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September 30, 2012

Google News Resurrects Meta Keywords for Newsworthy Content

Metatags – remember those? So 2002, right? Back in those days, metadata was the prime way to rank in the search engines, and SEOs with the most keywords stuffed into their websites dominated the SERPs. I remember reading through search result descriptions and coming head-to-head with crazy little numbers like this:

“cat cats cat food catty kitten kitty cat cat training cat collar”

Okay, what? I for one am pleased as punch that Big G went ahead and nipped that one in the bud.

Flash forward ten years. Long after the death of the metatag, the concept has made an unexpected cameo. Google News has recently reintroduced the concept, and the 2.0 version comes with a whole new set of rules. Let’s look at what exactly has changed and how you can use the new metatag to promote all your website’s best news stories going forward.

The Lowdown on the New Metatag

Google made the move to reintroduce the idea of metatags for use in Google News feeds. The news_keyword metatag is a way to add keywords to your Google News stories to help correctly classify them for readers to find. To better illustrate why this is important, here’s a tidbit from the official Google News blog:

“The day after the historic 1929 stock market crash, Variety bannered their front page with these words: “WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG.” It’s a great headline: pithy, catchy, and expressive of the substance of the story as well as the scale of its consequences. It’s also worth noting that Variety’s editors had a full day to write the headline — millions of readers weren’t trying to search for the story within seconds of hearing about it.

The Web has transformed both how news organizations report information and the way users find it. Imagine if “WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG” were used as a headline today by an online news site. Since the headline is a sequence of text that’s only readily understandable by a human, most machine algorithms would probably attach some sort of biological association to it. In turn, this would make it difficult for millions of curious users who are using or Google News to find the best article about the stock market crash they just heard about.

To help solve this problem, today we’re excited to announce a news_keyword metatag. The goal is simple: empower news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.”

That last part sounds great, doesn’t it?

If you’re wondering how to implement it… don’t. The Google News help pages clue webmasters in on what they need to know in order to use the new tag. They use the following example:

<meta name=”news_keywords” content=”World Cup, Brazil 2014, Spain vs Netherlands”>

The help pages also point out that Google News publishers can only use up to ten keywords within the news_keywords tag. It’s great to set limits, but I’m willing to bet that people will soon try to figure out a way to abuse it in no time flat. That’s the nature of the Internet, it’s the way some people are, and it’s the reason Google must constantly fight to stay one step ahead.

The new tag is a long-overdue and necessary. As the official blog post pointed out, publishers can now craft a killer news story “without forcing the editors to water down the creativity of a great headline.” Instead of fretting over ways to awkwardly shove keywords into your headline and story body, you can just, well… write.

SEOs shouldn’t worry (too much) about scammers, spammers, and fraudsters ruining this new tag for everyone else. In the first place, how much damage can one tag inflict with a ten-keyword limit? That seems pretty tame to me. There is, of course, the possibility of hackers attempting to run scripts or alter the code in some way, but frankly, we’re just not dealing with the same Google of years past. Algorithms and bots are more sophisticated now than they ever were before, and these hacks won’t stand a chance against G’s search fortress.

It’s also worth mentioning that we’re dealing with Google News, not the regular Google search. It’s a whole different animal. In fact, webmasters must submit their sites for review and inclusion in the Google News network before they can even submit news articles. Every website must adhere to the Google News guidelines as well as the general Google quality guidelines to earn the official stamp of approval.

How to Use the “News_Keywords” Tag for Your Website

Does your website publish breaking news or otherwise newsworthy content? If so, you should consider Google News. Submit your site for inclusion in the service, and get to work crafting your newsworthy pieces.

Google News is singularly focused on furnishing users with unbridled exposure to as many varieties of news outlets as possible. Hence, the new tag. When you’re creating a story about something relevant to your niche, but the wording is way out in left field, that’s where these new little metatags will come in mighty handy. Make sure you include only the most highly relevant keywords and stick with a set of keywords that are closely related. This will increase your chances of being found.

Keep a couple of rules in mind before you get started. First, make sure to adhere to Google’s quality guidelines. They’re looking for relevant, useful, well-written content, so don’t let your article disappoint. In addition, if you’re writing a satire piece, political commentary, a blog post, or a press release, you’re now required to use proper labeling. Tag these kinds of content so Google News knows how to handle them. You can find a list of tags to use in the Google help pages.

If your website is indeed accepted into Google News, rejoice! One step down. But remember that getting into the service, writing news pieces, and using keywords are not the only things you need to do in order to rank. Remember that quite a few other signals are factored into Google’s algo, and this new metadata is but one part of the equation.

