[00:00:00] Olga: Hi everyone. Welcome to SEO Podcast by SEOSLY. I'm Olga Zarr, your host, and today my guest is Barry Adams. This is a very special guest. Barry, how are you doing?
[00:00:16] Barry: I am very, very good. Thank you very much for having me, Olga.
[00:00:20] Olga: Yeah, that's awesome. That's awesome. I've been like following you forever and it's so cool to finally have you here and to be able to pick your brains a bit. Okay. So for people who don't know you, but I'm not, I don't know if there are such people.
[00:00:36] Olga: Can you like, in two sentences tell them who you are, what you are up to in SS e o?
[00:00:43] Barry: Oh, I don't think there's plenty of people out there who do haven't heard of me yet. Um, I suppose I'm one of the old dinosaurs of, of s e o have been around the industry for a very long time and since about the last five, uh, years or so, I specialize in working with news publishers.
[00:00:58] Barry: So we specialties SEO for news websites.
[00:01:02] Olga: Yeah. And that, that's something I will also want to ask you a lot about. So Barry, let's go back in time to the very beginnings of your SS e o journey. So when did you start and how it all started? If you can walk me through like the beginnings up until now.
[00:01:20] Barry: Ah, it's a long story because like I said, the, one of the old dinosaurs, I suppose I first started doing ss e o before we even realized. What it was called, it was back in 1998, late 1998. I, I was still in uni and I built my own website, um, and realized nobody was visiting it. So I thought, right, I need to maybe do something with this website to, to make it findable.
[00:01:42] Barry: And back then there was about getting listed in the Yahoo directory and, and demos and things like that. Um, and I, you know, you stuff, the, the meta tag, the keywords, meta tag full of keywords and stuff. Um, so that's basically what my first foray into s e o was purely for hobby. Hobby websites, hobby projects.
[00:01:59] Barry: Um, But I started working more in, in the web industry after that. Um, I started out as a pure it geek doing network and server administration and, uh, in the mid 2000 in charge of corporate. Internet and internet infrastructure. So managing the web servers and because they knew a bit of H Tmm L at some stage, they also asked me to manage what was on the servers, the Internets and internet web pages themselves, pure H tml and c s s back in, back in those days.
[00:02:27] Barry: So that's how I got started managing websites basically. And then in 2005, I started working for a company as their international webmaster. She's still the coolest job title I've ever had, by the way. Um, and I was basically putting charge of all traffic generation for that website, email, pay-per-click, and ss e o social wasn't really there yet, so that wasn't really a channel back in those days.
[00:02:50] Barry: So I learned a little bit about ss e o as, as part of my remit in that job. And, uh, In 2007, that company sent me to the Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York. And prior to going to that conference, I thought I'd sort of nailed SS e o and I knew what I was doing. I was pretty confident, probably arrogant, and that was a three day conference in New York and people like Matt Cots was speaking there and came across the Berg and Gillan.
[00:03:16] Barry: And you know, Barry Schwartz and I walked out of that conference center three days later. Realizing I knew nothing. I was, I was a total newbie. I was, I was below ground floor in terms of ss e o capabilities, but I, I caught the buck. I thought, this is it. This is what I wanna do. I wanna become an expert in s e o if I can.
[00:03:37] Barry: Um, so that's when I really started to narrow down in my specialty. And I'm a bit lucky enough over the years to find jobs that aligned with that. Goal that I had, uh, I moved from the Netherlands where I'm originally from, to Northern Ireland in 2009. One of my first jobs here was in-house Seo o at the Belfast Telegraph, the local newspaper.
[00:03:56] Barry: Mm-hmm. And it was more or less a case of the one night king in the land of the blind, because I don't think I was, I should have gotten that job. 'cause I don't think my s e o capabilities were good enough at that stage. They had very few options to pick from because ss e o in, in Northern Ireland was at a, at a very early level.
[00:04:16] Barry: There were not a lot of people who had any sort of experience in seo. So, uh, yeah, I got thrown into that particular landscape, which was my introduction to SEO for news websites. Now that specialty sort of lay dormant for a while because after working with the.
[00:04:32] Barry: Again, I focus very heavily on SS e o, but I was put in charge of the whole department there. So I also managed like content marketing, digital, uh, social media, pay-per-click, uh, email marketing, that sort of thing, as well as building and, and designing websites for, for clients. I did that for four years, and then in 2014, I, uh, decided to go freelance because.
[00:04:53] Barry: I felt we had a pretty strong agency team and we were doing quite well. I wasn't happy in that job at all 'cause I was more of a manager rather than a doer. And I don't think managing people is ever been my strong suit. So I went freelance, uh, and in the first few years of going freelance, I sort of just took on any project that came my way.
[00:05:12] Barry: You know, be it e-commerce or. But in 2016 it was approached by people from the Sun Newspaper in London. Mm-hmm. A really big tabloid news website in the uk. They were rebuilding their website, it had a paywall for a very long time, and they dropped a paywall and decided to replatform their entire website.
[00:05:32] Barry: Um, and for some reason they found me, and that's because the project manager who was put in charge of the project, she was originally from Northern Ireland and Graph in 2016. Was probably pointing above its weight in Google News and Google search results. Uh, and got a lot more visibility than it deserved to get by virtue of being a very small local news publisher.
[00:05:56] Barry: And I think that was because when I was working there, uh, me and the online editor, youm Crawley, we just love to experiment. And try things out and play around with titles, headlines, URLs, just to see how Google would picked it up specifically in their news ecosystem. And we found quite a lot of, I would say, flaws and weaknesses in, in Google's news specific ranking systems.
[00:06:19] Barry: Uh, and I was still consulting, uh, on a freelance basis for the telegraph and the related properties. So my name. Apparently came up and she started making phone calls to inquire about who was responsible for the SS e O. So I got that project basically thrown into my lap, and that was a very interesting project, a very successful project as well.
