5 best practice tips for maintaining a Google News sitemap as a publisher

31.05.2022 · By LOYAL AI

Ensuring your news articles hit the top spot on Google News requires a strategy beyond simply publishing great content each day. Find out how to maintain a Google News sitemap and strengthen your publication’s reputation as a reliable breaking news source.

As we explained in our blog post on what a sitemap is and why every publisher should have one, a sitemap helps Google connect the dots between pages, understand the relationship between them, and provides important information, such as when each page was last updated so that web crawlers can find new and existing content quickly and easily.

Every publisher should look to have a sitemap in place to give their content the best chance of ranking well. It’s an attractive opportunity for publishers to reach new audiences, boost traffic to their websites, increase engagement, and gain valuable readers and subscribers.

Hitting the top spot for breaking news stories

If you’re a news organisation producing new content on a daily basis, you’ll want to consider creating a Google News Sitemap alongside your standard XML sitemap (more guidance on how to create a standard sitemap here). A Google News sitemap lets you control which articles you submit to Google News and enables Google to quickly understand your website and display your breaking news content.

Combine this with a strong Internal linking strategy and well-categorised content hub, and you’ll give your news articles the best chance of clinching the leading spot among your competitors. In a digital age, publishers can’t afford to overlook the importance of website hygiene when looking to strengthen search strategies.

So, it’s pretty clear that website structure is key for performing well on search engines, but how can you make sure you’re hitting Google’s golden checklist when it comes to mapping this out?

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through exactly how to create a News sitemap, the tangible benefits it will bring your organisation, and five best practice strategies to keep in mind along the way.

But first, let’s get the technical part out of the way, and make sure we’re clear on what exactly a Google News sitemap is…

What is a Google News sitemap?

In simple terms, a Google News sitemap is an XML sitemap that shares a news outlet’s most recent news articles with Google News. It gives Google access to the publication date, title, description, content language, image and author of the news, so that it can classify content as reliable news quickly.

Each sitemap should contain URLs of all the articles that have been published in the last two days. This means regular updating is required to keep content fresh.

As Google explains, this type of sitemap helps the search engine:

  • Discover news articles faster – Sitemaps allow Google News to quickly find news articles on your site.
  • Crawl and index all news articles – Sitemaps help the crawler discover news hubs and article URLs, which improves content coverage.

Here’s an example of what a News sitemap looks like:

Google News sitemap example
Google News sitemap example

Want to see a well-written example of a publisher’s News sitemap? Check out this one from The Guardian for a helpful benchmark.

Why do publishers need a News sitemap?

Sitemaps are important in helping search engines crawl your website and index your pages more efficiently. In turn, this enables Google to understand your website content, its purpose and the most relevant search queries each page should be ranking for.

In terms of News sitemaps specifically, each individual tag within a News sitemap helps Googlebot-News (the crawler for News sitemaps) classify news by its category, purpose and benefits for readers.

Creating and maintaining a sitemap is the type of best practice every publisher should be following both to help Google, but also LOYAL AI crawl your website. With a sitemap in place, our website archive search tool for publishers can index your pages more effectively and retrieve the most relevant content more successfully, so you get the most value out of the tool.

Creating a Google News sitemap in 4 quick steps

If coding is a double Dutch to you, don’t worry. Follow these steps to get your sitemap up and running in no time: 

  1. Firstly, you can use a News sitemap generating tool like this one to create your sitemap from within your content management system. (Note: be sure to use a News sitemap-specific tool as a general sitemap generator won’t work)
  2. Before you start to use a News sitemap, make sure you register your site in Google News first, so that Google will be alerted to it.
  3. Once you’ve created your News sitemap, submit it through Search Console. Google advises that you “upload your sitemap to the directory that contains your news articles or a directory closer to the root of your site.” For more information on this, learn how to manage your sitemaps.
  4. Finally, make sure you validate your sitemap. Check out how to do this here.

5 best practice tips for maintaining your News sitemap

Now that you understand the basics of how to set up your News sitemap, let’s take a look at how to maintain it. Here are five best practice tips every publisher should be aware of:

1. Update your sitemap every two days

Make sure you update your News sitemap with new articles as soon as they’re published. This is incredibly important. Any articles older than two days are considered non-news by the Google algorithm.

2. Make sure you split up large sitemaps

You can add up to 1,000 URLs to each News sitemap but to include more, you’ll want to break these URLs into multiple sitemaps. You can use a sitemap index file to manage them.

Here’s more information on sitemap index files and how to split up large sitemaps.

3. Add new articles to your current sitemap, rather than creating a new one

Keep your current sitemaps regularly updated with new content and new article URLs. Avoid creating a new sitemap with each update. Only create a new sitemap if it’s exceeding the size limit (see above).

4. Don’t use Google Sitemap Generator for News sitemaps

We’ve already covered this briefly, but it’s an important one. Do not use the Google Sitemap Generator to create a News sitemap. The generator includes URLs that don’t correspond to specific news articles. When creating a News sitemap you must use a News sitemap-specific generator, such as this one.

5. Make sure URLs are unique

Each page that displays an article’s full text needs to have a unique URL. Google can’t include sites in Google News that display multiple articles under one URL, or that don’t have links to pages dedicated solely to each article.

Yes, sitemaps may look a little daunting, but they are something every publisher should be creating for their website. Follow these simple steps to maintain your News sitemap and give your content the best chance of ranking well for breaking news.