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What Is Google’s News Topic Authority and Does It Affect My Website’s SEO?

In the vast online world of news and endless information, standing out from the crowd can be a challenge, even if you consistently produce high-quality content. Whether it's deliberately, or due to lack of in-depth research, there is a lot of misinformation and "shallow" content proliferating on the web.

For example, when a notable event happens, hundreds of publications often “cover” the topic ranging from local newspapers and national TV stations to hometown reporters and your favorite local blogger. In addition to those types of authors, there are also many other sites that cover the same story without having in-depth knowledge or firsthand experience of what happened. There are even news aggregator websites that simply compile and republish existing stories, without adding any substantial insights.

Yet, searchers on the website are truly trying to find the best expertise and most relevant information for their search. To address this issue, Google developed the News Topic Authority System as part of its ranking algorithms.

According to Google's Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, the News Topic Authority system is not new. In fact, News Topic Authority has been in place for years. Google only recently released information on how this system works in an effort to be more transparent with publishers and digital marketers.

So, what exactly is the News Topic Authority system, and how does it work? Keep reading to learn more.

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What Is Google’s News Topic Authority System?

Google's News Topic Authority is a ranking system designed to produce the most relevant and resourceful information to search queries, specifically focusing on news related search queries. To surface high-quality content, the system assesses aspects such as the expertise, trustworthiness, originality, and relevance of the news publisher.

According to Google, the system aims to ensure that people looking for information online get expert and helpful publications, especially for specialized topics such as finance, health, and politics.

The Impact of Google's News Topic Authority on Traditional Publishers

So, who is affected by the News Topic Authority system? Currently, the News Topic Authority applies to all content publishers creating articles that are “newsy” in nature. This means that if you publish content about recent events or topics requiring freshness, you should ensure that it checks all boxes of the News Topic Authority's best practices.

Does Google’s News Authority System Affect All Business Websites?

While Google primarily focuses their announcement and documentation on news publishers, we believe that all content producers should focus on the principles outlined in the News Topic Authority System.

We believe this for two reasons.

Anyone Can Write and Publish an Article on a News Topic

For example, a small business website could publish an article that ranks for a newsy query in Google Search, or even rank on Google News. We’ve seen this time and time again with both our clients and with our own content at Igniting Business. We’ve had many of our articles rank well for newsy content over the past decade. Of course, those articles typically only rank well when it relates to the overall expertise of what we offer plus we are established as being a credible business in the area.

As a tangible example, when Google Fiber first launched its inaugural product in our hometown of Kansas City, we were one of the earliest adopters of Google Fiber. Even while Google Fiber was under construction and not available, we were authoring content regarding Google Fiber, upcoming timelines and construction delays, pricing models, benefits of Gigabit internet for businesses, etc. We wrote on this topic because it directly impacted our audience, small businesses in Kansas City, and we have an expertise in technology since we provided IT Services at the time. Yet, we clearly weren’t a news publisher.

Google Often Expands the Application of Successful Ranking Systems

Over time, Google often broadens the application and impact of quality ranking systems. In other words, if a ranking system proves to be excellent at surfacing content for a specific industry or type of search, Google looks for ways to extrapolate (and improve) this success to more queries.

For example, the requirement for E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness) originally applied primarily to YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) websites which included sites that talked about health, finance, safety, etc. Overtime, Google grew the impact of E-A-T and now it applies to “every single query and every single result” on the web according to an interview with Hyung-Jin Kim, the VP of Google Search.

Thus, it is our hypothesis that “News Topic Authority” may morph into just “Topic Authority” or some variation in the future. We could actually argue this has somewhat already happened with the addition of “Experience” to which transformed E-A-T to E-E-A-T.

If you read and apply the guidelines from Google about the News Topic Authority system to all content you produce, you may be one step ahead of your competition, regardless of if you are a news publisher or not.

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How Can Content Publishers Increase Their News Topic Authority?

To understand how you can increase your topic authority, you must first understand how the system works. The system works to provide searchers with the most helpful, expert, and knowledgeable content for their search queries by using certain signals.

The Notability of the Content Publisher for a Particular Topic or Location

Google system analyzes different publications and surfaces the most relevant one to a specific topic or locality. For example, if a tech giant announces they are building a new data center in Kansas City, Google will give some preference to a local news outlet like The Kansas City Star since they have a history on reporting Kansas City news.

That said, locality or topic expertise does not replace having quality content. A local outlet still needs to produce high-quality content on the topic, otherwise it will still fail to rank well.

The Extent of Influence and Originality of the Publisher

The system does give a boost to the original reporter/publisher that first broke the news. As a result, first-hand accounts of events and how often a publisher gives original and well-analyzed facts and details are considered. Additionally, Google will examine how often publishers are cited by other outlets and websites.

Content Source’s Reputation

The system examines the publisher's history of producing highly reliable and helpful content. If you have been recommended by professionals and experts before, or have a history of high-quality original reporting, then the system will be more likely to perceive you as a reputable source. For example, items like third-party citations (which ideally would include links), quotes from your content, and author/publication awards all influence your overall reputation.

Google News Topic Authority Best Practices

Now, that you know broadly how the system works, let's look at some tips to enhance your News Topic Authority:

  1. Focus on expertise. As a publisher, choose your topics right and develop a reputation as an expert in a particular field. Do not spread yourself so thin that you become a jack of all trades and master of none. Leverage your unique expertise and insights which others would find extremely valuable. Hone your expertise and look for ways to deliver truly unique and invaluable insights to your audience.
  2. Establish credibility. Ensure you consistently publish high-quality, well-researched, and factual information adhering to journalistic standards. Incorporate first-hand research, interviews, and more. Do not forget to help Google understand what local geographic region you serve.
  3. Improve your E-E-A-T signals. You can build up your Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) by having author bios, showcasing any relevant credentials and awards, and building your prowess through mentions and natural backlinks from authoritative sources.

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We hope you absorb this announcement and strategize how you can better serve your audience and increase your visibility, whether you are a traditional news publisher or a business creating expert content for the web.

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