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Avoid These 6 Common Google News Optimization Mistakes



Avoid These 6 Common Google News Optimization Mistakes

Google News has been around for two decades.

And now more than ever, the internet is many people’s primary news source.

Gone are the days of buying a newspaper in your local shop to get the day’s news. Now, we have multiple news sources at our fingertips.

With multiple perspectives on current affairs.

There hasn’t been a better time for publishers to feature on a news aggregator than today.

Although there are other online news aggregators, such as,, and even Apple News, Google News is still the leader, according to’s top 10 external publisher referrers.

Many publishers recognize this and are optimizing their news content for Google News.


And, since any site is eligible to appear in Google News, yours may even be indexed and ranking in Google News.

But before you get too carried away about the traffic honeypot potential of Google News, there are several pitfalls to avoid if you truly want to optimize your site for the aggregator.

We’ll explore these mistakes and provide tips on how to get the most out of Google News.

But first, let’s get the basics out of the way.

Google News Optimization Basics

What Is Google News?

Google News is a news aggregator developed by Google.

It was launched in 2002 to help users discover the day’s news from multiple news outlets in their region and beyond.

The aggregator compiles news from various sources on the internet and issues them in both mobile and desktop searches.

Why Is Google News Important For Publishers?

Much of the incoming traffic of digital publishers comes from external sources.


These include search platforms, links from other sites, social media, social shares, etc.

And since Google News is one of the biggest news aggregators, it’s a huge potential source of traffic for many publishers.

Today, Google News accounts for about 4% of publishers’ traffic sources.

Think of it as this massive referrer with incredible reach.

It helps publishers reach new audiences and attract more readers to their news sites.

Thus, sources trying to get as much traffic as possible want to be listed as snippets in Google News.

How Does Google News Work?

Google News collects articles from more than 20,000 publishers worldwide.

On the user’s side, the goal is to provide as much diverse, relevant news content as possible.


Google’s algorithm determines what shows up in whose feed.

And then personalizes it based on the user’s Google News settings and past Google activity.

It’s only in a few specialized cases where Google News teams choose the stories.

As for the publishers, it’s all about the traffic.

The aggregator has various features that let users learn about and engage with a news site.

For example, a publisher can submit a URL or feed through Google’s publisher center.

However, doing that doesn’t guarantee the news site surfacing or ranking in Google News.

The aggregator will also feature publishers it finds through Google’s standard web crawl.


This is why optimizing news platforms for Google News is crucial for many people.

Do Not Make These Google News Optimization Mistakes

1. Thinking You Need AMP For Google News

Accelerate Mobile Pages, better known as AMP, is an open-source project launched by Google in 2015.

It was Google’s brainchild to boost the slow performance of publishers on mobile devices.

At the time, this initially sounded enticing for publishers since mobile traffic was well on its rise, and traditional news publishers were struggling with the re-development requirements of the mobile web.

But Google didn’t exactly take the diplomatic path with the framework.

Between 2015 and 2021, publishers had to adopt AMP to appear in Google’s Top Stories on mobile.

Those who didn’t comply simply lost out.

Those who did got the traffic.


However, they also had to deal with the restrictions of adopting valid AMP.

Fortunately, a July 2021 update removed the AMP requirement for mobile Top Stories.

Now, as proven, you don’t need AMP to get featured in Google News.

And with Google News sending users directly to publishers’ websites, it’s time to ditch the framework and focus the time and resources on other aspects of your SEO.

2. Thinking That Google News Is Just For News Publishers

Before December 2019, a publisher needed to tweak their website to match specific requirements and fill the relevant online forms before letting Google review it.

Then, if all went well and Google believed them to be an actual publisher, their application would be approved, and the site would appear in Google News and Top Stories.

When the new Publisher Center rolled in, things changed.

Google removed the manual approval forms and introduced a new Google News inclusion process.


Now, Google decides automatically which websites show up in Google News.

The “official” word is that Google considers sites with high-quality content that comply with Google News content policies.

This inclusion process means a website doesn’t necessarily need to be a news publisher to get into Google News.

As long as they tick all the right boxes, they can appear in Google News and Top Stories.

But getting into Google News is a lot harder than the explanation in the official guidelines.

3. Thinking Google News Is The Same As Top Stories

If you look up a current topic on Google Search, the top news results will be listed prominently as part of the “Top Stories” box in the organic search results.

Many people think that this box is the same as Google News.

It isn’t.


Rather, Top Stories is a feature of Google Search, the engine, not Google News, the aggregator.

4. Not Following Google News Content Policies

Google News has policies that it expects its publishing partners to adhere to. For instance, the content shouldn’t violate Google’s guidelines of dangerous, deceptive, hateful, harassing, medical, terrorist, and sexually explicit content.

