For some search queries, Google displays a “Top Stories” section above search results, replacing what used to be “In The News”.
What is The Google Top Stories News Algorithm?
The Google Top Stories News Algorithm determines which articles are displayed in Google’s “Top Stories Carousel” in Google search results. The “Top Stories” section of Google uses a different algorithm than the previous “In The News” section did, and simply being accepted in to Google News does not guarantee placement in the new “Top Stories” section.
Google News algorithm changes in November 2016
The “Top Stories Carousel” was expected. I first caught wind of it via this article on Business Insider by Nathan McAlone. Then, the changes took place. I was fortunate enough to spot and first document the new “In The News” section of Google on November 23, 2016.
I speculated the rebrand and algorithm change was to keep “Fake News” out of the news. And it appears that was a major goal, among many others. The changes came very rapidly after someone released a Fake News Story about Donald Trump winning the popular vote in the election.
The Google Top Stories News Algorithm
Along with the cosmetic changes in November 2016 came a new algorithm. I didn’t realize it at first but I later made 2 significant discoveries:
- Websites breaking news on trending topics can make it in to the Google Top Stories Carousel, even if they are not approved in Google News. I documented this here when it happened to me: Non Google News websites appearing in Top Stories. This is not new, but it is definitely happening more often since November 2016.
- Websites approved in Google News have lost the ability to show up at the top of search results by simply publishing anything. I also documented this here: Google News Approved Websites Not Displaying in Top Stories Carousel.
Since writing about observation #2, publishers being unable to get in to Top Stories, I have been contacted by a slew of editors and publishers all over the world. Publishers in the US, Italy, Netherlands, UK, Australia and worldwide have lost a significant amount of traffic. Along with the traffic loss came their inability to get click throughs on their ads and they are losing money, or at least making much less than they used to.
Many of these publishers are in denial of what is happening. On one occasion, I provided a publisher an analysis of their website and told them their content simply is not newsworthy enough to make it in to Google’s Top Stories carousel, and they basically didn’t like what I had to say. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m usually willing to glance around a site for free, however due to the demand from existing clients and the lack of understanding from random publishers of random WordPress sites I no longer examine news sites without a paid consultation.
The algorithm demands “Newsworthy” content
I do not have the secret algorithm printed out beside me, however based on observations I have seen in search results, I do have some pieces of the puzzle and conclusions which I have made. If you are a publisher- take note.
- Google wants “newsworthy” content in the carousel. If you are not reporting the news, you have almost no chance of making it in to “Top Stories” unless VERY few others are covering the news. If CNN and BBC have covered it, forget about it. Simply rewriting articles already reported 12hrs ago by a major media outlet is not going to cut it. You will still show up in the “News” section of Google, but you are going to get a tenth of the traffic you used to.
- Carousels can be triggered by user demand. I have seen Google display top stories carousels when people begin Googling something such as a recent event or something goes viral. There is definitely a “Top Stories Threshold” in place, measured by user demand.
- Google prefers authoritative sources. If 5 publishers drop an article about a bridge collapse, CNN and BBC and ABC are going to get the result, not JoesNews.com.
What do you think?
Do you like the changes?
Do you dislike the changes?
Does this help explain why your Google News approved website is not showing up in “Top Stories”?
Has this eliminated much of the “Fake News” problem Google was recently scrutinized for?
Is this algorithm change ruining your business?
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My news website no longer shows up in top stories and this explains it perfectly. Thank you. I still get some traffic from news but it is only a fraction of what I used to get.
Update March 2018: Google has now added an additional filter for Breaking News Events. High authority sites will be displayed in Top Stories. “Fresh and Relevant Content” will be filtered and not display in Top Stories if the source is not a vetted source (think Bloomberg or CNN).
My News website also don’t show up in the Top Stories. Is there any way that I can get back into the Top Stories and improve my website traffic?