Google updated the algorithm it uses to rank which websites show up for a given set of search results last week and the change appears to primarily favor news websites, according to an analysis of search data by Searchmetrics, which is calling this update the News-Wave Update.
Most of the sites Searchmetrics identified enjoying an increase in search visibility as a result of the algorithm update are well-known news brands. The top 10 are:
- Wall Street Journal
- USA Today
- Daily Mail
- Business Insider
- NBC News
- LA Times
- NY Post
- Fox News
Algorithm rollouts can take some time to become stable as Google fine-tunes results, but it seems likely news sites will enjoy greater visibility from here on out for one primary reason: Google is now taking into account real-time search volume as a ranking factor.
Trending Search Volume
Consider for a moment how people respond to news in the Internet age.
While people may first learn about a news story on television or radio and now, increasingly, through social news feeds, their curiosity about that story is sated by searching for more information. For breaking news, this produces a surge in search volume for the topic and subjects of the story in question.
And that surge in search volume is an indication of interest that Google can factor in to its decisions about ranking websites.
Real-Time Search Volume
Google now appears to be taking into account those surges in search volume on a real-time basis from Google search, Google News search, and YouTube searches. When it recognizes real-time surges in search volume coupled with an increase in the volume of those same keywords included in recently-published news stories, it can use that insight to give a boost in ranking to news websites.
Google has long given sites it considers “authority sites” more weight in search rankings; media sites are considered authority sites because they have a vetting process in place to produce higher-quality content. So news sites have always had an edge in that regard.
The Freshness Ranking Factor
Another factor in favor of media sites is the fact that they publish new stories frequently throughout the day and update existing stories as new facts are discovered. This lends itself to Google’s bias for fresh content, which will be an even more important ranking factor when real-time surges in search volume are part of the equation.
The Social News Factor
Finally, as we discussed in February, Google has a deal with Twitter that gives it access to the social site’s tweet data. While the public manifestation of that deal is the inclusion of tweets in mobile search results, that data should also give Google real-time trends on what news people are discussing on Twitter.
New often breaks on Twitter first and it is the go-to site for public, real-time discussions about news stories. It is therefore an ideal source of data to use as a ranking factor, as well.
The Increasing Value Of Public Relations
A fundamental benefit of the practice of public relations is earned media: Getting your client cited as source in a news story or getting a brand or company included in a story.
Google’s News-Wave algorithm update increases the value of those media placements simply because it increases the exposure those media placements are likely to get. The SEO-savvy PR practitioners will be best positioned to take full advantage of this update.