Big news reveals Google’s news gaps

Posted on May 12, 2011


The recent death of Osama Bin Laden caused an internet uploading frenzy, as major news outlets and individual commentators posted their updates, views and opinions. One thing the flurry has revealed is a little more about how Google’s news algorithm works – and the results are both helpful and a little discouraging.

As might be expected for a major news story, the featured articles were initially from the major media outlets. Although this might seem discouraging for businesses aiming to have their stories featured in Google News, the ‘big news’ appeal of the story and the number of updates by mainstream sources should be taken into account.

More discouraging are the gaps in Google’s algorithm that the story revealed. The algorithm boosted results from several media outlets that essentially came from the same source, namely Associated Press. As AP has its own connection with Google, this amounts to double coverage. Similarly discouraging was the appearance of news ‘nuggets’, stories containing only a few sentences, which gave the lie to Google’s ‘quality content’ guideline.

On the bright side, some local-focus news made it to the mainstream during the frenzy. This is encouraging for those businesses focussing on the local angle with their SEO who are including Google News in their plan.

With such a major story, the results are naturally skewed. Average site owners are better advised to use smaller news pieces as case studies. Bin Laden’s death, however, has given those in SEO careers a chance to examine the Google News machine up close.


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