[00:06:39] Barry: Even though I don't think I can take a lot of credit for that, I just happened to work with. A very good team of very motivated, very intelligent people, and know the relaunch was, was very successful. They, they blew all the, all the traffic goals away and that just opened a lot of doors for me to start working with other news publishers.
[00:06:57] Barry: And that's when I sort of started to get the idea that maybe working with news websites was quite an interesting niche to be in because I also realized,
[00:07:08] Barry: Freelancers or consultants or even agencies out there who had any sort of experience working with news in the context of ss e o, uh, and, and s e o and news is quite a bit different than, than what I call classic s e o, which we'll talk about later. Yeah, I imagine. Um, so, you know, more publishers came along, but also had other clients that were non-new clients.
[00:07:30] Barry: And I think in about 2019 I sort of made the decision to try and specialize purely in news publishers to see if I could make that work. And I think there was also a bit of of lucky timing there because this was just before the pandemic. Then the pandemic hit. Everybody spent a lot more time at home.
[00:07:47] Barry: Everybody spent a lot more time online and news publishers thought, did we need to take this SS e o Milwaukee quite seriously 'cause it's getting a lot more competitive. And because I just started my newsletter, SEO for google news.com, I started to build a bit of a reputation as the the Google News Ss e o guy.
[00:08:04] Barry: Uh, and then my, my virtual phone didn't really stop ringing. I, I was very, very busy and have been very, very busy ever since working pretty much exclusively with news publishers on doing ss e o for them and, and helping them with all kinds of different, uh, challenges that they have. So, Yeah, again, I've been very fortunate over the many years to be in the right place at the right time and talk to the right people.
[00:08:29] Barry: And, uh, yeah. As a result, I'm now pretty established as the news s e o guy, which is, is a luxury I don't take for granted either. You know, you only as good as your last project. So I always try to make sure that every client gets, gets good value from, from working with me, and that it's, uh, you know, a, a worthwhile project for everyone involved.
[00:08:50] Olga: That's a good quote. Be as good. You are as good as your last project. I will have to like put it somewhere in the visible place. So now you are basically a freelancer as well, or do you have like a team of people working with you? No,
[00:09:06] Barry: it's just me, uh, me and my wife. Uh, she handles the operational side of the business, Uhhuh, because again, that's stuff I don't like doing and I'm not good at.
[00:09:13] Barry: But she comes from a commercial background, she's very good at that. And I do the ss e o work. So we're basically a, a two person operation, and that's by design. Uh, I realize that that's what I like to do. That's how I like to work. And they also find that it helps getting clients on board because when they hire me, they hire me.
[00:09:33] Barry: No outsourcers, no, no juniors. They get my expertise, my insight, uh, and I find that that makes the client quite confident about working with me, that they're gonna get a certain level. Of service. It also means that there's often a bit of a waiting list when clients come on board because they do work on a first come, first serve basis.
[00:09:52] Barry: But most of my clients seem to be okay with that. You know, they're okay with a few months of a waiting period before I can start things like a site audit or, or mm-hmm. Some other project working with them. Yeah. So, yeah, just a small operation and that's exactly how we like it.
[00:10:07] Olga: Yeah. Yeah. it's totally the same with me.
[00:10:09] Olga: It's just me and my husband who is also an s e o and like the same setup and I. Don't want to scale No. In any way. So I totally understand. It's more, more fun. Yeah. Yeah. Totally. Okay, so, um, maybe now I will ask you a few questions about, uh, ss e o for news. Because, because yeah, it's, it differs a lot. So the first one, how does it differ exactly from like regular SS e O.
[00:10:38] Barry: I think the biggest difference is that with, with ss e o for news articles specifically, you get one chance, um, when you publish an article on a news website, it'll start appearing in Google's news specific ecosystem, like top stories, boxers and Google News and Google Discover pretty much straight away, and it has a shelf life there of about.
[00:10:59] Barry: 36 to 48 hours. It's quite to see articles than two days show up in, in those new specific rankings. And more importantly, when Google first sees and crawls and indexes an article on the news website, it is. Not going to revisit that article and recall it until several days later, at which stage it's already dropped outta Google's new specific ranking elements because it's older than two days, which means the moment you click publish, you have to have your own page, SS e o, and all the all elements.
[00:11:31] Barry: Mm. Perfect. You cannot then go back and make changes later and expect Google to pick that up because that's it. Your chance is gone. Google will call and index that article within a few minutes of you publishing it generally, and if you make changes after that, you're basically screwed. Google is not gonna see the changes until several days later.
[00:11:50] Barry: At which point, it's not a news article anymore. It all dropped out of the news index really. So you get one chance, you get one shot at it, and that's very different from classic SS e o because you can publish an article, publish a new piece of content, or page whatever, and then continually update it, improve it, and make constant changes to it.
[00:12:06] Barry: You don't have that luxe for news articles. You have one chance and you have to get it right before click. Which means we're much more process oriented, much more focused on the workflow leading up to publication to make sure ss e o gets done as part of that workflow. And it's not something that is added on afterwards.
[00:12:26] Barry: 'cause you have to embed that process correctly and make sure it is done. Especially for publishers who publish, you know, dozens if not hundreds of. You can't rely on like one single ss e o person or even a small team of s e o people to be able to tweak and, and, and improve all those articles before they go live.
[00:12:44] Barry: It's too much work. Mm-hmm. And it slows down the publishing process too much. So you need to have really good habits installed in the workflow from journalists and editors so that that stuff gets done and gets done properly before that article is published. Yeah,
[00:13:00] Olga: that, that's super interesting. I, I didn't, I didn't know that.
[00:13:03] Olga: So, so for news websites, it looks like Google is like constantly almost crawling them and looking for, for new articles.
[00:13:13] Barry: Yes. Uh, calls them very, very often. Uh, some people really staggered at how often Google calls, especially the homepage and section pages of, of news websites, and also the news specific XML site maps.
