Does Google News manipulate search results to prioritize national outlets?

Does Google News manipulate search results to prioritize national outlets?
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Back in September, published an article titled, “Auditing local news presence on Google News” (Free PDF) by Sean Fischer, Kokil Jaidka and Yphtach Lelkes. The article highlights the research performed by the trio, which ultimately supports their hypothesis that Google News favors content from large national outlets over smaller local outlets, and prioritizes those sources within its search results. This is problematic for local and regional newspapers who are being negatively impacted by Google News’s algorithm.

You can read the abstract for the article below:

“Local news outlets have struggled to stay open in the more competitive market of digital media. Some have noted that this decline may be due to the ways in which digital platforms direct attention to some news outlets and not others. To test this theory, we collected 12.29 million responses to Google News searches within all US counties for a set of keywords. We compared the number of local outlets reported in the results against the number of national outlets. We find that, unless consumers are searching specifically for topics of local interest, national outlets dominate search results. Features correlated with local supply and demand, such as the number of local outlets and demographics associated with local news consumption, are not related to the likelihood of finding a local news outlet. Our findings imply that platforms may be diverting web traffic and desperately needed advertising dollars away from local news.” – “Auditing local news presence on Google News” (Free PDF) from

The question ultimately becomes: What can we do about it?

Unfortunately, without direct action from Google to adjust their algorithms, there isn’t a complete solution to the issues described above. However, you can optimize your website for Google News and follow some basic Search Engine Optimization tips to help your website climb closer to the top of search results. Check out the resources below for a few different ways you can set up your site for search engine success!

1. Focus on Local News Topics 

The article does mention that despite the bias in favor if national outlets, local news outlets perform better when users search for a more specific local search term. What this means is that you should try to focus your content on local topics rather than national or international topics. Given the current algorithm Google News is using, it is unlikely that a local newspaper would be able to compete with national outlets when it comes to topics of nation-wide interest.

From the article: “… When we modelled the probability of Google News returning a local or regional news outlet for a given result within the broader set of results for a query in a given county, we found that the only substantial association was with the type of term for which we searched. Again, topics that are locally oriented generate results that include more local outlets, while topics that are generally oriented generate results that include more national outlets.”

2. Submit your Website to Google News [Read Full Post]

Aside from modifying the type of content you produce, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you’ve submitted your newspaper or website to Google News so that they can review your publication and decide whether or not to include your content in the Google News platform. Once your website has been approved, Google News users will be able to find content from your website more easily and you can expect some uptick in traffic just by virture of getting more eyes on your content.

3. Using “All in One SEO” to Improve Search Rankings [Read Full Post]

Our-Hometown’s WordPress Publishing Platform comes with the fantastic “All in One SEO” plugin pre-installed and ready to be configured for your website. This plugin serves as a universal solution allowing you to manage several aspects of search engine optimization from a single settings page. You can manage page titles and structure, keywords, page descriptions, settings, NOINDEX settings, and much more! Each of these different settings play some role in making your site more visible on Google and other search engines.

4. Adjusting the “Related Stories” Block to Retain Readers [Read Full Post]

Our engineers released an update earlier this year that gives publishers more control over the “Related Stories” block that appears at the end of each article. Previously, this block was restricted to showing three random stories from the same category that the story the reader is viewing belongs to. This update allows you to include stories from more than one category (useful for when a story is assigned to multiple categories), each on their own line, and allows you to display more than three stories per block.

All of this adds up to more content being displayed at the end of the articles, so that when a reader reaches the conclusion of the article they’ve clicked on, they are presented with several related articles that may be of interest to them as well.

5. Use Reverse Publishing to Update Your Site Frequently [Read Full Post]

Reverse Publishing is a feature developed by Our-Hometown that emphasizes the idea of drafting, editing and publishing all of your content to the website first, before later exporting the entire edition worth of stories for placement into an Adobe InDesign template to create your print edition.

One thing Google and other search engines look for in their results is how often a website is updated. If you only update your website a couple times a month, or even once a week, Google may not see you as a dedicated and valuable news source. By using Reverse Publishing, you are guaranteeing that every story is published online rather than just a few of your prominent or high-interest ones. The more content you publish to your website the better.

6. Publish all content in HTML (and PDF) [Read Full Post]

Long gone are the days when publishers could simply upload a PDF of their paper and expect to generate website traffic.  Most publishers today recognize the need to post their content as HTML articles in addition to a PDF eEdition on their website, the only question is what method to use for populating the website.

If Reverse Publishing isn’t your thing, or you aren’t ready to make the jump just yet, then we’d recommend using our PDF to HTML Extraction Service to help update your website more frequently. Many of the same reasons we mentioned for Reverse Publishing apply to here as well — the more often you update your website with new content, the better.

Another angle to consider, though, is the benefits of having HTML archives vs simple PDF archives. Many newspapers are proud to offer an extensive archive of PDF editions, but the problem is that in most cases Google and other search engines cannot actually read or index these PDFs in the way that they can HTML articles. Therefore, you may have fifty years of PDF archives on your website, but unless those are transcribed to written HTML articles, they are likely entirely invisible to search engines.

Using our PDF extraction service, we automatically extract and publish each of your editions to the web, helping you to build and preserve archive of all of your HTML stories.

Thanks for taking a moment to read about these tips for enhancing your presence on Google. Keep an eye on our blog as we’ll continue to post more strategies for improving search engine rankings, as well as provide any future updates regarding Google News’ search algorithm!



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