Why You should be using a Google News Sitemap

Last Edited June 22, 2016 by Garenne Bigby in Sitemaps

google news sitemaps

As a whole, Google News works to promote online journalism, and allow users to be exposed to many diverse perspectives. In this process, there are no humans that are choosing which stories receive top placements and which ones will be declined placement at all. The factors that determine where an article will rank on Google News are: the diversity of content, the originality of the content, rich textual content, and how fresh the content is. Additionally, there are technical factors that may affect the ranking of an article in Google News. These factors are: other relevant sites that link to your article, as well as accurate and descriptive title and alternate tags in the code for the news articles.

More about Google News Sitemaps

A Google News sitemap provides Google with the metadata associated with specific news content on a certain website. This sitemap will allow the owner of the website to control which specific content is submitted to Google News. Using this process, Google News is then enabled to find the articles that are contained on a website quickly and accurately. The website crawler is then directly pointed to the specific URL for each of these news articles. This entire process ensures that the all appropriate websites are covered.

When using these sitemaps, know that they will identify not only the title, but the date of publication of every article as well. The types of content that is contained in the articles can be expressed through access tags and genres. To identify the article content even further, identifying factors such as relevant keywords or stock tickers are included in descriptions. Which websites benefit the most from a Google News Sitemap? Any website could benefit from using one, but it is recommended especially for websites that have dynamic content, that are new, or that have a path that would require several clicks to reach a news article.

Things to Remember

In order to use the Google News Sitemaps, you have to request to be included in Google News first, or else the news sitemap will not be able to be processed.

The Sitemap Generator will track the changes made on the website automatically, and will create a news sitemap separately in a file. This new sitemap will only include URLs that are new from the last few days.

Guidelines for Creating a Google News Sitemap

Creating a sitemap for Google News is just a bit different from creating a regular sitemap. There are a specific set of guidelines that you should follow when working on one.

  • The News sitemap can not contain any articles that have been published more than two days prior. Remove articles that have not been published in the last two days; these articles will disappear from the sitemap but will stay in the index for the News sitemap for a normal period of 30 days.
  • Users are encouraged to update their News Sitemap constantly with new articles as they are being published. 
  • There can be no more than 1,000 URLs contained in a News sitemap. When you need to include more, the URLs should be broken up into multiple sitemaps, and then you will utilize a sitemap index that will manage them. There is an XML sitemap that is provided through the sitemap protocol. The entire sitemap index file cannot list more than 50,000 sitemaps in total. These limits are in place to make sure that your own website server is not overloaded by Google News trying to access files that are extremely large.
  • When news articles are published, they should not be created with a new News Sitemap each time. Rather, simply update the current sitemap to include the new URLs for the articles.
  • A News Sitemap cannot be created with the Google Sitemap Generator because doing this would call for the sitemap to include URLs that are not in correspondence with specific news articles. There are many 3rd party tools available on the internet that will help you to generate a News Sitemap for Google.

Once the Google News Sitemap has been created, it should be uploaded to the highest level of the directory that contains the news articles.

Tags Specific for Google News Sitemaps

There is a comprehensive list of tags that are associated with Google News sitemaps. Some of these tags are required in the sitemap, while others are optional. It is up to the user to determine whether or not they will use the ones that are deemed optional.

News Tags and their Definitions

<publication>: this tag is required. The publication tag will define the publication where the article appears. There are two other tags that are required for the publication tag, <name> and <language>. The name tag will be the name of the publication. It has to match the name exactly as it will appear on the article from, and will omit any parentheticals that trail after. As as example, if the name in Google News appears as “The Sample Times (subscription), you will need to use the name “The Sample Times”. The language tag is the seemingly obvious language of the publication. It will be an ISO 639 Language Code, and will be 2 or 3 letters. The exception to this is that for Chinese, you should use the code for Simplified Chinese as zh-cn, and for Traditional Chinese, zh-tw.

<genre>: this tag is required when genres apply. Otherwise it can be omitted. A comma should be used to separate the list of properties that characterize the content of the article, like “UserGenerated” and “PressRelease”. The content must be precisely labeled so that a consistent experience can be provided to the users. Other <genre> tags would include: Satire, Blog, OpEd, and Opinion.

