We don’t often hear about how Google ranks their news related results nor how the “Top Stories” are chosen for desktop and mobile users. Usually when someone from the search team comments on the news results, it is to say they use their own algorithm for news.
But John Mueller in the Google Webmaster Office Hours today offered some insight into how Google determines which stories to display and how they rank them.
The “In the News” and the “Top Stories” section in the search results are completely algorithmic and based partially on the content, partially on the queries, partially on how we think it makes sense to show websites with that kind of top stories set up there. Some of this I believe also depends on whether you are using AMP on your pages, valid AMP or not, so all of these things kind of come in together. Essentially, it is organic ranking and that kind of determines which URLs we show in which parts of the search results.
So specifically in regards to these one boxes and different parts of the search results it really depends on a number of different factors. So there’s no one single thing to always show up there or to never show up there.
The “how it makes sense” is the part that most SEOs will be thinking about. Since most news stories don’t have direct link equity to those news stories, that would be a poor signal, although overall link value to the site could be used. And appearing in Google News isn’t an exact science either, as we have seen stories in these sections that are not in Google News, or at least not ranking well.
Personalization could possibly play more of a role here, more than it might in Google News proper.
He also talks a bit about AMP’s role in this section.
And some of these depend on specific markup maybe, or if you are using AMP, some of these de do only use AMP results, so that is something to kind of double check that if you’re trying to show AMP and there’s something technically wrong with the way that you’re providing AMP pages, then that’s something you need to fix too.
It is AMP results that are featured prominently in their top stories section in the mobile search results, and exclusively as AMP for a significant number of queries. So if you are trying to break into this section, implementing AMP could make the difference.
While none of this is surprising, it is interesting to hear it from Google.
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