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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.