Google on Tuesday published new search features to provide more visibility for local news content when searchers are searching for information about their community.
The company says it has extended a previously implemented feature for COVID searches, adding a carousel of local news stories as relevant to a searcher’s query. For example, a search for “soccer” might bring up stories about the local sport.
Why are we? 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 to survive. According to The Poynter Institue, a press advocacy group, more than 90 local news organizations closed during pandemic . That is above the number of declines that have persisted over the years. Inside New York Times reported that 1 in 15 US Newspapers closed 15 years ago .
So it’s good that Google is looking for ways to give the surviving local news ecosystem more visibility.
Not just a news source. In addition to adding a local news carousel, Google is also adding a “Popular on Twitter” carousel for queries about local news topics. While local news organization tweets may be included, the feature will also pull tweets from multiple sources that it deems authoritative locally on those topics.
The remaining questions. New features are precious and trendy, especially as COVID creates closer links with families and local communities. What will be interesting will be to see if the additional visibility benefits the most vulnerable local publishers. While regional dailies and local television affiliates were not affected by the drop in local publication, community weekly, alternative weekly and other relevant local publications struggled the most. Will they be able to compete for positions on these carousels?
“Any publisher content is eligible to rank in the carousel if their content is relevant to what readers are searching for,” said Megann Farnsworth, a Google spokesperson. “Publishers with more Expertise, Authority, and Credibility for a given topic or position will rank accordingly.”
But Google acknowledges that the new carousel isn’t specific to local publishers, only local content.
“Local news includes sources with news about user location, usually local publishers but can also sometimes include national reporting,” Farnsworth said.
SEO news. These new features also highlight why good SEO is essential for local news organizations. Include in Google News ( if you can even join ), authoritative news content expressing the EAT and a high speed website with good UX both help determine SERP visibility, even for smaller local audiences.
This is what the local news carousel looks like.