There are also policies on manipulated media, violence and gore, and vulgar language and profanity.

There are also feature-specific policies on ads and sponsored content and transparency.

For example, advertising and paid promotional material on publishers’ pagers shouldn’t exceed their content.

And in the spirit of transparency, news sites should provide precise dates and bylines, contact information, and information about the authors, publication, and publisher.

These are just a fraction of what Google News expects from you.

As you optimize your page, ensure that you’ve read and understood the aggregator’s policies. If you fail to do so, the algorithm will kick you out.


5. Ignoring Google’s Publisher Center

Google did away with the manual inclusion process in favor of an automatic one.

In the same update, they launched the new Publisher Center.

And although you can appear on Google News without being a Publisher Center-approved site, you shouldn’t ignore it.

The Publisher Center offers many features and benefits crucial to your search engine rankings.

One such feature is the ability to manage multiple news publications under one organization.

Google Publisher Center is also the key to making your content more visible on Google News.

6. Making Live Changes On Google News Publisher Center

Significant changes to your publication, like ad implementations, CSS overrides, manager-only sections, and unpublished publications can interfere with the user experience.

Therefore, you don’t want to be making such changes live without first testing them.


To avoid this, use Google’s Designer Mode to test changes to your publication.

Optimization Tips To Get The Most Out of Google News

Submit Your Site To Google News Using Google’s Publisher Center

Google can automatically add publishers who meet their content criteria to Google News.

But just because you’ve done everything right doesn’t mean you will be selected.

This is why manually submitting to Google News still has some utility; it increases your chances of appearing in Google News.

To set up your organization:

  • Log into your Google account and navigate to the Publisher Center’s homepage.
  • In the left-hand navigation menu, click on + Add publication.
Image from, May 2022add site to publisher center

You’ll need to provide some basic information on your publication, including the name, website property, and location.

A new main screen will appear once you’ve created your publication.

To verify your content and URL, click on Publication Settings on the main interface and fill in all the available options under the General tab.

publisher center general tabImage from, May 2022publisher center general tab

Then, click on the Visual Styles tab to add your publication’s logos. Save your information.

Return to the main interface and click on the Google News box.


Here, you can design, brand, and customize your publication for Google News.

Next, click on edit and fill in relevant information under the General and Content settings tabs.

Review and publish the details.

Back on the main interface, you can also add content labels to help Google understand your content better. This is in the Content labels box.

Don’t overlook this part.

You’ll also need to verify that the site is yours via Google Search Console.

If you’re using the same Google account on both, just add your website’s URL and click verify in Search Console.

Handle Sponsored Content Correctly With Google News

Yes, sponsored content is allowed on Google News.


But there are limitations.

For instance, Google says that having sponsored content is acceptable as long as:

  • It doesn’t exceed your primary content.
  • It is not misleading as editorial content.

But unlike in 2013, when it was recommended to block sponsored content from Google News, there is no reference that you still need to do that in their policies.

You do, however, need to nofollow external links on sponsored content.

But you can still let Google News index commercial content.

google news accepts sponsored contentScreenshot from Twitter, May 2022google news accepts sponsored content

This was confirmed by Google in this tweet, as well as on Twitter with Danny Sullivan, Google’s public Search Liaison.

Follow On Page SEO Best Practices

Once you’re on Google News, there are several best practices you need to succeed.

Headlines And Dates

Google News uses crawlers to scan pages and determine the correct headlines for your articles.

So, they need the right signals to display accurate titles from your content.


Check out Google’s best practices and their guide on providing the correct published date.

Tip: Don’t forget to constantly remind your writer/colleague/journalist friends to include the keyword in the headline!

Anchor Text

Match the anchor text pointing to your article in the section pages to your article/page’s title.

Match your article page’s title (in the HTML <title> tag) to your article’s title.

Publishing Date

As for the times and dates, Google News wants you to be accurate and precise so they can get it right.

You should show one clear date and time stamp. The best place for this is usually between the headline and the article text.

Use structured data, i.e., datePublished and dateModified schema with the correct time zone.

Tip: Google will tell you not to artificially freshen stories. Artificial freshening refers to giving an article a fresh date and time without adding significant information.


However, savvy News SEO experts such as Christine Liang from the New York Times will teach you the benefits of keeping the timestamp fresh.

Take advantage of the Google News “freshness” ranking factor.

Duplicate Content

Google recommends that publishers block scraped and rewritten content from Google News.

And also recommends using the rel=”canonical” tag for syndicated content.

However, as you will learn when working in News SEO, syndicated content from news wires rank just fine, and most publishers allow their syndicated content to be indexed.

The issue only really arises when you have internal syndication across sister sites. For that, the rel=”canonical” tag can be very effective.

Shelby Blackley of Mashable explains this in her guide on how to handle wire stories for SEO.


