Just over three months ago, Google launched the news keyword meta tag designed to let news publishers have a better chance of ranking for words they might not have included in their headlines. Adoption rate so far? Only about 5% of the sources within Google News use the tag, according to new data provided by Blekko.
Last month, I’d asked Google how many publishers were using the tag. It declined to answer. But rival search engine Blekko crawls the web and is able to spot what pages have the news keywords tag. Blekko has released a report showing how many pages and sites across the web have it:
The report was posted on December 21, and shows that as of that date, there were 2,465 domains that were found to be using the news keyword tag on some of their pages.
Calculating The 5% Figure
The tag only works for those within Google News, so if you know the number of sites within Google News, you can use the figure to get an estimated adoption rate. Fortunately, Google recently blogged fresh stats about publishers in Google News, saying in September that there were more than 50,000 sources.
Doing the division, 2,465 domains by 50,000 sources gives a 4.93% usage rate of the news keywords tag, or call it 5 percent rounded.
Caveats To Consider
There are some caveats. Blekko covers about 4 billion pages on the web; Google covers in the 10s of billions, if not 100s of billions (it doesn’t release official figures). That means Blekko might be missing some publishers.
Also, Blekko lists some sites like tinyurl.com, bit.ly and t.co as using the tag. They aren’t. Those are link shortening services. Blekko is likely counting pages on other sites as if they also are published on the link shortening sites. As a result, the Blekko list might be overcounting the number of sites using the news meta tag by a bit.
Blekko might also be overcounting because the list shows any page that mentions the tag, even if a site simply reported on the tag but doesn’t actually use it. For example, Journalism.co.uk reported on the tag when it launched, using the text of the tag in the body of its story. It doesn’t appear to actually use the tag as intended for current stories. However, I can see it on the Blekko list.
Still, in lieu of Google itself sharing figures on usage, I think Blekko’s probably providing a pretty good estimate. The adoption rate might be off by a percentage point or two or even more. But regardless, it’s very low.
Why’s Adoption Low?
Why would news publishers not be using a tool that can provide them with more visibility? There’s bureaucratic inertia: it can be tough to get any type of search engine optimization implemented, much less a new form of tagging. But worse, Google went with a non-standard form of tagging rather than one that’s been used for over a decade and which has plenty of content management system support.
My previous post, Up Close: Using The “News Keywords” Tag For Google News, explains in more depth how Google eschewed standards in favor of its own system. It wouldn’t be difficult for Google to support both standards. If it did, I suspect adoption rate would dramatically increase, though inertia might still keep it relatively low.
Who’s Using It?
Which publications make the most use of the tag? The Blekko data doesn’t reveal that. If it showed number of pages on each site, as well as number of tagged pages, there might be a way to estimate this. But the “Site Rank” stat shown doesn’t reflect this. Instead, that’s simply Blekko’s own internal estimate of how authoritative a site is in relation to other sites Blekko knows about.
What authoritative sites use the tag? They include:
- New York Times
- Washington Post
- The Guardian
- Huffington Post
- USA Today
- The Telegraph
- ABC News
- Los Angeles Times
- Wall Street Journal
- The Economist
- Chicago Tribune
- PR Newswire
- New Scientist
- US News
- Christian Science Monitor
- New York Daily News
- Ad Age
- PC Magazine
- Business Insider
- Computer World
- The Sun
- Search Engine Land
Going through the list, while the overall adoption rate is small, it’s clear plenty of big names are making use of the new tag.
- Back To The Future: Google Announces A Meta Keywords Tag Just For News Articles
- Meta Keywords Tag 101: How To “Legally” Hide Words On Your Pages For Search Engines
- The Meta Keywords Tag Lives At Bing & Why Only Spammers Should Use It
- Under The Hood: Google News & Ranking Stories
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- Writing HTML Title Tags For Humans, Google & Bing
- Up Close: Using The “News Keywords” Tag For Google News