Google on Tuesday released new search features intended to give more visibility to local news content when searchers are looking for information about their communities.
The company said it has expanded a feature previously rolled out for COVID searches that adds a carousel of local news stories when relevant to a searcher’s query. For example, a search on “football” may bring up stories on local sports.
Why we care. Local news organizations depend on organic search traffic and, according to Google, queries like “news near me” have tripled in the past five years. Unfortunately, that also comes as local news companies continue to struggle for survival. According to The Poynter Institue, a journalism advocacy group, more than 90 local news organizations closed during the pandemic. That’s on top of declines that have stretched back years. In 2019, the New York Times reported that 1 in 15 U.S. newspapers had closed in the past 15 years.
So, it’s certainly good that Google is finding ways to give the surviving local news ecosystem more visibility.
Not just news sources. In addition to adding the local news carousel, Google also is adding a “Popular on Twitter” carousel for queries on local news topics. While local news organization tweets may be included, the feature will also pull in tweets from a range of sources it deems to have local authority on those topics.
Remaining questions. The new features are noble and timely, especially as COVID created closer bonds with homes and local communities. What will be interesting to see is whether the added visibility benefits the most vulnerable local publishers. While regional dailies and local TV affiliates have not been spared by declines in local publishing, community weeklies, alt-weeklies and other niche local publications struggle the most. Will they be able to compete for slots in these carousels?
“Any publisher’s content is eligible to rank within the carousel if their content is relevant to what a reader is searching for,” said Meghann Farnsworth, a Google spokesperson. “Publishers with more Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness for a given topic or location will rank accordingly.”
But Google acknowledged that the new carousel is not reserved for local publishers, just local content.
“Local news includes sources with news about the user’s location, which is often local publishers but can sometimes include national reporting as well,” said Farnsworth.
News SEO. These new features also highlight why good SEO is essential for local news organizations. Inclusion in Google News (if you can even get in), authoritative news content that demonstrates E-A-T and a speedy website with good UX all help determine SERP visibility, even for smaller local audiences.
Here’s what the local news carousel looks like.
New on Search Engine Land