News publishers are all too familiar with the fact that Google News doesn’t always do such a great job of favoring original sources in its story clusters. It is not usual to see a syndicated, aggregated or simply re-covered version of an article gain prominent visibility over the original.
Today I noticed an example that is worth pointing out because you’d think Google News would be able to handle it properly.
On the home page the lead article in a story cluster about the Facebook music platform came from Tom’s Guide.
What caught my attention was the fact that in the article summary the original source CNBC was mentioned twice, yet the CNBC article did not appear in the cluster:
You’d think that would be a strong enough signal for Google News to favor the CNBC original over Tom’s Guide.
But the CNBC article wasn’t present in the cluster and in clicking through to the Full Coverage page it was also nowhere to be found:
I clicked on each of the “All X related articles” links on the Full Coverage page but did not see the CNBC article anywhere.
Even a search on “cnbc facebook music” brought up the Tom’s Guide article but not the CNBC original:
The only way I could get the CNBC article to come up was with a “site:cnbc.com facebook music” search, confirming that it was in fact indexed in Google News:
In my post on Google News Optimization Tips I list the article ranking factors within a story cluster, in which Google specifically references that fact that it attempts to give priority to original articles and that Citation Rank is utilized to help determine original sources.
However that clearly was not working in this case.
Based on the story cluster ranking factors about the only advantage the Tom’s Guide article had going for it was the fact that it was about six hours more recent than the original (according to their Google News listings).
The CNBC article had more tweets, Facebook likes and Google +1’s than the Tom’s Guide piece, so social signals weren’t at play either.
I’m not directly familiar with either site’s SEO or news search optimization practices. The CNBC title tag is not great but both articles have decent headlines, which is more important for Google News. Perhaps Tom’s Guide is making better use of Google News sitemaps which calls better attention to their content.
But even if that were the case Tom’s Guide itself makes it abundantly clear that CNBC is the original source of the news, so you’d think Google News could account for that.
Doesn’t seem right, does it?