Google News also rewards transparency.


Being transparent about your publication, authors, and content, following E-A-T best practices, and encouraging journalists to have good author bios can go a long way.

You should also make sure that the website is secure with HTTPS.

Google discourages publishers from participating in link schemes. Instead, read Google’s guide on how to qualify outbound links.

But for the most part, when working with a news publisher, it’s not the editorial team you need to worry about. Make sure the commercial team is adhering to these guidelines.

Track “Google News” Traffic

It’s also crucial to track your performance on Google News.

Fortunately, that is relatively easy, thanks to the dedicated performance report within Search Console for Google News publishers.

The performance report will show your total impressions and total clicks.

It will also show how each article performs on Google News and how user behavior varies by country.


More resources:

Featured Image: Twin Design/Shutterstock


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How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)



How We Used a Video Course to Promote Ahrefs (And Got 500K+ Views)

Creating and selling educational courses can be a lucrative business. But if you already have a product to sell, you can actually use courses as a marketing tool.

Back in 2017, about two years after joining Ahrefs, I decided to create a course on content marketing.

I had a very clear understanding of how an educational course would help me promote Ahrefs.

  • People like courses – Folks like Brian Dean and Glen Allsopp were selling theirs for $500 to $2,000 a pop (and rather successfully). So a free course of comparable quality was sure to get attention.
  • Courses allow for a deeper connection – You would basically be spending a few hours one on one with your students. And if you managed to win their trust, you’d get an opportunity to promote your product to them.

That was my raw thought process going into this venture.

And I absolutely didn’t expect that the lifespan of my course would be as interesting and nuanced as it turned out to be.

The lessons of my course have generated over 500K+ in total views, brought in mid-five-figures in revenue (without even trying), and turned out to be a very helpful resource for our various marketing purposes.

So here goes the story of my “Blogging for Business” course.

1. The creation

I won’t give you any tips on how to create a successful course (well, maybe just one). There are plenty of resources (courses?) on that topic already.


All I want to say is that my own experience was quite grueling.

The 10 lessons of my course span some 40K words. I have never attempted the feat of writing a book, but I imagine creating such a lengthy course is as close as it gets.

Scripts of the course in Google Docs.

I spent a tremendous amount of time polishing each lesson. The course was going to be free, so it was critical that my content was riveting. If not, people would just bounce from it.

Paid courses are quite different in that sense. You pay money to watch them. So even if the content is boring at times, you’ll persevere anyway to ensure a return on your investment.

When I showed the draft version of the course to my friend, Ali Mese, he gave me a simple yet invaluable tip: “Break your lessons into smaller ones. Make each just three to four minutes long.”

How did I not think of this myself? 

Short, “snackable” lessons provide a better sense of completion and progress. You’re also more likely to finish a short lesson without getting distracted by something. 

I’m pretty sure that it is because of this simple tip that my course landed this Netflix comparison (i.e., best compliment ever):

2. The strategy

With the prices of similar courses ranging from $500 to $2,000, it was really tempting to make some profit with ours.

I think we had around 15,000 paying customers at Ahrefs at that time (and many more on the free plan). So if just 1% of them bought that course for $1K, that would be an easy $150K to pocket. And then we could keep upselling it to our future customers.

Alternatively, we thought about giving access to the course to our paying customers only. 

This might have boosted our sales, since the course was a cool addition to the Ahrefs subscription. 

And it could also improve user retention. The course was a great training resource for new employees, which our customers would lose access to if they canceled their Ahrefs subscription.

And yet, releasing it for free as a lead acquisition and lead nurturing play seemed to make a lot more sense than the other two options. So we stuck to that.

3. The waitlist

Teasing something to people before you let them get it seems like one of the fundamental rules of marketing.

  • Apple announces new products way before they’re available in stores. 
  • Movie studios publish trailers of upcoming movies months (sometimes years) before they hit the theaters. 
  • When you have a surprise for your significant other (or your kids), you can’t help but give them some hints before the reveal.

There’s something about “the wait” and the anticipation that we humans just love to experience.

So while I was toiling away and putting lessons of my course together, we launched a landing page to announce it and collect people’s emails.

The landing page of the course.

In case someone hesitated to leave their email, we had two cool bonuses to nudge them:

  1. Access to the private Slack community
  2. Free two-week trial of Ahrefs

The latter appealed to freebie lovers so much that it soon “leaked” to Reddit and BlackHatWorld. In hindsight, this leak was actually a nice (unplanned) promo for the course.

4. The promotion

I don’t remember our exact promotion strategy. But I’m pretty sure it went something like this:

I also added a little “sharing loop” to the welcome email. I asked people to tell their friends about the course, justifying it with the fact that taking the course with others was more fun than doing it alone.

Welcome email with a "sharing loop."

