Jan 08 2013

Break Free From SEO: Integrating the News_Keywords Meta Tag into WordPress

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Writers and editors, rejoice! SEO deadened titles are no longer required for news articles now that the news keywords meta tag is available, sort of. Okay, so only those who write articles for Google News can truly do a happy dance and even then are still not completely free from SEO in titles, but this new release is still a big step for online content.

One of the big problems that the News team has been facing in the last few years has been that writers were forced to make awkward titles for their news articles so that the articles were optimized for both Google Search and News. In many cases, the titles were written by technical staff to make sure that the article was search engine optimized, often at the protest of the writers and editors. Because Search and News worked nearly the same, even though they are actually completely different systems, the approach to ranking well in both of those services meant keyword loading of the title. To combat this problem, just last September the Google News team rolled out the nifty news_keywords meta tag that Google News will now support.

Everybody wins…mostly. We’ll get to the kinks at the end of this article. But, for the most part, readers can see a title that is interesting and engaging. Writers can write for the content, not search engines. Google News knows what the content of the article is related to, no matter what the title of the article is.

The Technical Stuff

Since the vast majority of sites are built around WordPress, I’ll show you one way to quickly and easily implement this new meta in your WordPress site. I like to use the built-in WordPress tags as the news keywords since they’re essentially the same thing – you should be tagging your articles based upon how someone might search for them.

WordPress and other CMSs use tags in a similar fashion, so this technique can be easily applied elsewhere. Using PHP in the Header.php file, here’s one way to quickly add this meta to your news site:

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<meta name="news_keywords" content="<?php
$posttags = get_the_tags();
 
if($posttags)
 
{
foreach($posttags as $tag)
 
{ echo $tag->name . ', '; }
}
?>" />

Again, this grabs whatever tags you have applied to your post and inserts them in a comma delimited format into your news_keywords meta. You can get far more sophisticated with this, of course.

I like to test whether or not the page or post has the news category assigned. Here’s one way to test using the WordPress in_category() conditional tag:

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<?php
if (in_category( 'News' ) == true ) {
echo '<meta name="news_keywords" content="';
 
$posttags = get_the_tags();
 
if($posttags) {
foreach($posttags as $tag) {
 
echo $tag->name . ', ';
 
}
}
echo '" />';
 
} ?>

This tests whether or not a post or page has a category of “News”. If so, then it displays the tags in the news_keywords meta. If the post or page does not have a category of “News”, then it ignores the news_keywords meta.

Who Should Use the News_Keywords Meta?

Bear in mind that the news_keywords meta tag only applies to sites that have been included in the Google News feeds. You have to manually apply and have your site reviewed before you get included in Google News, so you won’t automatically get added without going through the Google News team’s application process.

Anybody in Google News should start using news_keywords meta as soon as possible. This will give your site more interesting news titles and allow writers to be, well, writers. This separation of keyword management that has been critical to the search engine optimization staff can now be managed apart from the content generation process.

Kinks in the System

The biggest kink? It only works for Google News. So, if you write for a blog that isn’t published on Google News, this new meta tag doesn’t help you at all. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Therefore, most business blogs, inspirational blogs, craft blogs, again most blogs still need to strike a balance between SEO and creativity in their titles.

Secondly, the news-keywords meta actually does not release writers and editors of optimized titles. I’ll say it again: titles, even those for Google News, still need to be optimized for Google Search. So, maybe the call to rejoice was a little premature on my part.

Obviously, you probably noticed the title of this article shouldn’t cause anyone to jump for joy. The reason? First, I have to take some of the blame. I’m a little out of practice writing creative titles after nearly 5 years of writing optimized titles. But mostly the reason is that even in using the news keywords meta tag, an article title still has to be optimized for Google Search. As mentioned before (and what many web developers and even SEO experts don’t know), Google’s search and news sections operate separately.

So even if your creative title works perfectly in Google News, with no keywords in the title, your article will not show up anywhere near the first page of Google Search.

