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Google Unveils Publisher Center to Optimize News Content

For owners of news websites, Google has opened the door—at least partly—to the way in which it will identify and display your content in Google News.

The opportunity comes in the form of the new News Publisher Center which was announced this week in a blog post by Google engineer Eric Weigle. The center lets news publishers make changes to the official Google record of their sites, in three main ways:

  • Updating basic site details like name and site labels
  • Updating the structure of your site by adding, removing or changing section URLs
  • Most critically, labeling each of your sections with a topic tag

The price of this access? Only doing a little bit of spot-checking for Google. The first time a site owner signs in at the News Publisher Center they’ll be required to review both their site structure and their site’s news section URLs and update them if needed—after proving they are who they say they are, of course. After that initial run, the owner can sign in and make changes whenever they feel it’s prudent.

The reasons Google rolled out this change are clear. News stories are a type of search result where accuracy matters, and Google is essentially taking some of the burden off their own shoulders by allowing newsmakers some limited direct control. If a section is erroneously labeled as “satire,” for example, you can’t really blame Google’s crawlers anymore; you should have chosen the right label yourself.

But Weigle has spun the change in language that openly references SEO benefits. “With the Publisher Center,” he writes, “You can benefit from better discovery and classification of your content …” In other words, higher traffic.
To some extent, choosing the topic tag that Google gives a section of your site is like being told, “Tell us what you want to rank for.” True, it’s only one high-level keyword out of many, but it’s one that Google’s giving you, essentially, for free.

So far this level of access applies only to news websites, probably because they represent a more “trusted” form of site to Google. To this day, Google’s basic search options include a News search but no other site-type searches, such as Blogs or Humor. Clearly the search giant feels it can readily identify what is and is not a news site and trusts news sites to follow the rules.

But if the Publisher Center works out well, might we see Google open up these options to webmasters in general? Even just three years ago the idea would have been unthinkable, but in today’s SEO landscape it seems a possibility.