[00:13:25] Barry: Google calls those quite a lot too for some of my clients. You know, when we look at server logs, we see Google. Pinging the homepage like once every five seconds. Oh. See, as an update. Uh, I know these are big publishers, like 4, 5, 600 articles a day. So Google, you know, knows that these homepages change very, very often and there is a good chance that something new to be found.
[00:13:45] Barry: And Google will just check every five to 10 seconds if there is an updated article on that homepage. And that's, you know, that's very exciting because it's very easy to get content indexed and ranked. Because you just there, but also very risky because if. You basically fucked up and you know, you don't, you don't get a second chance unless you create a new article.
[00:14:12] Barry: And that's one of the weaknesses. We also find when, well, I dunno if it's a weakness, it's a feature I think of of Google News and I think Google in general, that Google uses an article's u r l and only it's u r L as the unique identifier. Mm-hmm. Not the headline, not the content, but the UR L And the moment you change the U R L, even if it's just one character, different.
[00:14:33] Barry: Google will see it as a new article, which is very risky because it means you can lose rankings if you change your ul, but also it's an opportunity, which means you can basically force Google to interpret it as a new article if you want to make changes by just changing the U R L of the article.
[00:14:49] Olga: Okay.
[00:14:50] Olga: Okay. Any other significant differences? You can talk about.
[00:14:56] Barry: Um, yeah, I mean the rest of it, a lot of it aligns a lot with what SEO's already doing in, in other contexts like e-commerce, which is building up long-term, uh, quality and authority signals. I think the main difference there is, is that news web websites are not necessarily reliant on doing things like link building, um, because they are linked magnets by virtue of being a news website.
[00:15:18] Barry: Which means internal linking becomes much more important for news websites. Internal linking, including your top navigation, your in article, linking the structure of your website is incredibly important to send the right signals of topic authority to. Uh, and for most news websites that are not like nationwide general news websites, uh, it's quite important to have a specialty as well to be seen as a specialist in, in one or a small section of topics because Google doesn't necessarily.
[00:15:49] Barry: Like to general news websites for specialist news topics. They like ranking specialist news website, especially if news wants to show local niche websites in its search results, uh, for those sorts of, of topics and those sorts of news stories.
[00:16:07] Olga: Okay. And regarding like the Google news algorithm and the evaluations, it, it does, like what are the differences?
[00:16:15] Olga: What's the one values over another? I guess there are some differences. So is it probably more E E A T or, and what else?
[00:16:24] Barry: Yeah, e E A T is very important, but I think when it comes to articles, As SCOs, we've always been told that the, the title tag is the most important and Google doesn't care what your title tags.
[00:16:38] Barry: Your visible headline, which can be different from your title tag and also is Yeah, and it's not even just a visible headline, it's actually the headline in your structured data, your news article or article structured data that's in the HTML source code, the headline attribute there. That's what Google uses to show the article in in top stories and in Google News.
[00:16:57] Barry: So that headline, which is usually the same as your visible headline, but can be different. That's the one you need to optimize for maximum relevancy. And you don't have a lot of space there either, but you have a bit more space than you would have at a classic headline. I mean, classic headline, we say 60 to 70 characters, but you can make them longer, but you get the cutoff.
[00:17:16] Barry: Mm-hmm. Uh, with news headlines in those top stories boxes, you tend to have a bit more visual space, like 70, 80, sometimes even 90 characters before.
[00:17:28] Barry: Like to show my clients is that when you actually look at the source code of a Google search results page and you look at those headlines, the entire headline without any abbreviation is in the source code. That cutoff is a purely visual element. It means you have actually quite a lot of space in that headline to work with.
[00:17:47] Barry: Mm-hmm. It used to be a hard cut off of 110 characters. But that's not a, a, a cutoff anymore. I think the, the, the schema.org standard has evolved. That headline attribute can now be longer than 10 characters, but I generally tell my clients wound hundred ten's probably enough. If it's longer than that, you may be not really writing a headline and you writing more of a paragraph, but you know, it also means you don't really have to worry too much about the length of the headline in terms of optimizing for.
[00:18:18] Barry: I still tell my clients the first five to eight words are where you want to put the important keywords in the ones you want to rank for, but the total length of the headline, a hundred, one ten, a hundred twenty characters, that's fine. So don't obsess too much over that, as long as it's an accurate description of what you're writing about and it has the right search terms, the right keywords in it.
[00:18:37] Olga: Okay. And regarding Google News and Google Discover, do those news articles often get into Google Discover as well? Like based on your observations from, from the
[00:18:50] Barry: site? Yes. No, this is an really interesting dynamic, um, because Discover works slightly differently. Discover is very much an engagement and interest based fee that is very personalized for user.
[00:19:00] Barry: There is no search involved. In Discover, um, which means even the best crafted headlines don't necessarily work in Discover. Yeah, discover works of, of quite different signals. I think the quality signals like E E A T signals and topic authority signals in discover are the same as in news. But the individual ranking signals for articles in Discover are much more based on what that user does and does not do.
[00:19:24] Barry: What, what they click on, what they don't click on. As well as the searches that they actually performed that informed Google what their interests actually are. And I found that optimizing for Discover, especially optimizing headlines for Discover, is different than optimizing headlines for news. Yeah.
[00:19:39] Barry: 'cause for Discover, you want, I wouldn't necessarily say clickbait headlines, but a bit more attractive headlines, A bit more engaging, a bit more, oh, let's see what that is. Whereas those sorts of headlines really don't work in, in news and. Those headlines need to be very straightforward, very explicit, and very clear to say, this is what the article is about.
[00:20:00] Barry: And that doesn't work in Discover because that's too blunt and doesn't have a high engagement associated with it. So there's a bit of a dynamic there where some, sometimes publishers have to choose whether to optimize an article for Discover or for news because it's not, not always. Impossible to do both.
