Google “In the News”

07 Oct 2014

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It seems there is never a dull moment or quiet day at Google HQ, with yet another update rolled out soon to impact search results. Google’s newest update is to the In the News box, a section which the majority of users scroll right past on their way to search results. But, could that all be about to change?

Google has announced that the new In the News box will now pull through content from all across the web, not just traditional news sites. Previously news in this section came from Google News which contained approved, vetted and reviewed content from traditional news sources. Now, however, Google will pull through all relevant content whether blog, news site, video or image. Google stated that “We will present a diverse a range of voices as possible to ensure we get users the answer they are looking for”, suggesting that this update is one more path on the road to a contextualised search experience.

First Question

The first question which arises is why these results are included in the News section, rather than just within the results list. If Google wants to introduce additional content and more varied results but acknowledges that these are not “news sources” in the traditional sense, why include this in the news box, instead of as a regular result? Is Google giving precedence to news-type sites?

Second Question

How does Google plan on approving content? An example of a content faux-pas comes from Reddit following a search for TSA, the Transportation Security Administration in the United States. A user had taken to Reddit to vent about the TSA. The In the News box for a TSA search includes a link to Reddit with the title: “F*** you TSA: WTF”, a huge F-Bomb right on the first page of Google results. Not sure this is really OK, Google. Previously, all content was approved by Google and appeared in Google News – and traditional news sites are less likely to drop the F-Word in a headline. If user-generated content will be pulled through, how can we be sure that the news section will not be full of expletives and offensive terms?

Third Question

Where will the indie internet go when Reddit has been brought to the mainstream Google masses?

Impact on digital strategy

This update raises a lot of questions, including how will In the News change SEO strategy? Or even, will it impact SEO strategy? With user-generated content included in news results we could see more organisations dedicating more time to blogging and sharing more content on sites such as Reddit. Will we start to see more emphasis on outreach and content creation taking precedent over more technical optimisation?

The update could be considered a loophole for better exposure if used in the right way. Google – obviously – hasn’t shared how it selects which sites to include in the news box. But due to the nature of news, the pages selected won’t be complying with traditional influencing factors, such as page history. Is this the perfect opportunity for newly created pages to have the maximum impact in a top position on the first page of results?

Final Question

The final question is what about why Google introduced this update. Is it really for the greater good of search results? It’s rare that Google rolls out an update without it being part of a wider, greater, grander plan. Is this In the News update another step on the path of contextual search? Will we see the News box favouring localised results in line with the Venice update and recent Pigeon roll out? Will Google favour local bloggers over national news sites?

As with most of Google updates – big and small – more uncertainties and questions arise than are settled. This is a potential search game changer, and it will definitely be interesting to see how it progresses.

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