That said, it certainly can’t hurt. As a strategy for website marketing, it seems more solid than most. Any time Google rolls out a new change like this, it’s most effective when you use the feature right away. The longer you wait before you use it, the more watered down others will make it. Translation: it will be tough to get any kind of real exposure simply from using the tag.

Start writing those press releases and articles now and get the word out about your site. Remember – nothing beats free advertising.

Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews,
one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.

34 Responses to “Google News Resurrects Meta Keywords for Newsworthy Content

    It’s good news for news websites according to SEO point of view. But it will get abused soon by other themes.

    avatar London Removals says:

    There has never been any harm in using any sort of meta tags. Their preferrence might have reduced in google search engine ranking, but it give an idea to the crawler about the nature of the site.

    Now google is no depending on just one factor to rank a site in the search. Still and as always, quality conents are the main factors even today and it was even a main factor 10 years ago.

    avatar Daniel Gill says:

    I recently removed all keywords from our sites, will this have an adverse effect on these site.

    So, Google has decided to backtrack its steps. I guess the whole SEO community will take note and make hasty amendments in the coming days. I doubt if it will impact the search results. Lets wait and see..

    avatar Jocuri Noi says:

    if others who don`t have a news website and use that meta ?! what`s happen ?

    avatar StartlingSEO says:

    I agree with Ord Allenbea. I’ve been building websites as well since 1996 and have always used keywords and meta tag descriptions (as well as other meta info). And have never changed. Please site your sources about Meta info not being used anymore, because what is in my description meta tag still pops up as the description for my website. Where a competitor who doesn’t use Meta tags gets a bundle of junk in their description of their website.

    I think that not using meta tags is a common misconception that people who know little to nothing about website creation overlook. They think… Oh, well we don’t need them anyway they’re not used.

    Believe me… They’re still used to this day.

    Meta tags haven’t been dead for years for everyone only google, I still believe they should play a role for the search engines rather than just page content.

    I like others have been using them and I will remain using them. I recently created a site and the only way I could get the site listings sorted was to use meta tags. The method I created was the old length method (max 250 characters) and sure some sites try and abuse it but at least it gave me a heads up on about 40% on what their site was about.

    I tried to add google adsense beforehand and couldn’t because google said I didn’t have enough content. This was the only way I could define the sites easily without going through the odd 40,000 sites by hand. I don’t have the fancy bots to sort them out like google does even though I still don’t believe that they do great a job at it after all these years.

    My thoughts were if the Meta Tags don’t mach the page content then penalise it rather than doing CEO on everything wasting everyone’ precious time only to find it hasn’t made any different to the rankings whatsoever.
    I did not think it would be that hard to have a script read ONLY so many characters or words to be able to abuse it.

    Wonder what happened to the old KISS principle. oh well..that’s progress I guess.

    “Meta Tags are dead” how come my site has the meta and its doing well.

    avatar Eric Njoka says:

    What is the alternative for sites when it comes to meta tags.

    Thanks for the tip, the article is very informative.

    I have a blog which is my views on Life, Love and Relationships to help others… Would it be beneficial for me to use the news metatag?

    avatar Rick Crombie says:

    Thank you very much for the update.

    Fortunately for everyone, I don’t think this is going to be able to be abused by spamers, since webmasters must submit their sites for review and inclusion in the Google News network BEFORE they can even submit news articles.

    Google is not going to allow just any crappy content slide through and ruin what they are trying to accomplish.

    Which is good for the people who do bother and take the time to provide relevant and quality content.

    Thanks for the advice and information. Just one question: do i need to replaced the old meta tags by the meta-news tag (i mean on web sites with breaking news or content changing almost every days)?

    avatar Tim L. says:

    Somebody forgot to tell Google if metatags have been dead for 10 years. For most of my blog and webzine stories, the description that shows up in Google’s search results is exactly what I’ve put in the metatag description.

    avatar SunnySpotFlorida says:

    Are you getting tired of getting jerked around by Search Engines. Every time you turn around there’s something else to do to keep in their Good Graces.

    It appears now that their computers aren’t as smart as they thought. Apparently the are having difficulty understanding a web sites INTENT. So, we’re back to meta tags AGAIN.

    Really looking forward to next weeks jerk on the leash.

    avatar Mark says:

    I’m completely in agreement with Tim. I have a bi lingual site and each time the description that comes up in both languages is my metatag description.

    avatar Judy Asman says:

    I’ve always used metadata as well and my sites do fine. I did however turn minimalist when entering keywords. Also, what Tim L. said.

    avatar Former Marine says:

    Good, informative article Nell, especially for new site owners who always seem to either side-step meta tags altogether, or don’t know which ones to put so all SE’s know how to index their site.