[00:20:20] Barry: But there's another mechanism there and that sometimes, not often, but sometimes I see Google Discover, not use the structured data headline in Discover, but the open graph headline. Mm-hmm. Like the open graph headline in your open graph tags that are intended. For Facebook know that is, that's what Facebook uses when you, you upload or you share a link on Facebook.
[00:20:41] Barry: Facebook will very quickly scan the article, uh, extract your open graph tags and use that to filter and to feed that little, uh, preview. In Facebook. Discover sometimes also uses those open graph headlines, which means as, as a publisher, what you can do is you, your, your news article structure, your data headline.
[00:20:58] Barry: That's what you need to optimize for news and for top stories. But your open graph headline, which you tend to optimize for Facebook, you can also optimize for Discover. And that's more or less the same rules because headlines that work well on social media like Facebook also tend to work well for discover slightly more clickbaity.
[00:21:14] Barry: You know, not necessarily giving away the full story in the headline. So it's an interesting dynamic, but we can't necessarily rely on Google always using the open graph headline in Discover. It also often also uses Divisible headline and or mm-hmm. Structure data headline. So it's a bit of a trial and error mechanism there.
[00:21:30] Barry: And optimizing for Discover is much more about creating good engagement with your content so that, you know, Google sees that as, as a positive signal that people keep returning to.
[00:21:42] Barry: As well as signposting the topics that your articles are a part of, because, you know, uh, Google will show articles based on known user interests to that particular user. And if your, your article is very clearly targeting those same interests, there's a much higher chance of your articles being shown in Yeah.
[00:22:01] Barry: In those users Discover feed.
[00:22:03] Olga: Yeah, totally. Oh, let's say I'm starting a new website about news. how do I get into Google Discover? How, how do I compete with those huge news publications? Is there a chance for me to
[00:22:16] Barry: Yeah, that's a tough one. Um, it takes patience, uh, and perseverance. Start.
[00:22:26] Barry: Publishing website with no history and no background, and you started from scratch. The, you can get into Discover in about six months, three to six months if you, on that is engaging and fun. You can get discover traffic quite quickly, especially if you also do classic s e o really well and you get traction on social media.
[00:22:45] Barry: It's, it's, it's possible within three to six months to get good traffic from Discover and, and build a bit of an audience there. Google News and Top Stories that takes at least two years. Oh, it's very rare to get a website faster than two years in Google's news specific ecosystem. It's because Google uses an algorithmic inclusion process to determine whether or not the website is a news website, and that means a certain length of history and quality of reporting over a long period of time before you reach that threshold where Google says, okay, I can trust you.
[00:23:17] Barry: Now as a publisher, you're not just a fly by night outfit, you're not just a propaganda outlet. You are a serious news publisher and yeah, the fastest I've seen that happen is two years, two and a half years, three years, sometimes even four years. Uh, and that is something that changed since the end of 2019, because before then we had a.
[00:23:35] Barry: Approval process for Google News. Mm-hmm. Uh, we could just fill in a form and tell Google, oh, I've got a news website. And then some engineer in, in, in California or maybe some outsourced engineers somewhere around the world, would, uh, look at your website and say, yeah, okay, you're news. Or say, no, you're not news.
[00:23:51] Barry: You need to fix a few things. Um, so it was quite predictable and we sort of knew what they were looking for and it was quite easy to get into Google's new specific ecosystem. But in December, 2019, Google decided to throw that all away and go for an algorithmic inclusion process that that's not reliant on any sort of manual intervention.
[00:24:10] Barry: And since then, it's become very hard. And like I said, since then, it takes on average, two years or more for a new website to get accepted as a news publisher and such, showing up in Google News and Top Stories discover, like I said, is much easier. Three to six months, sometimes a bit longer, but news, yeah, that's at least two years.
[00:24:29] Barry: So that's something you have to keep in mind when you launch a new website or when you change domains of an existing news website. 'cause when you change the domain name, you lose your Google News inclusion and you have to re-earn it. And that can take two years as well. So changing domains as a news publisher is very, very risky.
[00:24:46] Barry: And, Oh, okay.
[00:24:49] Olga: Okay. And regarding a M p, because like before this core vitals update, I think you had to have a m p versions to, to be eligible for top stores. Then it changed. And how did it like impact the entire, the entire industry? Like did you, did you see some interesting case, like for example, the site got a ton of traffic or lose a ton of traffic because they, for example, gave up on a m p.
[00:25:19] Olga: Like, is there something to
[00:25:21] Barry: share? There's a. Been on record as a, uh, very vocal opponent of a m p. Um, I, I don't like a m p and I don't like what Google tried to do with a m p, um, me, but like you said, you know, it was a requirement for appearing and top stories on, on mobile search results. So most publishers felt they didn't have a choice and had.
[00:25:52] Barry: When that requirement was Dr I think it was, uh, 2021. 20. Yeah. 2021. Um, and literally from one day to the next, the percentage of non amp articles appearing in mobile top stories went from about five or 6% to 25%. Oh. Uh, so I found that really, really interesting and it also made me really, really, because those 20% of publishers that suddenly started appearing in, in.
[00:26:21] Barry: They obviously ticked all the boxes already. They had quality of reporting, good quality content, high levels of authority, E E A T, all those things, except they didn't have amp, and that's the only reason they did not show up on mobile top stories is because they didn't have amp. And then when Google dropped a requirement, boom, suddenly they were all the top stories.
[00:26:42] Barry: And that pissed me off and still pisses me off because that is such. A, a level of blackmail that Google did. Oh, you, no matter how good you are, if you don't have amp, we're not gonna to show you. And it's, it shows to me the enormous amount of power that Google had forcing us to adopt standards that are only for Google's benefit and not for anybody else's benefit.
[00:27:03] Barry: And, and it, it really made me angry that suddenly all these publishers started appearing that, that never had AMP or had deleted AMP after trying it out. Because they should have been in those top stories all those years anyway, but they weren't because they didn't have AMP versions. And since then, what struck me the most is that many publishers have just killed off amp one after the other, one after the other.
