Google News has recently dropped “a number” of websites that it says were not meeting the company’s quality guidelines. At the same time, the company says it’s also reviewing its policies governing what sites are included as sources in Google News.
While not revealing exactly how many sites have been dropped, a Google News spokesperson tells us, “Yes, we recently removed a number of websites from Google News that we determined were not following Google’s quality guidelines.”
Google News has faced criticism recently for an apparent increase in spam and low-quality sites appearing — sometimes prominently — in Google News. As far back as July, Danny Sullivan wrote about the “pollution” in Google News involving “news” articles about trending topics. In early November, CNET News wrote about how one company “games” Google News (see here and here).
As the recent DecorMyEyes incident proves, Google sometimes reacts swiftly when the quality of its search results is called out publicly. A week ago, Google’s Matt Cutts posted on Twitter about a “crackdown” in Google News:
Google doesn’t actually have quality guidelines that are specific to Google News. When the company recently sent email notices to sites that were dropped, it included a link to the quality guidelines provided in Google Webmaster Tools. Some publishers have posted what they say is an email that Google News has sent to dropped sites:
We periodically review news sources, particularly following user complaints, to ensure Google News offers a high quality experience for our users.
Upon reviewing your site, we found that we can no longer include it in Google News at this time. We have certain guidelines in place regarding the quality of sites which are included in the Google News index. If your site is in violation of these guidelines, it will not be added to Google News. Please feel free to review these guidelines at the following link: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769#3.
Please note that you’ll still be able to find your site in Google Web Search and other Google services.
Thanks for your interest in Google News.
The Google News Team
Spam in Google News is somewhat different than in a regular web index because sites don’t get in Google News without first being vetted by Google’s human editors. “Publishers sometimes change their practices after they’ve been included in Google News,” a Google News spokesperson tells us. In other words, some sites are playing by the rules to get included in Google News, then — either consciously or not — starting to violate Google’s guidelines after they’re in.
With that in mind, Google says it’s reviewing its standards for getting into Google News:
With our inclusion policies, we’ve always strived for both diversity and quality. We’re re-examining whether we should change those policies or processes to provide a better user experience. The web publishing landscape has changed a lot since Google News was created eight years ago, and we’re going to keep evolving for the benefit of our users and the publishers they read.
Google also says its “priority is to drive traffic to news sites that conduct original reporting,” but emphasizes that its recent introduction of meta tags that help identify original sources was not related to, and has no bearing on, its Google News inclusion policies.