Google has launched a new META keyword tag <meta name=”news_keywords”> specifically for news websites to provide a better contextual understanding of the news topic and focus for the article, while allowing the writers the freedom to be more creative with their headlines and grab a reader’s attention.
The new META tag field, which was announced by Google on September 19th, is designed to be used by news websites and writers to add generalized categories and subjects to their articles, and are designed specifically for Google’s crawlers, rather than the traditional user facing keyword tags that populate the META tag “keywords”. Google News talks more about the tag in their blog post.
If used properly, this tag could be of great benefit for news organizations to help position their content to increase visibility in both universal Google search and specifically Google News search as Google has flat-out stated in their blog post that this tag will be used as part of its algorithm. The tag will allow reporters to apply both national and local keyword context to the stories such as news category (i.e. entertainment, sports, politics) and focal subject (i.e. 2012 election, Hurricane Isaac), without having to write lengthy keyword-stuffed headlines. A fully completed tag might look like this:
<meta name=”news_keywords” content=”World Cup, Brazil 2014, Spain vs Netherlands, soccer, football”>
Each phrase used needs to be separated by a comma, up to ten phrases can be used within the tag, and the order of the tags are weighted equally and do not imply importance of one over the other. The keywords within this tag do not have to appear anywhere within the headline or body text.
Reporters will need to continue applying SEO best practices to their articles such as adding the most important keyword to the headline itself and within the content of the article, and of course writing content that readers will find informative and interesting. Google goes on to state about the tag:
The news_keywords metatag is intended as a tool — but high-quality reporting and interesting news content remain the strongest ways to put your newsroom’s work in front of Google News users.
This tag will provide another opportunity for reporters to add keywords to their content to help better leverage their coverage for visibility in an increasingly competitive news market.
For websites that plan to implement this tag, they should consider creating a separate “news_keyword” tag in addition to the “keyword” tag if it is still being used (rather than renaming than simply renaming the tag) as the “keyword” tag remains a small portion of the search algorithms for sites such as Bing.
Once the “news_keyword” tag is created and populated, take the opportunity to look at updating the site’s XML News Sitemaps field <news:keywords> to use “news_keywords” tags field. This older, but still highly relevant, article from Google talks about examples of content best suited for this field.
While this tag won’t be completely shaking up the how Google ranks news content, there is reason to believe that it could help edge out highly authoritative news sources against their competitors if used properly.