[00:27:25] Barry: And most of those don't see any negative impact from that. In fact, some of them actually report that they see an increase in traffic for mobile. So as far, I'm concerned if your core webs as a publisher are decent to. Just kill off amp. Delete amp because it's costing people money. It's costing publishers money to maintain amp pages and they would need to do that.
[00:27:47] Barry: The effort is better spent on on optimizing other aspects of the website. There is literally no reason now for a publisher to have.
[00:27:55] Olga: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And regarding technical requirements. Are there like specific technical requirements that a site needs to meet in order to be eligible for Google News?
[00:28:07] Olga: Or is it like that just algorithm some somehow determine like with Yeah. People discover where it's, it's sad but it's not like that clear.
[00:28:17] Barry: Yeah. Uh, there are some things that Google positions as recommendations, not requirements. Mm-hmm. Like article or news, article structure, data. It's, it's recommended.
[00:28:27] Barry: Mm-hmm. But not required a, a news specific XML site map. Also recommended, but not required. I think the main requirement is that your website needs to be, A dedicated publisher. I, I very often get questions from websites, oh, we have a a, a commercial website and we have a really good news section for that website.
[00:28:46] Barry: How do we get that news section into Google News? And the answer is always the same. You can't forget about, it's not. Okay. Your website needs to be a dedicated news publisher and, and should not have any other commercial goals aside news, uh, primarily you can have some other like affiliate content and things like that, but the main purpose of should be publish.
[00:29:08] Barry: Very, very rare to see a website's news section, a appearing Google News if the rest of the website is not news. Mm-hmm. If the rest of the website has another commercial purpose, it's not a possible, but it's very, very difficult. And generally I tell my clients it's not worth fighting that battle because you're going to lose to dedicated news websites who don't have any ambiguity and that Google feels very confident, will produce good news, and therefore can rank in Google's news ecosystem.
[00:29:35] Barry: So, you know, dedicated news is definitely the one big requirement, and the rest is just about good behavior as a, as a news publisher. You know, be explicit about what your topical strengths are. Uh, publish enough content, you know, as unfortunately, we are in a scenario where volume is rewarded to a certain extent.
[00:29:52] Barry: If you have one news articles a day that, yeah, that's not gonna fly 10, 20, 30, more is better basically, but it does need to be newsworthy content. Good internal linking, very fast server response time because Google likes it when websites respond very quickly and Google can very quickly call them. You know, uh, when you look at your call stats report in, in search console.
[00:30:12] Barry: If a server response time is more than 500, 600 milliseconds might want to improve that. Oh, it needs to be quite fast and responsive for Google to call it. And, and you generally don't confuse Google, and this is actually is a technical requirement, but Google never really makes it explicit. But in my experience, it's, it's probably the most important one.
[00:30:56] Barry: Google will already have, have given that article. Its its visibility in their news ecosystem. So your H T M R source code needs to contain the full article and all the bells, whistles,
[00:31:15] Olga: Yeah. That's, that's super interesting. And regarding XML site maps for, news websites, how do they differ from like normal XML site maps?
[00:31:25] Barry: Yeah, I mean, I'm always a fan of having regular XML site maps for my news clients as well, primarily because they give really good, uh, ways to troubleshoot indexing problems in Google Search console and new specific XMO site map is, is quite a different.
[00:31:39] Barry: Beast because it should only contain articles published in the last 48 hours. So whenever a new article is published, it should go directly into the new site map. And after 48 hours, two days, it should drop outta the new site map. Uh, plus there's specific extra attributes in the new site map that Google wants you to fill in.
[00:31:57] Barry: I like the name of the publication, the language of the article, the headline, the title of the article there as well, as well as the publication date. Not the last more date, the publication date. Google wants to make sure this is when it was actually published, so it's a bit more extensive. You get a lot more attributes per u r L in, in a news XML site map.
[00:32:15] Barry: But at the same time, because it can only contain the articles published in the last 48 hours, it's a fairly small site map. You know, depending on the scale of your operation, you can have several hundred article in. There's also a limit of. Now, there's not many publishers that publish more than a thousand articles in 48 hours, 500 articles a day.
[00:32:39] Barry: But there are some who do, and they will have multiple news XML site maps so that they can spread out of multiple site maps. But generally, a thousand articles for a single publication is, is enough. You know, five. Thousand that's.
[00:33:03] Olga: Yeah. Cool, cool. And how does Google handle duplicate content? How does Google know who is like the origin reporter? Reporter? I hear, I heard a case that someone publishes an article and then the other one publishes the same one, but changes the dates to be before and then he is like the original source.
[00:33:24] Olga: How does it work?
[00:33:25] Barry: Google is very, very bad at filtering our duplicate content. In fact, if it's so bad now, they basically have admitted defeat on that. Um, Google now says if you syndicate your content to someone else, like you have your own articles and you let another publisher copy that, like with a syndication feed.
[00:33:43] Barry: That other publisher should put a no index tag on that content.
[00:33:46] Olga: Yeah. Yeah, I heard that, that that's a relatively recent thing, I think. Yeah,
[00:33:50] Barry: because if, if they don't do that, if, if they just publish it, and even if it has a Canon attack pointing back to you, there's a really good chance that article is going to rank above your article in Google's news ecosystem.
[00:34:02] Barry: And that's because Google doesn't really do deduplication in news. Google actually doesn't really do deduplication very well at all in any of their ranking systems. Google is very bad at handling duplicate content. Um, you know, they tell us not to publish duplicate content, but realistically, You can get away with scraping an entire website.
[00:34:21] Barry: They publishing on a different domain and it'll rank just fine because Google is very bad at at detecting and filtering duplicate content, including in their news ecosystem. They're very bad at it, and because there's a lot of syndication happening among news publishers. Google accepts this. As you know, duplicate content will appear on multiple websites, and there's no real danger for a publisher associated with that.
