Does Google News Sitemaps New Format Help Publishers?

In November Google announced a new format for Google News Sitemaps with several changes including new tags that provide additional detail on each submitted article.

Google is using words like “more flexible,” “easier to submit,” “more control” and even “exciting” to describe the new format and transition period. That may be getting carried away but the new format does have some advantages for publishers, although they are not being fully utilized by Google News yet.

The main opportunity comes from the new tags. While designed to help Google News better interpret and categorize the content in the sitemaps, the tags also provide publishers with additional chances for exposure.

The <genre> tag has the potential to be the most helpful. Content that is not a straightforward news article is now labeled with one of these six values (when applicable):

  • PressRelease: an official press release
  • Satire: an article which ridicules its subject for didactic purposes
  • Blog: any article published on a blog, or in a blog format
  • OpEd: an opinion-based article which comes specifically from the Op-Ed section of your site
  • Opinion: any other opinion-based article not appearing on an Op-Ed page, i.e., reviews, interviews, etc
  • UserGenerated: newsworthy user-generated content which has already gone through a formal editorial review process on your site

The first three (PressRelease, Satire, Blog) are visibly shown on Google News results pages, as in this example for a search on “IBM”:

Google News genre tag

This will help users seeking specific content types find what they are looking for, potentially resulting in more traffic to that content. It also has the potential to do the opposite; users may disregard non-editorial content such as press releases in greater volume now that it is easier to identify.

Google News does not currently offer the ability to sort by genre in either the left sidebar or the Advanced Search page. Doing so would bring a lot more user functionality to the genre designations so hopefully it will be added at some point.

Blog content does get some extra exposure however. When a user clicks on the “all X news articles” link at the bottom of a story cluster Blogs is the second section on the full coverage page:

Google News story cluster

Google News full coverage page

Two other new tags in Google News Sitemaps are <publication> and <access>. <publication> identifies the name of the news outlet and the language it is published in. While not a big plus for publishers this can help in properly identifying the source of an article and in matching content in other languages to the appropriate version of Google News.

The <access> tag is used to identify sites that require a subscription or registration. This could be a negative for publishers that fall into those categories as it might result in users favoring other sources. However publishers can avoid having to use this tag by participating in First Click Free. Although in today’s climate such news outlets may instead prefer to just block their content from Google News altogether. 😉

The fourth new tag is the <title> tag, which allows publishers to specify the title of each article. This is a good thing for publishers because it’s not uncommon for Google News to do some strange things in determining article titles itself.

For more information on the new format for Google News Sitemaps, see:

Publishers should note that there is a six-month grandfather period during which Google News Sitemaps that had been previously submitted in the old format will still be accepted, so there is plenty of time to convert existing sitemaps. However all newly submitted Google News Sitemaps must be in the new format.


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