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Google Responds to Google News China Controversy

Recently Google, in the own words, explained their position on operating in China and their censorship of certain news stories on the Chinese version of Google News. Google News has also been looked into in the United States because of political bias reports. Some people seem to think that the Google News algorithm is serving better political play and supportive articles for George W. Bush on searches for “Bush” than they do for John Kerry on searches for well, “Kerry.” While the US version of Google News is giving results from all sorts of different news services, Google News China is practicing true censorship by excluding non-Government approved (non PRC) news resources.

Coming under fire from various blogs, free speech activists, and non-censored news channels, Google responded yesterday on their own Google Blog:

There has been controversy about our new Google News China edition, specifically regarding which news sources we include. For users inside the People’s Republic of China, we have chosen not to include sources that are inaccessible from within that country.

This was a difficult decision for Google, and we would like to share the factors we considered before taking this course of action.

Although Google News China does not include non-PRC news for those within the People’s Republic of China, Google does however offer non-PRC approved websites for Chinese web searchers on its Google China search engine. Google remarks:

For Internet users in China, Google remains the only major search engine that does not censor any web pages. However, it’s clear that search results deemed to be sensitive for political or other reasons are inaccessible within China.

What does this mean? A searcher in Beijing looking for Falun information may see the search results in Google, and perhaps even a Google cached page, but Chinese government blocks prevent searchers from directly accessing those sites.

More from the Google Blog on their Google News China development and difficult choices:

You're reading Google Responds To Google News China Controversy

Austria Joins The Google News Showcase

Google News Showcase launched in late 2023 and gives publishers who sign up for the licensing program a new way to share their editorial voice and expertise.

And the best part?

The program is a way for publishers to be paid for their digital content.

There have been disputes between Australia and Google, and France and Google about remuneration for showcasing publishers’ content online.

In an announcement about the launch of the new program made on the 25th June 2023, Brad Bender, VP, Product Management at Google, News, wrote:

“This program will help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests.”

When the Google News Showcase was launched, publishers within Brazil, Germany, and Australia had signed up.

Now, the list also includes publications from India, Canada, Italy, France, Czechia, the U.K., Japan, Argentina, and more.

Additionally, of those already signed up, over 90% represent community, regional or local news organizations.

What Do Austrian Publications Think About Joining The Google News Showcase?

Austria is the latest in a long line of countries signing up and publishing their content within the Google News Showcase.

Gino Cuturi, who is the Managing Director of a leading regional newspaper in Upper Austria, has spoken about their aim:

“We aim to get even more readers excited about our digital products and to convince them of our local reporting in the long term.”

Hermann Petz, CEO of Tiroler Tageszeitung also stated:

“Experience shows that there is still great potential for regional daily newspapers to attract occasional digital readers and then develop them into regular readers…We see Google News Showcase as an opportunity to expand and monetize this ‘widest circle of readers.’”

Benefits Of Google News Showcase For Publishers

If publications publish their content behind a paywall, Google will pay for user access to this, allowing stories to reach more audiences who have previously been unwilling to pay for content.

Publications can curate the appearance of their content within the program through News Showcase panels.

Panels can include:

Key facts in a list format

Important stories of the day

Timelines

Related articles

That is digestible and easy for readers to access and gain greater insights into news articles.

The program also provides publishers more control over their voice and brand across other Google products.

Google News Showcase readers can connect and follow specific publishers, and the panels will act as a bridge to the publishers’ websites, potentially increasing traffic and subscriptions.

According to the announcement from Google, by sending readers to the website of the publications, the publishers can ‘deepen their relationships with readers’.

With so many countries and news publishers signing up to the showcase, it’s exciting to see who will be next to sign up.

Sources:

Google Support

Yahoo, Google, And Msn Tackle The News

Today Yahoo officially launched their Yahoo News Search 2.0 in beta and has integrated it into the Yahoo Portal’s extremely active news site. Yahoo News Search draws in news stories from thousands of online news sources, combining articles from Yahoo! News and over 7,500 crawled news sources around the Web. The news service has been in beta since January, but was more or less made public today with a new search box placed at the top of the Yahoo News page along with search results generated from a news search on the Yahoo search engine.

Yahoo Search News 2.0 does not only index published news stories, but also offers multimedia news in both audio and video.