[00:34:41] Barry: There's no risk of getting penalized or anything like that unless you get a lot of D M C A copyright notices against you, in which case, you know, eventually Google's going to kick you search results, but syndicated content generally is licensed. Therefore, you will never get a D M C A notice against you.
[00:34:56] Barry: Rank if,
[00:35:01] Barry: and this is also weakness that. Credit original publishers, but because of the nature of news, Google has a very strong preference for newer articles. And by newer it, I'm not even talking about the publication date that you provide to Google. It's when Google first sees the article. Because as far as Google is concerned, that's when the article is actually published.
[00:35:25] Barry: So when you write an article and you publish it and then 20 minutes later, It gets published on a competing website that has your syndication feed. Chances are that that article is going your article, Google shown in specific ecosystem. More accurate and users click more on an article that's 20 minutes old versus an article that's an hour old because users just know that the 20 minutes old might have the newest developments in that news story, whereas the article that's an hour old might already be outdated.
[00:35:59] Barry: So it's, it's a inherent weakness in Google and in Google News as well. And it's not something we as an industry have really come to grips with yet. It's still an ongoing and persistent problem. Yeah,
[00:36:11] Olga: that's, that's interesting. And how does Google deal with fake news? Is it harder for a websites?
[00:36:19] Olga: Probably it is to harder to get into Google News for websites who, which produce fake news, but it probably happens. Are there like any interesting cases or ways Google deals with that?
[00:36:31] Barry: Yeah. It's uh, it's actually the reason why it's so hard to get into Google News. Uhhuh. Yeah. 'cause Google is very hesitant to let a new website in there.
[00:36:41] Barry: Um, so I talk to clients who are really frustrated, like, why is Google not showing us? It's like, yeah, but that's the side effect of what Google is trying to do, which is only show reputable news websites, and I have to give Google credit. It.
[00:36:58] Barry: News. Mm-hmm. Rarely happens. It a very common occurrence. Now it's rarer. Or has put a lot of effort into finding the right signals. The, the E E A T signals that, you know, everybody keeps harping on about that is a very important aspect of Google's news ranking systems. And, and if you don't have things like good author pages and, and, and strong, uh, quality signals and topic authority signals, you, you're just not going to rank as a publisher.
[00:37:29] Barry: Uh, so I think for news, Google has more or less cracked that knot and, and is quite confident. Proper news websites, it's, it's if you launch a fake news website, you're not going to get tracks in Google's news ecosystem. It's just not gonna happen. You just don't have the right signals for Google to trust you in any way or form.
[00:37:49] Barry: So, mm-hmm. Yeah, that's, yeah, that's the, the flip side of the coin of, of it being so difficult to get into Google News. It's difficult for that specific reason.
[00:37:58] Olga: Okay. Makes sense. And what are like the, the common mistakes you see news websites make when you are like hired to, to audit those sites?
[00:38:08] Olga: Like what are like common, common patterns
[00:38:10] Barry: you see? Yeah. Like I said before, a lot of publishers think they can go in after they publish an article and tweak it and then realize that that doesn't work. Yeah. No.
[00:38:23] Barry: Not using proper categorization and tagging is also a bit of an issue. Uhhuh, I like using tag pages, but you have to have the right process for it. Uh, the, there's two extremes there. When sometimes news websites don't use any tags or websites have way too many tags for everything. Yeah, exactly. You need to have a bit of a golden medium there and have a good process in place.
[00:38:44] Barry: I think tags are very valuable because they help show to Google what your expertise is as a publisher, what kind of topics you write about a lot. That's why your top navigation, your sectioning pages, but also your tag pages play a very important role. But you don't want a million tag pages either with like one or two articles per tag page.
[00:39:01] Barry: So there needs to be a bit of a process there where, you know, you can only create tag pages for topics that you have a, a certain amount of content around like five or more articles. And also a process where you deprecate tag pages if there hasn't been a new article added to that for X amount of years.
[00:39:20] Barry: Pagination is another, a common, common problem, uh, not crawlable pagination. Um, again, when you have a topic page or attack page and there's a show more button, or a load more button, or an infinite scroll, that that loads more articles and there isn't really a page two or page three for Google to crawl, you're not doing it right because Google wants to see a certain body of work.
[00:40:03] Barry: But at the same time, you don't want to create too much crawl overhead for Google and have hundreds of thousands of pages of pagination. So again, it's about finding the happy medium, the, the, the golden ratio of having enough pagination, which is, you know, generally I say 20 to 30 articles per page, up to 10 pages.
[00:40:20] Barry: That's up to 300 articles usually enough. You know, if you can do 10 pages of pagination with 30 articles per page, you, you're in a good place. Uh, but again, it's very context dependent on how often you publish or what your, your topical expertise is as a publisher. But it's a bit of a rule of thumb that I can start with to see if they're on, on the wrong side of the right side of that particular equation.
[00:40:40] Barry: Mm-hmm. Um, and yeah, other than that, um, I think. A lot of publishers don't use internal links particularly well. They don't do any linking internally or externally, and that's, I think, not a good habit either. Um, and, and publishers tend not to. Think really well about what the top navigation should be.
[00:41:01] Barry: Mm-hmm. Top navigation mm-hmm. Is, is more of a political battle internally rather than, um, you know, a signpost of what your main categories of content actually are. Your strengths as a publisher, and it's important to make sure that your top navigation reflects your output as.
[00:41:22] Barry: In, in the top nav now it should really be aligned with what you as a publisher are really good at covering. And those topics should be reflected in your top navigation. Mm-hmm.
[00:41:31] Olga: Okay. Okay, ma, makes sense. And what about author? Did you notice that it matters? It influences rankings. Uh, if some journalists wrote an article as opposed to, to, there is no information about the author or the author is unknown.
[00:41:50] Barry: Um, it's fairly anecdotal evidence. I do recommend publishers have good author pages and, and, you know, make sure that the, the people that write for that website are real people that Google knows that they're real people know, linked to social media, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter profiles, those sorts of things.
