Here’s how it’s formatted:
<meta name=”news_keywords” content=”manchester, police, killings, fiona bone, nicola hughes”>
Publishers are limited to 10 news phrases and they have to use commas to separate each one. All the key phrases are given equal value, so the first is seen as valuable as the last.
Google also suggest you may wish to include words that help disambiguate between related terms. So for example, a news article on England vs France may include the keywords ‘football’ and ‘soccer’ to show that the article is not about other sports such as Rugby.
You can read Google’s help page on implementing the news_keywords meta tag here.
The thinking behind the new meta tag is that sometimes (often) news headlines are sequences of text that are in some way ironic, catchy, maybe puns – generally only understandable by humans.
To help solve this problem, Google has allowed news writers to “express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by [their] wide audience of users”.
Like the original content meta keyword tag, over enthusastic optimisers will probably try and find some way of exploiting this new means of telling Google what their pages are about. But Google are keen to point out that the new metatag is just one signal among many that their algorithms will use to determine ranking. Google say that the news_keywords metatag is intended as a tool — but “high-quality reporting and interesting news content remain the strongest ways to put your newsroom’s work in front of Google News users”.
Note that publishers could already specify news keywords within their Google News sitemaps (since Nov 2006), as follows:
<news:keywords>sports, college basketball</news:keywords>
A Google News Sitemap is a file that allows you to control which content you submit to Google News. By creating and submitting a Google News Sitemap, Google state that you’re able to help Google News discover and crawl your site’s articles. Google states that submitting a news sitemap (which is done through Google Webmaster Tools) potentially helps Google find and publish your news articles faster.
News sitemap vs. news_keywords
Which is better to use – a news sitemap submitted to Google Webmaster Tools containing news keywords, or the news_keywords meta tag?
Arguably, the news sitemap. This tells Google to go and crawl your page. The point of a news sitemap is that it lists news articles which have been published on your site within the past two days. You shouldn’t include older articles. And you can specify your keywords in the sitemap. Using news_keywords alone helps Google understand what the news article is about, but Google’s bots will have to find it first. You might as well create a news sitemap and include the keywords there. Presumably the context feature of the keywords in the news_keywords meta tag (e.g. including ‘football’ to differentiate from ‘rugby’) applies equally to those used in the news sitemap.