Yahoo is still giving AP and web newspaper sites top billing on the main Yahoo News page, but after testing they may follow Google and MSN’s path of using relevancy algorithms to determine the top stories shown from their index.

Google News is the pioneer in news search and has been live for over a year. Google News draws its news results from over 4,500 news sources worldwide and automatically arranged to present the most relevant news first. Google News offers a news service that has quietly become the pinnacle in online news search that is compiled solely by computer algorithms without human intervention.

According to Google News; “the headlines on the Google News homepage are selected entirely by a computer algorithm, based on many factors including how often and on what sites a story appears elsewhere on the web.” Google’s news service also lets readers subscribe to email news alerts and documents news photos along with top stories.

Microsoft’s MSN has also made a fine effort of indexing and making news stories searchable with their MSN Newsbot. Newsbot is in partnership with Moreover news syndication services and too gathers news from over 4,000 sources. Like Google News, MSN Newsbot clusters the top and most relevant news stories on their Newsbot main page. Currently in beta testing on the MSN’s UK network, Newsbot also has international versions throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America. For a selected Spanish speaking US news audience, MSN offers Newsbot Latino.

Last Week In China – No Internet And Google Invests In P2P

Due to an earthquake in Taiwan I have experienced again what it was like before the Internet existed. It’s liberating on the one hand, as there’s no need to check my mail every so many hours or keep track of what is written in the blogosphere.

It was also slightly frustrating as I had some domain names that were about to expire and some other business that needed attention. But without a working connection there is not much one can do.

The quake happened on Boxing Day and the Internet in China is still grappling with getting its international connections up to speed. The earthquake showed as well as how interconnected the world has become as how dependent even China is on it. Let’s hope Asia starts investing in more backup cables.

A not-working Internet doesn’t mean that there was no business done. Google has been very active in the last week.

Google invests in video download website Xunlei

Google has invested in Xunlei Network Technology, a Chinese website that offers a peer-to-peer video and software download services (through using tailor-made software) to Internet users. More than 80 million (or 100 million or maybe even 120 million, depending on the source) users have installed Xunlei’s software.

According to a quote from Xunlei co-founder and chief executive Sean Zou they expect to have 700 million users in 2007. I wonder how that will work, as there are only 132 million Internet users in China according to the latest statistics.

It’s not yet clear how the investment will be put to use.

From Reuters

Google wants to win back search market share from Baidu, currently the leading search engine in China. Having access to the Xunlei users and integrating search and their toolbar on the website and in the software may be one of the ways they will try to achieve this.

Xunlei is peer-to-peer, as mentioned, which means no hosting of files by Xunlei itself. From the point of possible copyright issues this seems better to handle, contrary to what Youtube is facing. Next to that, the downloading is done in China and IPR enforcement here is still rather light. Season 4 of Nip & Tuck is already available on dvd.

Business week has a nice write up on the popularity in China of the homegrown versions of MySpace and YouTube, if you’re interested to read more about this topic.

Google search on China Mobile Portal

Google will provide their search engine technology to China Mobile’s Monternet WAP portal. The portal offers sports and entertainment news, ringtones, games, images, videos and novels and other content. China Mobile is the world largest Telco with more than 250 million subscribers.

From the Google Press Center:

Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, said: “We are delighted to be providing China Mobile users with mobile and Internet search services via our cooperation with Google. Mobile search will help users access the information they need more easily and quickly. This is an important move for China Mobile’s transformation into a mobile information expert. China Mobile will unite the industry chain, rapidly enhancing the whole industry’s value. Our cooperation will not only satisfy our users’ diverse communication needs but also build a new mobile world for Chinese users to communicate freely and live comfortably.

I use this quote as I always enjoy the PR blurb Chinese style. I also hope China Mobile will cut back the time in delivering my sms. The idea is that it gets there before I meet up with someone.

Philipp from Google Blogoscoped ponders whether Google will bring along their infamous censorship module, too. They probably will, but that won’t stop Chinese users to communicate freely.

The last week shows that Google is actively creating partnerships in China to strengthen their foothold. Seeing what happened to Yahoo and eBay that both sold out their businesses to Chinese Internet firms their strategy is smarter. Partnering up on the sideline but keeping their core product, their search engine, in their own hands.

My gut feel says that Google will win back market share in China, maybe not soon but eventually they will. It’s the only prediction for the Chinese Internet market I dare to make.

