'); ?>

Create an informative Author page

It’s typical for author pages to have very little information about the author and to only include a list of articles they’ve recently written on the site. What Google News wants is a detailed page about the author, not the articles they’ve written.

You can update the author.php template or use a regular Page for the detailed Author page. I chose to create a regular page because I didn’t want to include a dynamic list of articles. Instead, I wanted to focus solely on providing details about the author. I went out of my way to express that I’m a real person and that I’m qualified to write for the site. I included a picture of myself at the Hoover Dam and highlighted my relevant experience.

Author page
Example of detailed Author page on Coywolf News.

Include contact details for the publisher

Similar to finding details about an author, Google News also wants readers to be able to find information on the publisher effortlessly. In particular, they want it to be easy for readers to contact a publisher. This can be achieved by creating a Contact page with a physical address, phone number, and email address. I wanted to make it even easier, so I added the site’s contact information to the footer of every page.

Footer details
Contact details on the footer of Coywolf News.

Add structured data

Adding structured data (Schema) is a way to ensure Google News fully understands the details of an article. It’s also used to display rich results, like the ones presented in the Top Stories carousel.

Top Stories Example
Example of news articles in the Top Stories carousel.

Dynamically generating NewsArticle schema in WordPress

The Yoast SEO plugin automatically adds JSON-LD Schema to articles. However, it doesn’t include all of the types and properties that I recommend. That’s why I disable it and add my Schema to the article template.

I use the following code in the functions.php file to keep the Yoast SEO plugin from inserting Schema onto the page and then add my Schema onto the article template.

function remove_yoast_json($data){
  $data = array();
  return $data;
add_filter('wpseo_json_ld_output', 'remove_yoast_json', 10, 1);

The main Schema type I use is ReportageNewsArticle, but NewsArticle or Article will also work if you choose to use one those instead. I then add several sub-items, including NewsMediaOrganization, BreadcrumbList, and Organization.

I’ve created a sample JSON-LD file that you can download and use on the single.php file in your theme. It already has the WordPress functions required to dynamically insert values. The main thing you’ll need to do is change the example values, like "name": "Your Company Name", to your site’s values.

The other thing you will need to do is make it so the Schema can provide an Open Graph image. First, add the following code to the functions.php file.

if ( function_exists( 'add_theme_support' ) ) {
  add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );
  set_post_thumbnail_size( 150, 79, true );
  add_image_size( 'single-post-thumbnail', 1200, 630 );

If you already have similar code, you can just append it with add_image_size( 'single-post-thumbnail', 1200, 630 );.

Then create a fallback image named fallback-image.png that is 1200px in width and 630px in height and save it in the /images/ folders of your theme directory. If the folder doesn’t exist, create it.

Afterward, when you add a Featured Image to a post, it will dynamically insert the image into the Schema. If you don’t add a Featured Image, the Schema will use the fallback image.

Creating News Media Organization trust policies

The NewsMediaOrganization Schema type, at the time of this writing, is still pending, but it does validate and is expected to become a Schema standard. The NewsMediaOrganization Schema type and its properties have its roots in The Trust Project, which is a consortium of top news companies that are developing transparency standards that help readers, search engines, and social networks quickly assess the quality and credibility of journalism. Google, Facebook, and Bing also back them.

The Trust Project has developed a series of policy types that it wants news organizations to adopt. Major news organizations, like The Washington Post, are already using NewsMediaOrganization and its policy related properties. Since these properties will likely be used as trust signals by Google News – assuming they aren’t already – and having them should further legitimize a news site, I decided to go ahead and create the policies and add the Schema properties to Coywolf News.

The NewsMediaOrganization policy properties I include are:

All of the policy properties reference a single page on my site entitled, Policies and Standards. I created the page based on what I found on other news sites like The Washington Post, and then edited out what didn’t apply to my site. In addition to including it in my Schema, I also link to it in the footer of every page. While it’s technically not required to get into Google News, I recommend adding it because it’s another indicator of trust to a human reviewer, and it may already be used by the Google News algorithm.

How to write for Google News

The technical details I’ve described in this guide may seem daunting, but they only have to be completed once. The biggest challenge to getting into Google News is creating the right kind of content and doing it regularly.

Best writing style for Google News

The first place to start is to read the Google News Content Policy. They list and describe the type of content they do and don’t want. Generally speaking, they want original content, and they don’t want paid promotional material. They are also very clear about the type of content they don’t allow, which includes:

The style of writing that Google News wants is journalistic. That means articles should be well-researched, provide references, be grammatically correct, and follow the principles of good journalism. If you’re like me, meaning you don’t have a background or education in journalism, I recommend reading the following books:

In addition to writing in a journalistic style, I recommend liberally linking out to relevant sites that are mentioned in the article. For example, I typically link to the Twitter profiles, company sites, and articles that I reference.

I also recommend using Grammarly if you don’t have access to a human editor. It has significantly improved the quality of my writing, and it’s excellent at finding grammar mistakes I would have otherwise missed.

Ideal publishing frequency for Google News

Writing a couple of articles each week for one month will likely not be enough to get your articles to appear in Google News. It needs to be evident to Google News that the site is dedicated to providing regular news coverage. I achieved that through writing and publishing an article almost every day for three months. I felt like anything less than that wouldn’t have been enough.

While I don’t know how much less I could have written, I do know that you don’t have to exceed what I did. For example, I learned:

  1. you don’t have to publish an article every day
  2. you don’t have to publish more than one article per day

However, you do have to write well every single time. Google News considers past articles when determining whether or not to include your site in its results. What that means is you can’t take any shortcuts when it comes to your writing.

Create a Google News sitemap

To communicate to Google that you’re creating news content that you would like to appear in Google News, you will need to create a Google News sitemap and add it to Search Console. The easiest way to create a Google News sitemap is to use Yoast’s News SEO for WordPress plugin.

The plugin works in conjunction with Yoast’s SEO plugin, and adds a News SEO section in the admin. The settings page enables you to choose which Post Types to include, and which categories to exclude for Posts. For Coywolf News, I’m only including Posts (I’m excluding Pages and Media), and I’m excluding the Podcast category.

One thing I noticed is that my site and the Google News sitemap don’t get crawled very often. This is probably because my site is so new. To get around that, I do two things every time I publish a new article.

  1. I use Google’s sitemap ping URL to request them to crawl it again
  2. I inspect and request indexing of the new article in Google Search Console

I expect this to be unnecessary as the site gets older, gains more brand recognition, and increases its traffic.

Submit your site Publisher Center

To increase the chance of your site being included in Google News, and to make it eligible for enhanced functionality in the Google News app, it’s recommended that you add and submit your site to Publisher Center. Even though Google’s new eligibility guidelines state there is no longer an inclusion request process, getting a site manually approved in the Publisher Center will likely result in the site also appearing in the Top Stories carousel and the News section of Search.

Continue to publish on a regular basis

After Coywolf News was verified, I reduced the number of articles I was writing, but only slightly. I’m assuming that there is a provisional period where Google News will monitor and review my site for quality control. That’s why I don’t recommend dramatically changing how often you publish and what you post.

There’s also an incentive to keep publishing. After Coywolf News was verified, the site has received a healthy amount of traffic from Google News all over the world. Google News also keeps articles stored for quite a long time, which has resulted in visits to articles that were written months ago. It appears that the more you publish, the more visibility and traffic you get.

As a new and small publisher, I’m still very much in the experimentation stage. As I continue to publish and grow Coywolf News, I’ll update this guide.

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Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the primary author reporting for Coywolf News. He is an industry veteran with over 25 years of digital marketing and internet technologies experience. Follow @[email protected]