    I agree where you stated “publishers can only use up to ten keywords” as this is something I’ve told thousands of site owners for over 25 yrs and many of those site owners can’t understand why their site is listed so low in Google and all other SE’s.

    Guess that’s why all 3 of my sites enjoy being in the #1 slot of Google and all other SE’s, because I follow the rules and know what works.

    avatar Jayson says:

    Thanks for the information Neil. The implementation of this within Google’s News Network seems appropriate, and there are enough ways to regulate abuse, so things shouldn’t get to out of hand.

    As mentioned, it’s a good way to let writers worry more about writing then SE traffic.

    avatar Wedding Speeches says:

    People use to really stuff keywords in there that made no sense at all. I’m like you..thanks those days are long gone.

    avatar Barb says:

    If you want to know why Google’s SERPs are a hot mess, you need look no further than the non-use of the keyword meta tag. Oh yes, many a “guru” (who shall remain nameless to protect the GUILTY) has stated they are no longer used, but guess what? That’s why your sites do a Google dance with each algorithm change.

    I will ALWAYS use the keyword meta tag. Never stopped using it. In addition, I use all the other meta tags available.

    Here’s another tip. You need no more than 5 keywords in your meta data. Your strongest are the first 3.

    Here’s my thing. The goal with each website I build is to make it relevant for the keywords the site owner wants to found under. That means total 100% relevancy for title, description, KEYWORDS, and content. The search spiders come to your site and say. “Oh looky. Everything is relevant here. WOW! I can flow through this source code really easy and find everything neatly in place. What a revelation!”

    Search engine friendly sites with properly written meta tags and great content are what make the grade. And that is what I do. I don’t care what Google, Matt Cuts, or the other “guru” says on here who spouts that keyword meta tags are not used, whats-her-name, can’t think of it right now.

    An SEO not using the meta tag keyword is cheating their client out of the very best possible chance for great placement on the SERPs. In other words, to put in a nail you use a hammer, not a shoe.


    avatar Derek says:

    I think this is a great idea! I’m glad they are bringing back this meta tag. And like you said, how easily can someone defraud it if the limit is 10 words? Don’t think it can really be messed with plus it will help with spreading news within our specific market.

    avatar Max Brown says:

    Thank you with this. I am just about to start our pr campaign and this is something that I can start straight away. It is really good that I can write articles the way I want and create good content without having my keywords in the back of my mind. I can’t see how it can be abused too much with the 10 word limit and it should be like water off a ducks back for google to identify wrong-doers.

    avatar Paul says:

    I can see the benefit of this if used appropriately. Thanks for the heads up, I had heard rumors about this but no exact details of what and how. Great post.

    Great article. For us who have been in the web business for over 10 years, we have seen so many conversations regarding meta tags it’s crazy. I have always used the philosophy that quality is better than quantity. Get accurate with your 10 words and leave it from there. Google will keep changing the playing field and with articles like this we can always keep up.

    avatar Jamie says:

    I believe Meta Tags are relevant, I think there is some confusion in here as well.Let me clear some of it up. Yes, your META DESCRIPTION still works, that is what you see in Google Serps, The META KEYWORDS are different, that is a seperate line of code, I still do USE BOTH, while i have seen websites on the front page with and without keyword or meta tag, long titles, 20 or 30 keywords in the keyword tag etc. This can only point to a conclusion that CONTENT must be the biggest factor, But i do advise you to keep using your meta tags, what the Googlebot just jumps over that line of code LOL
    Good Luck Everyone!!

    Thanks for the post. Very difficult to keep up with all these recent changes with Google all the time! And META definitely works well when used the right way!

    avatar Nacer says:

    Certainly if there is a limit to the amount of keywords it will be a good idea to bring back, only when people are stuffing war and peace in there did it become nonsensical!

    avatar Pick Up Artist says:

    Yes when meta keywords are limited to only a certain number i think it will be much more effective

    avatar movingvan says:

    great post thanks for the post was really good

    avatar moving van says:

    great post thanks for the post was really good keep up the good work

    avatar moving van says:

    keep up the good work great info

    avatar Jocuri says:

    This subject has been discussed on the last seminar of Google team in Romania Bucharest.
    Very interesting and very useful!

    avatar topi says:

    Great information thank you, I know Google news treats everything different (different guidelines)and they are very strict about their guidelines (more so than normal rankings). And you have covered everything

    “adhere to Google’s quality guidelines. They’re looking for relevant, useful, well-written content, so don’t let your article disappoint”

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