Gemme van Hasselt is an Internet Marketing Consultant, living in Shanghai, China.

A Guide To Optimizing For Google News, Top Stories, And Discover

Optimizing sites to appear in Google News, Top Stories, and Google Discover is unique in many ways from the process of earning rankings in the 10 blue organic links.

This is because Google uses a variety of different organic SERP features to display recent or newsworthy content, each of which comes with its own set of ranking guidelines and reporting capabilities.

To make this even more complex, Google only provides dedicated reporting on some – but not all – of these News-related features through Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

This leaves some mystery about precisely where in the search results a given article might be driving traffic and impressions.

Google offers guidelines around how to appear in products like Google News and Discover.

However, these documents are often technical in nature (such as this example of Google’s article that explains technical recommendations for preventing content from being indexed on Google News without affecting its performance in regular Search).

In order to understand how your sites perform in News, Discover, and related features, it is best to analyze the performance of your own content to see what works and what doesn’t.

In this column, you’ll learn about the various Google SERP features that display recent or trending news and find tips on how to optimize and report on them.

I’ll also include some aggregated data and insights related to my own clients’ performance across these features.

Google News

Google News is a news aggregator product available both as a mobile app and by visiting chúng tôi in your browser.

Historically, publishers had to manually submit their sites for approval in Google News via the Google Publisher Center, and the approval process was notoriously difficult.

However, Google recently updated its guidelines about which sites are eligible to appear in Google News.

As of December 2023, the documentation quietly changed:

Hidden among this barrage of Publisher Center updates, this is quite a shock:

— Barry Adams 📰 (@badams) December 11, 2023

According to Google’s documentation, all publishers need to do to appear in Google News is “produce high-quality content and comply with Google News content policies.”

Complying with Google’s News content policies boils down to not producing content that is violent, hateful, dangerous, or deceptive.

Reading between the lines of these updated guidelines indicates that it is technically possible for content from any site to appear in Google News.

However, that doesn’t happen often for most sites.

Regardless of how frequently a site produces content, Google is strict in its criteria for which publishers to display in Google News.

As stated throughout much of its documentation, News sites must demonstrate good E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

In fact, in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, the definition of “YMYL – Your Money, Your Life” content starts with “News and current events” as the first example of the type of site that can affect a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

This likely indicates that the criteria used to evaluate content and websites for Google News may be subject to greater scrutiny of E-A-T than that of other areas of Google Search.

This would align with other articles and videos Google has published in recent years that confirm that Google increases its focus on the authoritativeness of publishers when it comes to breaking news, misinformation, elections, and times of crisis.

Two other features Google claims to promote in its rankings of News content are “uniqueness” and a “diversity of viewpoints.”

In late 2023, Google published an article emphasizing the importance of original reporting in its ranking of news content, with the goal of providing stronger rankings for “the story that kicked everything off.”

According to Google:

“While we typically show the latest and most comprehensive version of a story in news results, we’ve made changes to our products globally to highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting.

Such articles may stay in a highly visible position longer. This prominence allows users to view the original reporting while also looking at more recent articles alongside it.”

If your goal is to rank well in Google News, this recommendation can’t be overlooked.

There are numerous aggregator websites and websites that primarily syndicate content from sources like Reuters or the Associated Press, which may be seeing declines in organic visibility in recent years because of this issue.

The SEO visibility of one such aggregator website is shown below, with blue letters indicating Google Core Updates:

While it’s not uncommon for syndicated content to drive traffic, achieving long-term, sustainable performance in Google News requires differentiating your content by providing original reporting or offering a unique angle not found on other sites.

In fact, Google recommends that syndicated content not be indexed, although, in reality, this type of content often drives significant organic traffic for many publishers who choose to index it.

Relevance.

Prominence.

Authoritativeness.

Freshness.

Location.

Language.

Publishing quickly is key.

Unlike traditional search, where timeliness may be more of a muted factor (depending on the query), in Google News, timeliness is everything.

This is especially true if a breaking news event takes place.

The sites that publish quickly will be the first to start accruing links and social shares, which will only amplify their performance on Google News.

Using NewsArticle structured data and News XML Sitemaps are also technical requirements for inclusion in Google News.

