How To Increase Domain Authority: The “News Website” Bonus
Increasing a website’s trust with Google — also known as its domain authority — comes down to two variables: inbound links and frequent, consistent publishing of helpful content. Links are the age-old ranking factor that put Google on the map as a search engine in the late 90s, and the one that most people know about. Essentially, links function like votes of confidence from other websites: when you get enough of them, especially from websites that are already trusted by Google, your domain authority goes up and you rank more easily for the keywords in your website’s meta title tags.
The variable of publishing helpful content frequently and consistently is lesser-known. While most marketers, particularly in the B2B realm, understand that content marketing helps with SEO, they don’t fully understand why. There are 2 reasons:
- Each piece of content published is a new opportunity to rank for the keywords in its title
- Publishing original content that Google searchers find useful at least twice per week for 4-6 months confers a substantive “bonus” in domain authority to the publisher
The latter is what we at First Page Sage call the “News Website” Bonus.
Google’s News Website Bonus: What It Is and How To Get It
Over 11 years, we’ve experimented with nearly every permutation of content marketing to observe its impact on Google’s rankings. Our most significant realization to date is that publishing helpful content at least twice per week over a period of 4-6 months causes organic traffic to increase unnaturally.
The Impact of Frequent, Consistent Publishing on Domain Authority
When I say that this strategy “unnaturally” increases organic traffic, I mean that traffic goes up more than it has historically for similar websites that are well optimized for SEO. Imagine two nearly-identical websites with, say, 100 pages on them, each targeting the same keywords. One of the websites accumulated those 100 pages over 3 years, publishing on average 2-3 new pages per month. The other accumulated most of its pages over a 6 month period, publishing 2 new articles per week on a blog. The second website would have higher search rankings and traffic. Why? Because it’s demonstrating “news website” behavior.
Google favors websites that act as a resource, adding to the knowledge in an industry. An industry publication will always have higher rankings than a commercial site because Google’s algorithm gives extra weight to websites that are useful for research. The reason for this special favor is that Google’s main interest as a search engine is to answer its users’ questions in as targeted a manner as possible — this is what grows its brand and keeps people unconsciously typing “Google” into their browser. If your website is a regular supplier of answers to users’ questions, it will be rewarded disproportionately.
While many commercial entities publish articles on their website that are optimized for SEO and helpful to Google users doing research, few publish that content like it’s their job, pumping out two or more articles every week. From Google’s point of view, it doesn’t matter much if that is your actual job — i.e., if you’re an actual news website — or if your site is an amalgam of selling and legitimate helpful information. If you provide the best answers and pass the test of diligent publishing, you can receive the News Site Bonus.
You can recognize a news website by looking at your website’s non-branded organic traffic in Google Analytics. It resembles a plane taking off, with a gradual ascent transitioning to a more angled upward climb, followed by another gradual increase. The takeoff occurs after 4–6 months of publishing content that Google’s algorithm recognizes as both original and helpful to its users.
The Impact of Content “Helpfulness” on Domain Authority
Google measures the “helpfulness” of content in the temporal distance between the moment a user leaves the search results to visit your page and the moment they return. In other words, it records the amount of time spent on a given article. Because each search has a different intention — some indicate the desire for a brief visit to grab an answer or make a purchase, and others foretell a heavy research session — Google evaluates time spent in context.
The best way to demonstrate helpfulness to Google is to actually demonstrate it to your audience: carefully consider the search intent of the keyword you’re responding to within the page or article you’re publishing. If the keyword is clearly transactional, e.g. “business continuity software”, the page should offer the searcher the product they’re seeking, describing its key features and featuring calls-to-action to learn more and buy. If the keyword is research-oriented, e.g. “best disaster recovery solutions”, the article should summarize the searcher’s available options, rate each one, and compare them for different purposes. By closely matching the content of the page to the user’s search intent, you make the user, and therefore Google, happy— and earn “helpful” status with Google.
Modifiers To Google’s News Website Bonus
Google’s system works pretty predictably as I described above, but there are some modifying factors that you should keep in mind when attempting to receive the News Website Bonus. The first is that concentration of expertise matters to Google nowadays. A website that publishes thought leadership about CRMs will not rank as well as a website that publishes thought leadership about Hubspot CRM for searches related to Hubspot. For that reason, the concept of Hubs is important to learn and implement on your site.
The second modifier is domain extension: an .edu or .gov will automatically rank higher than any other site. Google confers a domain authority bonus to sites with those extensions. You probably can’t do much about that, but in case you can, I wanted to mention it.
The third and final modifier to the Google News Website bonus is site health. This is basic technical SEO, but your site speed, security, and mobile friendliness must be flawless for the news website bonus to take effect.
How To Achieve The News Website Bonus, Practically Speaking
Achieving this bonus is simple in concept—all you need to do is publish original, helpful content on the right pages at least twice a week. Actually executing on that, however, is difficult. You need to assemble the right team, with writers, an editor, an SEO strategist, a graphic designer, and a web developer (at the minimum) and ensure that they both have the skill and the time to produce truly great content regularly.
The other option is to outsource this process. For many companies, particularly those whose core business doesn’t already involve creating content, this can be a good option. When you choose the right agency, they can handle all the work of choosing keywords, assigning the right page type, and researching and writing articles or landing pages without needing additional input from your team. And if you’d like to know more about choosing the right agency to work with, feel free to get in touch.