By Justyn Hornor published September 21, 2012

Google News Rolls Out News_Keywords — How Will It Affect Your Content Efforts?

Introducing “news_keywords” — the latest, greatest method for keyword optimizing news feeds for Google News. And I’ve got some tips to help you implement this today on your CMS-powered site.

If you blinked, you missed it. Google dropped a powerful new tool into the hands of content marketers who manage news sites. On September 19, Google announced via its official Google News blog that it is now allowing the new meta tag “news_keywords.”

Does this affect everybody?

No! Google News and the standard Google search results are very different. You have to manually apply for inclusion in the Google News search results and meet a series of strict technical requirements before the Google News team will accept your site into its system. So if you are running a blog or site that is NOT included in Google News, then this does not apply to you. You can check to see if your site is being included in Google News by going to news.google.com and searching using the “site:yoursite.com” tool.

What this means for content marketers

We now have a way to give Google News important signals as to the content of the news article without having to keyword load the titles and headings. This means we can write to our audience — not to search engines.

Imagine actually writing a title that is engaging and exciting without having to cram your keywords into it. Exciting times, folks!

What you should do about it

If you write for or manage a news site that Google News publishes, you need to put this information into the hands of someone who can get your meta information updated. Either you can manually add the meta tags to each post, or use my technique, which I outline below.

Proceed with caution

As exciting as this new tool is, I advise moving forward slowly. The Google News team admits this is but one signal used to understand the content of a news piece. I wouldn’t jump right into super catchy headlines like, “You’ll Never Believe This!” just yet.

I’d love to see somebody run a few pieces with short headlines that don’t include keywords but do contain the news_keywords meta and see how they perform. But until we have some objective data, it’s best to proceed with caution when making changes to your meta data to account for this change.

Implement News_Keywords right now!

If you’ve got an IT team, it should be able to add a form for you to add keywords in a straightforward manner. If you’re like most sites, though, you use the tags in your CMS to describe the content of the article. Enter my technique:

(Note: the following is rather technical, so if you get squeamish when looking at code, I encourage you to look away for your own safety.)

<!– Start Techie Speak –>

I’ll use an example for WordPress because a vast majority of sites use it to publish their content. In WordPress, we have a nice little function called get_the_tags that will allow us to call the tags for a given post. So, injecting the following code into your header.php where your other meta information is will work wonders on any page with tags assigned:

The above code will produce comma-delimited keywords that look like this:

For the techies in the house, you know what I’m talking about. But if any of you are lost, no need to worry — just hand this code off to your admin folks and tell them to get to work… please.

If you don’t use WordPress, you should still be able to take this script and modify it to your needs. Drupal, Joomla, and others all have fairly straightforward methods for calling the tags for a post.

<!– End Techie Speak –>

This could signal (pun intended) a significant shift in how we can publish news content. That’s not to say keywords in titles and headings aren’t important over the long-term life of an article; but I, for one, am thrilled to see Google making an effort to give us more creative liberty without the technical constraints.

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Author: Justyn Hornor

When he's not being a complete goofball, “they” drag Justyn into the office where he pretends to be a Senior Editor and Content Engineer at Creative Content Experts — a content marketing firm out of NW Arkansas. He has 10+ years’ experience in technical writing and geek-related fields. He loves WordPress, coffee, and peanut butter a little too much. Follow him on Twitter @jphornor, on LinkedIn, or on Google+.

Other posts by Justyn Hornor

  • Frank Hartkopf

    That’s a very insightful post, I didn’t hear about this update before. It could indeed mean the end of bulky headlines and enable us to write solely for the reader

    • http://creativecontentexperts.com/ Justyn Hornor

      That’s my hope as well! It will certainly be nice to move away from awkward/bulky headlines.

  • wildpeaks

    Google News sitemaps already have a keywords tag, so I don’t get why they felt the need to duplicate it in the meta (and why just this one field, they could have duplicated the other fields as well then).

  • Jonathan Hawkins

    Here is a WordPress plugin that I developed that will insert Google’s “News_Keywords” meta into all your posts and pages. The WP news meta plugin is here http://www.topoftheburg.com/google-news-keywords-wordpress-plugin

  • Madrhino

    Interesting that the code is displayed as a image in this article. Is there a reason for that?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      We did that as it’s sometimes difficult to get the spacing right in WordPress. Do you need it in a different form?

    • http://creativecontentexperts.com/ Justyn Hornor

      Feel free to connect with my via Twitter, LinkedIn, or G+ and I can send you the code so you can paste it right in

  • Praveen Bangera

    How about doing the same in .net environment? Our WCMS is SDL Tridion.