Google’s Publisher Center

Google offers news publishers a Publisher Center they can use to manage their Organization’s information. This includes general information about the organization, which categories are included on the site, official brand logos, feeds, and more.

If ranking in Google News is your goal, you should absolutely make use of the Publisher Center to control important information about your brand.

Visibility In Google News

While Google News aims to show a variety of viewpoints and not skew towards any end of the political spectrum, highly authoritative publications have been dominating in recent years.

Meanwhile, many fringe publications appear to have lost visibility.

Looking at the news publishers with the strongest visibility on Google over the last 12 months can shed some light on what it takes to be considered a news authority in various categories.

I pulled a list of the 100 highest traffic websites in “News and Media” from Similarweb’s list of highest traffic domains in that category.

I then cross-referenced this list with the Sistrix Visibility Index (VI) scores for these domains, which measures the overall visibility of a domain over time and assigns it a Visibility Index (VI) score based on how it ranks on Google across Sistrix’s set of 1 million tracked keywords.

These are the news domains that capture the most organic visibility on chúng tôi as of March 1, 2023, using the U.S. index:

Domain 3/1/21 VI 243.4 212.1 123.2 102.9 100.7 97.4 77.8 70.0 59.0 57.1 55.7 50.7 46.4 46.0 45.3 44.8 bbc.co.uk 32.3 29.7 29.0 27.5 26.4 26.4 26.3 26.3

The sites listed above are good sources of inspiration when determining how to structure your headlines, subheadlines, URLs, taxonomy, internal linking, and other considerations that are important for ranking in Google News.

For a comprehensive rundown of how best to optimize content for Google News, I recommend John Shehata’s article on Google News optimization.

Reporting On Google News Traffic

Google News traffic can be reported on through Google Analytics as well as Search Console.

Hiding most of this for client confidentiality purposes, but being able to easily join GA & GSC data from Google News makes it much easier to analyze which headlines generate the strongest CTRs in Google News, which is a gamechanger for many clients.

— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) January 13, 2023

Google Top Stories

For news publishers, Google’s Top Stories carousel is a goldmine of organic traffic. According to Richard Nazarewicz, the Technical SEO Manager of the Wall Street Journal:

“The Top Stories carousel for Mobile and Desktop SERPS is the most coveted spot for fresh or breaking news to surface within the Google Search ecosystem. Every newsroom is working hard with their SEO Editors or SEO desk, if they have one, to optimize using Google Trends, competitor analysis, and  A/B testing SEO title tags (headlines) to ensure their article is surfacing in the top 3 Top Stories results.

It is important to note that currently, only AMP articles are eligible for the Top Stories carousel on mobile devices.

However, Google stated that this requirement will be dropped in conjunction with the Core Web Vitals update set to roll out in May 2023.

After that date, any article can potentially appear in the Top Stories carousel.

However, if the major publishers continue using AMP, this will make it hard for non-AMP publishers to compete with the lightning-fast load times of AMP articles.

The Top Stories carousel currently does not have a dedicated reporting section in Google Search Console or Analytics.

One way to approximate performance data from Top Stories is to navigate to the Search Appearance tab in Search Console, filter by a mobile device, and select AMP article.

It can be helpful to navigate to this view after launching AMP to see if the articles are gaining traction in Top Stories.

It’s therefore important to focus on optimizing the article headline, such as by ensuring the name of the targeted entity (person, place, or thing being written about) is stated clearly and early in the headline.

Article headlines should generally stay under 22 words for optimal performance.

Google Discover

Google Discover is a personalized feed of articles that is available to mobile users via Android devices or the Google App on iOS.

Google Discover can also be accessed by visiting the chúng tôi homepage while logged into a Google Account on a mobile device using Google Chrome.

What makes Google Discover unique from other areas of search is that the list of articles is curated before the user types anything, using other user behaviors across Google to determine what the user might find interesting.

Therefore, a user who frequents publications about dogs, or perhaps shares dog articles on social media, or uses dog-related apps on their phone, may be more likely to see dog content appearing in their Discover feeds.

Content is eligible to appear automatically in Google Discover without using any specific structured data or sitemaps.

Google does require a “compelling, high-quality image,” that is at least 1,200px wide and enabled by the following meta tag:

or by using AMP.