[00:42:06] Barry: Have a real photo there and not some anonymous avatar, a proper bio that lists that particular reporter's expertise. But it's an indirect signal. I don't think it's a direct ranking factor for articles. I don't see any evidence for that. I do think it's an indirect core quality signal that goes into your overall evaluation of the website.
[00:42:24] Barry: The same with having a really good about Us page that lists mm-hmm. A editorial policy where you tell both your readers and Google, we're an independent publisher, this is how we make money. This is the kind of content we've used and this is how you can trust us as a publisher. There's all very indirect signals, quite subjective signals as well, but I do think they play a role.
[00:42:45] Barry: I think when a website does not have them, they tend to fall on the wrong side of core algorithm updates. Mm-hmm. And if you do then implement them, you tend to bounce back after the next core algorithm update. So it is something that Google tends to look at, but it's more part of the core updates that Google roll out and whether or not you have that quality check mark associated with your website.
[00:43:07] Barry: Okay.
[00:43:07] Olga: Cool. Cool. Interesting. And walk me now through like how exactly your job looks like, how does s e o for news websites look like? Like what do you do on a daily basis? Like what tasks? Yeah. What are your tasks? Super interesting.
[00:43:25] Barry: It, it varies quite a lot. I think most of my work is site audits. Site audits for these publishers.
[00:43:30] Barry: Both, you know, all bells and whistle site audits, as well as like focused audits for. Technical, s e o. Um, so I think that would be the body of my work. I also do a lot of training sessions, editorial training sessions for, for news desks and, and editors and technical training sessions on occasion for development teams and product teams and, and a lot of what I call ad hoc consulting where.
[00:43:52] Barry: The client just wants me available whenever they have an interesting question or an interesting challenge, and they can send me an email or, or talk to me on Slack or whatever it's, or some clients want me to have like a regular catchup call with them once every two weeks, once every month mm-hmm. To talk about the latest things that have been happening and the, the initiatives that they've launched or other things that they have in the pipeline.
[00:44:13] Barry: And once or twice a year I get a really interesting focus project as in hope. We're launching a new platform or a new website. Can you help us with that? You know, or we're making a a, a major c m s change on our publishing website. Can you help us along with that process? Uh, so yeah, those tend to be the types of, of things that I do.
[00:44:33] Barry: Um, But at the same time, I try not to box myself in, uh, in terms of ways of working, uh, whatever fits with the client's, uh, ways of working, where my expertise is needed and, and how I can contribute to.
[00:44:48] Olga: Yeah, sure. And I was, I was browsing your website before, before we started, and I noticed, one article it, it said technical ss e o is absolutely necessary.
[00:44:59] Olga: So can you tell me why?
[00:45:02] Barry: Yeah, that's an old article actually I worked at back in 2015, I think. Um, and that was a bit
[00:45:08] Olga: of a, I think it show, it showed us. 20, I
[00:45:11] Barry: think. Yeah, I know. I, I republished it on my own website, Uhhuh, because I wrote for another website and Okay. Didn't find it on that other website again.
[00:45:17] Barry: So I thought, oh, let's just repu it on my own. Uh, and I republished it because I, I, I read through it and realized that's, it's still more or less true. I think, I mean, back in 2015, content marketing was all the hype. Everybody was all over that. And people thought, ah, we really need to worry about tech anymore.
[00:45:34] Barry: You know, it's not that important. Um, and I was like, hang on a minute. No, that's not true. If, if your content isn't being called on index properly, then then no matter. How good the content is. It's not gonna rank, you're not gonna get any traffic. Uh, so I wrote an article sort of a response to that, and also in a bit of an explainer of how you can learn technical seo.
[00:46:37] Barry: Because the web is a client server model, it helps a little bit if you, if you understand, uh, you know how a browser gets data from a. Uh, and other aspects there as well. Uh, in terms of using web servers, web server configurations, this become less and less important, though I have to admit, know, back in 2015, everybody had an apart C website that ran WordPress and, and HD access was, was part of the apart c configuration system.
[00:47:03] Barry: And knowing how to build HD access rules was quite useful. Mm-hmm. Nowadays, almost everybody is, is on an anx server when they WordPress and Anx doesn't have. And also don't worry. Granular configurations anymore because it tends to be built incorrectly from the start. Mm-hmm. So that's, that's less valuable than it was then.
[00:47:23] Barry: And again, I'm showing my age here 'cause it's, it's old school seo, old school technical web development stuff there a bit. But I, I still think that, you know, good websites need a good technical underpinning. I think we're helped to a large degree that. Like WordPress.
[00:47:46] Barry: Especially Wix and Doda, I should say, are quite good out of the box when it comes to tech seo. Mm-hmm. Shopify as well for e-commerce is quite good out of the box and you don't really need to worry too much about tech seo O uh, and the things that the platform can't do, unfortunately, you tend to run into a wall there 'cause there's very little configuration effort.
[00:48:04] Barry: But on the other hand, because there's so good out the box, probably.
[00:48:10] Barry: For most small businesses, having a website from Shopify over w is, is perfectly valid. And, and you know, it used to be that that was a, a key and way to launch your website, and now it's quite a sensible way to launch your website because it has a lot of capabilities outta the box and you don't really need to worry about the technical ss e o.
[00:48:27] Barry: You could focus more on the own page, ss e o and the, the link building stuff, stuff. But as websites get bigger and more complex, you tend not to be able to use those sorts of platforms anymore. And you tend to go for custom built solutions. Mm-hmm. Or bigger CMS is, uh, and that's where technical ss e o becomes very, very important.
[00:48:45] Barry: And you need to make sure that certain functionality that you sort of take for granted with one of those off-the-shelf platforms is also built into these. Custom systems that, that maybe don't necessarily have those same things built in from scratch. So, you know, you need to make sure you do a lot of research about the capabilities of a platform before you start using it and what it can and what it can't do, and what maybe you need to make it, make it do and build into that.
