Google on SEO Best Practices for News Sites & Short Articles

Google’s John Mueller answers questions about SEO best practices for news websites, particularly as it relates to publishing shorter articles.

News sites shouldn’t be overly concerned with the length of articles, Mueller says, as shorter articles are sometimes fine for the given query.

This is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on February 19.

An SEO named Lene Hegland, who runs a news website, asks Mueller about the risks of having short articles viewed as thin content.

She mentions she’s even considering noindex’ing the short articles, which can be a single paragraph in length, in case it will help her site in search rankings.

Her concerns about thin content are legitimate, as Google is known to devalue thin content.

Google’s Panda algorithm update is designed around reducing the prevalence of thin content with little or no added value.

What should Hegland do about the short articles on her news site? Should she noindex them so Google doesn’t see the thin content?

Here’s what Mueller recommends.

Google’s John Mueller On Short News Articles

As it relates to putting a noindex tag on the short articles, Mueller says that decision comes down to whether the site owner wants the pages indexed or not.

Mueller says he doesn’t think a noindex tag is needed just because an article is short, as sometimes smaller stories can be fine.

“If you don’t want them showing up in search you can use noindex, but I don’t think you would need to noindex something just because it’s a short news article.

Sometimes short articles are completely fine. I wouldn’t focus so much on the length of the article, but rather do you want it indexed or not?”

Hegland says yes, she does want the articles indexed in Google Search, but she’s worried about sending negative signals with thin content.

Mueller tries to reassure her by saying Google doesn’t care about the length of content:

“For web search, we don’t care about the length of articles. I don’t know if there’s any policy around Google News. Especially if you mentioned that this is on a news website – I vaguely recall some errors that we had in Search Console way in the beginning where we would show this news article is too long or too short.

Maybe that’s something that plays a role there with regards to news content. If that is the case then you can also use the Googlebot news metatag to specifically block it from Google News. So that you can keep it shown in search and just block it for Google News.”

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Short content is not automatically viewed as thin content. Google does not assess the value of content based on length alone.

Long articles run an equal risk of being viewed as thin content if they’re full of spam, or if they don’t contribute anything unique to the web.

Content that’s duplicated or scraped from other sources, with no new information added, are other forms of thin content.

A short article can provide value if it contributes something new and useful to the web, such as a breaking news update that other sites don’t have.

Short content can also be fine if it answers the user’s query. Google aims to provide the best results for every search, not the longest.