According to Richard Nazarewicz,

“Discover Traffic tends to average around 20-40% of all Google traffic (GSC), whereas in Europe, it is more like 40-60%. The reason it is higher in Europe as well as the Middle East is that Android has a much higher percentage of the mobile market, as opposed to the U.S., where we are predominantly using the Apple iPhone, myself included!

Google continues to say that Discover traffic should be reported as search traffic and is only split out in Google Search Console which can be exported to sheets. But it is currently not available in the API, along with the recently added Google News Tab traffic.”

Last year, Abby Hamilton published this extensive resource on what Google Discover is and how to optimize for it, including original research about which articles tend to appear there.

I conducted a similar analysis, in which I analyzed over 5,000 URLs ranking in Google Discover across a variety of Path Interactive clients over the past year.

General Observations About Google Discover:

Not every page ranking in Google Discover is a news or blog article. Our clients have seen examples of local service pages or other local resources receiving significant traffic from Google Discover.

Articles that are several years old can be resurfaced in Google Discover, even without making any changes to those articles

It appears to be the case that websites that are flagged as “adult” content may not be eligible for Google Discover, and this is not just limited to extremely adult content. Google’s Discover documentation states that content containing “nudity, sex acts, sexually suggestive activities, or sexually explicit material” violates their content guidelines, and may cause publishers not to appear in Discover.

Below are some correlations we observed related to our clients’ performance in Discover.

As always, it’s important to note that correlation is not causation, but the trends can illuminate some insights about what content tends to perform well in Discover.

Our analysis showed that there is a positive correlation between H1 word count and increased CTR, up until about 27 words, where the CTR drops dramatically.

The strongest CTR (14.39%) was found on articles using 25 words in their headlines.

According to this data, writing a headline of about 15-25 words could be a good target for Google Discover.

Looking at overall article length, the articles that received the most traffic in Google Discover ranged from about 500-1,000 words in length, with the strongest performance in the 600-700 word count range.

It’s important to remember that word count is not a ranking factor across any Google Search feature, but we thought the trend was nonetheless interesting to observe for Discover specifically:

These correlations certainly should not dictate how to write your content – focusing on the quality of the content and engaging your users is the optimal approach for appearing in Discover.

Keep an eye on how your articles perform in Discover by navigating to the Discover Performance report on the left sidebar of Google Search Console.

Your own performance data is the best source of truth to see which articles and topics your site tends to rank well for.

Google’s relatively new visual news feature, Web Stories, is also used in Google Discover, making them a great source of traffic and a good way to stay ahead of the competition.

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2023

Search Geek Weekly News Update; Google Social Search & More

It’s been another week in the trenches and while it may have been a little slow out there, we did have some big news with Google Social Search. Question remains, will it really be a game changer or just another vertical? And what the SEO community lacked in activity, we did come across more IR geekiness, which makes this old horse a happy camper. We’ve also got a few interesting patents and more…

I hope this edition finds you well… Enjoy!

Lead Story

When the news broke last week of Google’s Social Search going live, I thought, ‘this has got to be the big story of the week’. At the end of the day I’d say, maybe/maybe not. What we do know is that Google is once more looking to ‘get social’ and there is certainly interest. The part that isn’t as clear, much like Search/Side Wiki before it, is the level of adoption.

As a fella that has been following Google’s personalization/social trail the last few years, it was an interesting development. The burning question is always, “what effect will it have on SEO?”. There were those that said personalization would mean a massive change in what we do, that too, was a bit of an ambitious assertion.

Unless there are wholesale changes to its current implementation, I can’t see this being a game changer. Yes, it will likely present a new vertical with new opportunities, but beyond that it would seem this development will be limited in its effect on us.

Here’s a ton of coverage for you;

My own review!

Google;

Usual Suspects;

Read Write Web

Search Engine Land

The Noisy Channel

BlogStorm

Bruce Clay

Now let’s get on with the rest of this week’s search goodiness shall we?

Buzz Bin Search Geek Central Search Patents

/end SOSG session

‘7 Days of Search and Social’ is a joint effort from Search Engine Journal and the SEO Training Dojo to bring you the latest in SEO and Social Search news. Each week (on Tuesdays) we’ll be posting the highlights of the most recent (SEO Geeks) newsletter here on Search Engine Journal.

Be sure to grab the SEJ feed for the latest or sign up to the SEO Dojo newsletter to get it straight to your inbox.

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