I last blogged some notes on the basic concepts behind SEO – Keywords, Links and Content. But what are the methods for getting a story to the top of a Google News search? Being the first news website listed on a search result page would be gold dust to a news organization.

Of course, Google doesn’t divulge the secrets of its trade – so it is up to the SEO specialists to try and work it out. A study released in September asked the top SEO practitioners of major news organisations what they thought were the most important factors. The report is wide ranging and quite detailed – so here is my reading of the most important/interesting considerations.

The ten top signals in order of importance are:

  1. Category authority – if you keep writing optimized stories about a topic then you will gain authority in that area.
  2. Keywords in headline and page titles
  3. Domain authority – the news organisation domain has lots of quality inbound links
  4. Social sharing – lots of tweets, Facebook shares and G+ mentions. This is set to become more imporant, as it has recently been announced that articles that your friends have G+’d will be highlighted
  5. First to publish the story – this will increase the amount of inbound links
  6. Citation rank – the number of high quality sites that link (cite) to a news story
  7. Unique articles
  8. High CTR (click through rates) – the more clicks a site gets from either Google News or other Google SERPs (search engine results page).
  9. Quality content – Google evaluates the quality of the content and looks for things like typo’s and copied content. Apparently – one spelling mistake can blacklist your site!
  10. Use of Google News XML sitemap – a way of structuring your news site in a way that Google can easily understand

Other important factors to consider are:

  • Using an author tag (a HTML tag that declares the author of an article)
  • Having many different authors
  • Number of articles published by that author
  • Local relevance – a local website would rank highly on a local issue
  • Using a syndication tag – if content is syndicated out to other sites, this tag lets Google know which was the original source.
  • Keyword should be first word of page title (for more keyword specific considerations click here)
  • Google will search for the presence of words it considers related to the news story
  • Up-votes for the article on social sites like StumbleUpon and Reddit are relevant
  • A good sentiment of words used in citations and social links.
  • Creating several articles about a topic in a short time increases authority
  • The number of images in an article is important – and the image should be hosted on the same domain as the article
  • A long download time for the article will negatively affect authority