I have no idea how effective that “growth hack” was, but there was no reason not to encourage sharing.

In total, we managed to get some 16,000 people on our waitlist by the day of the course launch.

5. The launch

On a set date, the following email went out to our waitlist:

Course launch email.

Did you notice the “note” saying that the videos were only available for free for 30 days? We did that to nudge people to watch them as soon as possible and not save them to the “Watch later” folder.

In retrospect, I wish we had used this angle from the very beginning: “FREE for 30 days. Then $799.”

This would’ve killed two birds with one stone: 

  1. Added an urgency to complete the course as soon as possible
  2. Made the course more desirable by assigning a specific (and rather high) monetary value to it

(If only we could be as smart about predicting the future as we are about reflecting on the past.) 

Once it was live, the course started to promote itself. I was seeing many super flattering tweets:

We then took the most prominent of those tweets and featured them on the course landing page for some social proof. (They’re still there, by the way.)

6. The paywall

Once the 30 days of free access ran out, we added a $799 paywall. And it didn’t take long for the first sale to arrive:

This early luck didn’t push us to focus on selling this course, though. We didn’t invest any effort into promoting it. It was just sitting passively in our Academy with a $799 price tag, and that was it.

And yet, despite the lack of promotion, that course was generating 8-10 sales every month—which were mostly coming from word of mouth.

A comment in TrafficThinkTank.
Eric Siu giving a shout-out about my course in TTT Slack.

Thanks to its hefty price, my course soon appeared on some popular websites with pirated courses. And we were actually glad that it did. Because that meant more people would learn about our content and product.

Then some people who were “late to the party” started asking me if I was ever going to reopen the course for free again. This actually seemed like a perfectly reasonable strategy at the time:

7. The giveaways

That $799 price tag also turned my free course into a pretty useful marketing tool. It was a perfect gift for all sorts of giveaways on Twitter, on podcasts, during live talks, and so on.

Giving away the course during a live talk.
Me giving away the course during a live talk.

And whenever we partnered with someone, they were super happy to get a few licenses of the course, which they could give out to their audience.

8. The relaunch

Despite my original plan to update and relaunch this course once a year, I got buried under other work and didn’t manage to find time for it.

And then the pandemic hit. 

That’s when we noticed a cool trend. Many companies were providing free access to their premium educational materials. This was done to support the “stay at home” narrative and help people learn new skills.

I think it was SQ who suggested that we should jump on that train with my “Blogging for Business” course. And so we did:

We couldn’t have hoped for a better timing for that relaunch. The buzz was absolutely insane. The announcement tweet alone has generated a staggering 278K+ impressions (not without some paid boosts, of course).

The statistics of the course announcement tweet.

We also went ahead and reposted that course on ProductHunt once again (because why not?).

All in all, that relaunch turned out to be even more successful than the original launch itself. 

In the course of their lifespan on Wistia, the 40 video lessons of my course generated a total of 372K plays.

Play count from Wistia.

And this isn’t even the end of it.

9. The launch on YouTube

Because the course was now free, it no longer made sense to host it at Wistia. So we uploaded all lessons to YouTube and made them public.

To date, the 41 videos of my course have generated about 187K views on YouTube.

"Blogging for Business" course playlist.

It’s fair to mention that we had around 200,000 subscribers on our channel at the time of publishing my course there. A brand-new channel with no existing subscribers will likely generate fewer views.

10. The relaunch on YouTube [coming soon]

Here’s an interesting observation that both Sam and I made at around the same time. 

Many people were publishing their courses on YouTube as a single video spanning a few hours rather than cutting them into individual lessons like we did. And those long videos were generating millions of views!

Like these two, ranking at the top for “learn Python course,” which have 33M and 27M views, respectively:

"Learn python course" search on YouTube.

So we decided to run a test with Sam’s “SEO for Beginners” course. It was originally published on YouTube as 14 standalone video lessons and generated a total of 140K views.

Well, the “single video” version of that same course has blown it out of the water with over 1M views as of today.

I’m sure you can already tell where I’m going with this.

We’re soon going to republish my “Blogging for Business” course on YouTube as a single video. And hopefully, it will perform just as well.


The end

So that’s the story of my “Blogging for Business” course. From the very beginning, it was planned as a promotional tool for Ahrefs. And judging by its performance, I guess it fulfilled its purpose rather successfully.

A screenshot of a Slack message.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

The fact that my course was conceived as a promotional tool doesn’t mean that I didn’t pour my heart and soul into it. It was a perfectly genuine and honest attempt to create a super useful educational resource for content marketing newbies.

And I’m still hoping to work on the 2.0 version of it someday. In the past four years, I have accrued quite a bit more content marketing knowledge that I’m keen to share with everyone. So follow me on Twitter, and stay tuned.

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