<publication_date>: this tag is required. The publication date of the article should be in W3C format—this uses the “entire date” format as YYY-MM-DD, or as the “complete date and hours, minutes and seconds” format, which includes the timezone designator YYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD. It is vital that the original date and time that the article was published is given on your website, and not the time and date that the article was added into the sitemap. In addition to the two formats listed previously, the crawler will also accept a complete date and hours plus minutes, as well as complete date and hours, minutes, seconds, and a fraction of a second (as a decimal point).

<title>: this tag is absolutely required. This is the title of the news article. The title can be shortened for reasons of saving space when it is shown on Google News. The article title tags should include only the title of the article as it will appear on the website. Make sure that you do not include the author's name, the name of the publication, or the date of the publication as part of this title tag.

<keywords>: the keywords tag is not required. This is a list of keywords that are separated by a comma that describe the topic of an article. There is a list of existing Google News keywords in which the list can be drawn from. These keywords include: business, entertainment, education, health, headlines, humor, legal, lifestyle, politics, nation, science, religion, sports, technology, world, and weird news. Some of these keywords have their own sub-list, such as entertainment. Under the entertainment keyword you will find movies, books, and TV. There is no limit to how many keywords that one may use in a sitemap, but it is not likely to be helpful to use more than about 12 keywords per article.

<stock_tickers>: the stock ticker tag is not required by any means. But when it is used, it should be in a list of up to 5 stock tickers and they should all be separated by a comma. These stocks can be mutual funds, companies, or any number of other financial entities that are the subject of the article. The stock ticker tags are useful when the content is made up of business articles. Each of the tickers that are present has to be prefixed by the name of its own stock exchange and has to match the entry in Google Finance.

Benefits of Google News Tags in Sitemaps

While building your sitemap for Google News, remember the basic rule from other sitemaps—all information contained in the sitemap will influence how a search engine will interpret the website, thus resulting in the placement in search results. This metadata is determined only by the user, so be aware that a lack of metadata (keywords) will not be beneficial.

Google's website crawler makes use of their own Google-specific tags in order to help decide how to classify the content in the most effective way. When choosing to use the meta tag news_keywords, you may choose which of the keywords are most applicable to your article. As an example, an article about a sporting event like the World Cup would utilize a specific code to help Google News to understand the nature of the content better. Keywords can also help to differentiate between terms that may be related. In the world cup example, the user may want to add the keywords of “soccer” and “football” to the code, as these are two different names for the same sport, depending on where you live and would differentiate it from any other World Cup, such as rugby.

A comma should be used to separate each phrase in the keyword section. It should be noted that commas are the only punctuation that is allowed in the field. A user may add up to 10 phrases per article, and each keyword is given the same value. What does this mean? It simply means that the keyword that is first in the list will not be considered stronger than the tenth keyword that is in the list, there is no priority given to the keywords contained in the list. There are a number of other signals that are used to determine the ranking, as well as the prominence of specific keywords.

Improving Rankings with Google News

It is possible to improve a website's ranking by ensuring that it is Google-friendly. A website that is Google-friendly will:

  • Give the website's visitors the information that they are looking for. There will be high quality content on all pages—especially the homepage. When the webpage contains useful information, the content will attract visitors and then tempt webmasters to link to the site. In order to create a website that is helpful and rich in information, you will have to write content that accurately describes the topic. Choose words that users would use to find the page, and include them in the content on your site.
  • Ensure that other websites link to your own website. These links help web crawlers find the site, thus they gain visibility. Google especially uses a sophisticated technique that entails text matching in order to display pages that are relevant and important to a search.
  • Make the website easily accessible. This means that the website will have a logical link structure while every page in the site is reachable from at least one static link. All of this can be done when using the Google News Sitemap, and will ensure that the website has a structure that makes sense to users and web crawlers.

Google News sitemaps ensure that a news website contains all of the relative metadata in regards to the specific content. The website owner maintains control of the site, but Google News sitemap works to help Google news to find any news articles that are present on a website. It is especially helpful to those websites that are new, have ever-changing content, or are inclusive of a path that would require more than one click to find a news article. This process significantly cuts down on the amount of work that is required of the webmaster, and takes action all important activity that needs to be done on the news website.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.


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