Best Practices

In spite of the, shall we say, issues of the new meta tag, you can increase the effectiveness of this tag by following the advice of those who have recently analyzed this system. Of course, no one is an expert yet with this tag, but some have come up with great advice.

In an article on the news keywords meta tag by Adam Sherk, he emphasizes that you should stick with no more than 10 phrases per article, but if you can use less, do so. Try to come up with more accurate keyword phrases that do the trick in fewer phrases – more power per punch, in other words.

Matt McGee points out in his article on SearchEngineLand regarding the re-release of the meta tag that it still won’t help if your content is poor. If you are putting out content that says nothing, is full of errors, and makes readers dumber for having read your content, the meta tag is not the answer and won’t help your post rank well. So be sure you are still creating quality content.

According to Nell Terry in her article on the resurrection of the meta tag, the news keywords meta tag is still only one part of the puzzle in getting a post to rank. Using keywords in the content and other SEO practices still need to be incorporated into every article, even news posts.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, if you write any news type posts at all, then you definitely need to learn how to incorporate the news-keywords meta. However, it is not the secret ticket to moving your posts to the top 5 on the Google News page. Make sure to use the news meta with other SEO practices, and you’ll have (a little) more freedom in your post titles. Unfortunately, you still cannot write something as creative as “Another Too-Good-To-Be-True Release from the Internet Monopoly”, which was my number one choice of title for this article. So, rejoice, but with the understanding that you still are not completely free from optimizing titles.

(dpe)

About the Author

Tara Hornor loves writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and photography. She is a Senior Editor for Creative Content Experts, a copywriting company that she owns with her husband. Connect with @TaraHornor for more design inspiration and marketing help.

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Comments and Discussions
  • Sasa, 08 January 2013

    Thanks, implemented in my blog

  • Slim, 08 January 2013

    Thanks !

  • Cameron, 09 January 2013

    This is a great little trick. Thanks for showing us exactly how to implement this new meta tag.

  • manuel morrison, 11 January 2013

    Thanks for sharing!!.
    So useful and and well explained.

  • Bob's Dangerous, 15 January 2013

    ALSO,

    0. Use Google+.
    Google is pushing it really hard right now.

    1. Don’t guess at your keywords.
    - use google adwords traffic estimator to accurately plan
    - create emotionally surprising content for that keyword and related alternates
    - compare traffic vs ctr vs conversion.
    (the terms that bring the biggest traffic don’t always bring sales)

    2. If you’re not a professionally trained writer, hire a college student for $35.
    Google reads grammar. You’ll get penalized

    3. Phone call bloggers.
    Ask them to link to you. Offer unrefusable value back. They never get calls. You’ll stand out.

    4. Use a high speed server.
    Google wants to feel fast. They can’t if you’re site takes longer than 2 seconds to load. Use a site like Pingdom or other to test yours.

    5. Join 20 DOFollow Discussion Forums.
    Do NOT use the signature to place links. It’s all duplicate content. Personally write DIFFERENT signatures with varying anchor text links to your site.

    6. Use Reddit under the right SUBREDDIT. It’s DoFollow.
    And bloggers link to Reddit all the time

    7. Don’t use directory links.
    There’s an actually Google HELP doc that say’s you’ll be considered spammy

    Partially stolen from sparkah.com/blog

    • Tara Hornor, 07 February 2013

      Thanks for these awesome tips! You are right on…and I’m glad you included point #4. This is a big pet peeve of mine, since it is fairly easy to make a site run faster. :)

  • Robin Thebs, 04 February 2013

    Didnt google dropped the keywords … It doesnt have any signigicance in SEO.
    More line of code and loop … might increase the loading time …

    • Tara Hornor, 07 February 2013

      No, Google still watches keywords, but you have to use them carefully. It’s all about relevance now – the more relevant your keyword is to the entire content, the more they will help improve your visibility on searches.

      • Robin Thebs, 09 February 2013

        Thanks Tara.
        Honestly I dropped using keywords. Thanks for waking me up.
        I will do some studies on how to use them properly.

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