Google announced an improvement to its ranking systems on Wednesday that could give local news publishers a boost in visibility and traffic in search results and Google News Showcase.
The improvement to Google's ranking system would enable local news sources that are deemed authoritative and relevant to appear more often alongside national publications in features such as Top Stories. This ensures that people will be able to find coverage from authoritative local news sources, helping them see how national stories can impact them locally.
Supporting local publishers is a main focus of Google’s work, as well as the Google News Initiative (GNI), according to Alex Cox, product manager of news at Google.
“Our effort [is] to help news organizations and journalists thrive in a digital age,” he wrote in a blog post.
For example, the GNI Digital Growth Program is free and aimed at helping small and mid-sized news publishers worldwide develop the capabilities required to accelerate the growth of their businesses online.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, local news played an important role to learn more amount COVID-19.
Pew Research Center data published in July 2020, shows most Americans paid about equal attention to national and local news about COVID-19.
About 61% of Americans said they were following news about COVID-19 at both the national and local level equally, according to an April survey by Pew Research Center, conducted as part of the American News Pathways project.
Some 23% said they paid more attention to local news, while 15% said they were focused more on COVID-19 news at the national level.
Google also made changes to help publishers improve their experience with News Showcase by launching the ability for publishers to see how readers engage with their News Showcase content in real-time to better understand what people want to read.
This can help publishers respond quickly to what is trending on their site and add more context to their stories or add related panels to stories that are getting traction.
Google also added the ability to edit the images that appear in panels directly in its publication tool, giving News Showcase editors more control of the content.