After months of complaints from news publishers that their content is not showing up for relevant queries, Google News has implemented changes to rectify the issue.
However, the search engine giant stopped short of saying exactly what has changed. Lisa Wang, Partner Operations Manager at Google, simply confirmed the update in the help forums.
Confirmation of Google News change
As Wang initially explained on 2nd November 2018: “We are working on an update which should help resolve some of the issues that publishers have raised around finding their sites or particular articles in Google News. We estimate this will be ready in the next few weeks and will provide another update at that time.”
On the 21st November, she followed this up with: “We believe we have resolved the issues that publishers have raised around finding their sites or particular articles in Google News. However, should you still encounter issues where you are unable to find your site or particular article in Google News despite being included, please continue to share specific examples in this forum thread.”
Immediately after Wang confirmed that the update had been rolled out, users reported back with mixed results.
One user said: “My site was affected by the issue, but we’ve started to see a rebound. I noticed that it is now appearing in Google Search as the 5th result in the Top Stories slider.”
However, another noted: “My site is still not fixed, and my articles are still not appearing in Google News, unless we sort by date. If we search our articles title word to word, it still doesn’t appear, we are very frustrated and troubled.”
When pressed for clarification over what the update had supposedly fixed, Google didn’t provide an answer. This prompted Search Engine Land to speculate what the issue could be, which ranged from indexing bugs for specific formats to ranking bugs with niche websites.
Furthermore, there didn’t appear to be any patterns among the sites suffering from poor visibility. Publishers were using different content management systems to publish news about a wide range of diverse topics.
Therefore, it is safe to say that visibility doesn’t correlate with specific site structures or categories of content..
Will ranking in Google News even matter soon?
Despite the fact that Google News is a considerable traffic driver for many publishers, it might not have as big of an impact in the future if the EU succeeds in imposing a new ‘link tax’.
The search engine giant faces a battle with Brussels over a proposed tax aimed at compensating news publishers. Known as Article 11, and its sister legislation Article 13, the link tax has been designed to ensure content creators are paid for material uploaded to sites such as the Google-owned YouTube.
The proposals were overwhelmingly backed by MEPs in September but haven’t been officially confirmed yet.
In response, Google’s Vice-President of News Richard Gingras said while “it’s not desirable to shut down services” the company was deeply concerned about the proposals.
Gingras referenced Spain passing a law in 2014 requiring aggregation sites to pay for news links in a bid to prop up struggling print news outlets. Google then closed its News service for Spanish consumers, which prompted a fall in traffic to the country’s news websites.
“We would not like to see that happen in Europe,” said Gingras. “Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders.”
If the legislation is introduced before the end of any post-Brexit transition period, the UK could also be affected by the EU’s link tax.
The future of Google News
For any publisher, not showing up in Google News can have extremely negative repercussions, especially for sites that monetise traffic with advertising.
Although Google has only issued a vague confirmation and explanation of the update, most news publishers and SEO experts will undoubtedly report on any ranking changes soon.
But regardless of whether Google News is failing to show content for relevant queries, Gingras maintains that any proposed tax would impact on the ability of new websites to find audiences. In turn, this could result in consumers seeing a reduced number of news stories in search results.
Furthermore, he stated that Google News was not directly a profit-making business.
“There’s no advertising in Google News. It is not a revenue-generating product to Google. We think it’s valuable as a service to society. We are proud to have it as part of the stable of properties that people have,” Gingras added.