[00:49:10] Barry: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I do find myself falling a bit out of love with WordPress, though. I used to be a big fan of WordPress Uhhuh because outta the box with like one or two plugins, they did all they need to do. But it's become such a beast of a system. It's just, you know, it's, it's almost too much and it's hard to optimize and it's very easy to get plugin bloat and yeah.
[00:49:28] Barry: Um, and also with the, the newest, uh, Editors that they have, like Gutenberg, I am not a fan, but that's, again, I'm just used maybe to the old way of working there, Uhhuh. Um, but I think it, you know, the intention that WordPress had and probably still has, has always been very good. But the way that they have gone about it the last few years, I'm, I'm, I'm not sure it's the right direction.
[00:49:54] Barry: I think they try to be too much to too many different people. Instead, they should maybe just focus on being like a small to medium business website platform rather than be be all and end all of mm-hmm. CMSs.
[00:50:05] Olga: Yeah. Yeah. Totally agree. And one final question, do you see news websites using chat dput to write news?
[00:50:13] Olga: And how is it working out?
[00:50:15] Barry: I, I have an interesting thing to share here. AI written content for news has been around for 10, 15 years already,
[00:50:24] Olga: like Google is right rewriting, right? No.
[00:50:30] Barry: Take a financial news website, Uhhuh, every time a particular stock jumps up and down by a few points or there's a profit announcement, hundreds of articles appear like that, and very few of those are written by humans.
[00:50:41] Barry: There's, it's, it's, it's autogenerated content and that content, that type of content has been around for 10, 15, 20 years. Um, chat, g p t just makes that content better. Websites have news. Websites have tools. Two different exams always made use of AI written content. We just didn't use to call it AI content.
[00:51:01] Barry: It was just autogenerated content. Uh, and this is the type of content that you can generate based on numbers. If you have, if it's a few numbers, like a financial statement that you feed in, the machine will feed out a narrative, an article that. That reads well, that, that looks like it's written by an actual reporter that just reports on what those numbers mean.
[00:51:19] Barry: You know, it can be, like I said, changes in the stock market, changes in in exchange rates, cases in, in, in, in, uh, values of commodities, things like that. And that content that gets turned out and gets sent out to, to specifically financial publications. 'cause there's a big demand for that. There's millions of people trading in commodities trading and stock trading in, in foreign currencies all the time.
[00:51:40] Barry: And they need to read that sort of content. They want to read the latest news on that stock or market or, or that commodity exchange, whatever. It's so that has always been a part of the financial news system for literally decades now with Cat pt. The content is a lot better. Yeah, it always, you sort of knew when you were reading a machine generated piece of content.
[00:52:02] Barry: It was very formulaic, followed the same structure again and again with Cat G P T that makes it a bit more fluid, a bit more human, if you will, and makes it a bit more digestible. But the core essence is still the same. The thing that I think some journalists are worried about is that yet G PT is going report the news.
[00:52:20] Barry: And that's, that's not gonna happen. Yeah. J gt, no matter how smart it is, it will not predict what happens in Ukraine tomorrow. It just, it can't, there will always be the need for journalists, reporters to take those facts and create the news around it. G P T will read that, and then people can go to J G P T and get a summary of what happened in the last week or even the last day.
[00:52:42] Barry: But it can't make the news. It can only report on what's already when reported. That first level of reporting still needs to be done. By humans. Uh, so I think, you know, the type of journalism that is under threat from Cat Cup is the type of journalism that's already been more or less replaced by machines for a long time.
[00:53:03] Barry: Uh, It actually makes it easier for, for news publishers to focus on reporting real news. 'cause it makes the reporting on those sorts of very basic, uh, numbers based fluctuations, enormous, fully automated process that doesn't cost them a lot of money so they can free up resources to do proper news reporting, proper investigative journalism, proper insight and analysis.
[00:53:24] Barry: So for me, it's, it's not a threat. If anything, it's a liberation of journalism.
[00:53:29] Olga: Okay, cool. So Barry, where can people find you? I know you have very nice newsletter. I am a subscriber, but what's the best place to connect with you?
[00:53:40] Barry: Thank you. Thank you. Yes. My, my newsletter is SEO for google news.com. Uh, I don't write very regularly.
[00:53:46] Barry: I know I should write more often, but, um, it takes a all the time to write a good edition as, as you know, so it's something that has to come whenever I find the time to do that. Uh, I'm still on Twitter. I haven't abandoned the platform yet, even though you know it's not what it used to be. I'm on Adams, b a d a m s On Twitter website is polemic digital.com.
[00:54:06] Barry: I I have an open email policy for any ss e o related questions. If people want to ask me anything about SEO and specifically news seo, always fill in the contact form or send me an email at digital best respond. It might not be, but give response. And I'm on LinkedIn as well, you know, because everybody seems to flock LinkedIn now because it's probably the worst social media platform of now.
[00:54:34] Olga: What about Mastodon Blue Sky Threads? Yeah,
[00:54:37] Barry: I'm on Mastodon, I'm on Blue Sky. I'm not on threads because I am not on any matter owned platform. I'm not on Facebook, on Instagram, not WhatsApp, and that's a very deliberate choice that I have. So I will never on threads if you see anything on, on threads. From Barry Adams.
[00:54:51] Barry: It's not me, it's somebody pretending to be me or maybe some other dude called Barry Adams, because there's thousands of us all around the world.
[00:54:58] Olga: Okay. Okay, cool. So Barry, thank you so much for spending this time with me and sharing so much, so much knowledge. It was, it was really awesome to have you here.
[00:55:07] Olga: Thanks. Thank you very
[00:55:08] Barry: much for having me, Olga. I really enjoyed this. Yeah.
[00:55:10] Olga: Cool. So thanks everyone and see you in the next episode. Bye. Bye.