Five Predictions for News SEO in 2022
What do I think 2022 will bring for SEO in the publishing world? I'll try my hand at five predictions for 2022 and beyond.
Apologies for the long gap between newsletters; the end of the year is proving quite manic for me, with many consulting projects needing to be wrapped up. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope to be on a somewhat more regular publishing schedule next year.
It’s nearing the end of 2021, so this is the time when all content marketers dust off their almost-forgotten ‘Top Predictions for 2021’ posts and change the year to 2022.
Now, I didn’t do a predictions article at the end of last year, mainly because I’d just launched the newsletter and didn’t want to dive head-first into lazy cookie-cutter content.
And I can see some of you shaking your heads at this newsletter. Nothing says easily filled content calendar slot as much as ‘trends for 20XX’ articles - they attract eyeballs in the short term, and in the long term no one remembers whether the predictions were accurate. Safe bet, then.
I have always been an eager regular contributor to articles that profess to prophesise the future. The value of predictions is more about trying to extrapolate from the past. It’s an opportunity to look at what we’ve seen happen in the last few years, and what it tells us about the near future.
So I’ll try my hand at predicting what 2022 will bring for news SEO, in the hopes that some of my foresight will prove accurate yet safe in the knowledge that should I miss the mark entirely few will bother pulling me up on it.
Let’s get to it then. What do I think 2022 will bring for SEO in the publishing world?
1. The Steady Demise of AMP
It won’t surprise my loyal readers that I’ll start with this prediction. AMP is on its way out - at least as far as publishers are concerned.
As a web framework it will survive, and may even thrive if it finds a new fanbase for which the AMP brand hasn’t been thoroughly poisoned.
But in the publishing world, I see AMP being abandoned as a separate development track in favour of more effort towards optimising Core Web Vitals.
Anecdotal evidence from websites that have ditched AMP shows no negative repercussions so far, and as this evidence continues to grow more publishers will dare venture out into the great AMP-less unknown.
I expect the momentum of AMP deletions to grow in 2022, and we’ll get case studies from some pretty big publishers along the way to help strengthen the case.
2. News on Google Continues to Evolve
Earlier this month we saw Google roll out a change of Top Stories on desktop search results, with much more space given to news stories.
This is one of many iterations, some more meaningful than others, of how Google shows news articles in its search ecosystem.
I expect 2022 to bring more of such changes, with different types of news carousels on both mobile and desktop search. We may see more space being given to alternative views on specific issues, and more opportunities for smaller publishers to show their content alongside big publishing brands.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we start seeing mixed content carousels, for example video content next to text articles or breaking news stories shown with background articles on the topic.
Google continues to experiment and refine its news results, trying to find a balance between informing its users with accurate information, showing a breadth of trustworthy publishers, and giving new voices a chance at earning eyeballs.
3. Better Reporting in Search Console
Recently we saw some big improvements in how Google reports on news-specific traffic in Search Console. In the middle of 2020 we gained the ability to filter results from the News-tab on Google results, and right at the start of the year we got a separate GSC performance report for the Google News vertical.
Then later in the year the GSC API was updated to allow us to export Discover performance data as well, which opened up a wealth of analysis opportunities.
A recent Twitter exchange with a Google Search advocate made me hopeful we may finally get a Top Stories filter in the Performance report on GSC as well.
The ability to accurate analyse performance data is crucial for long term success in publishing. It’s important to learn what works and what doesn’t, so publishers can focus their limited resources on the tactics that drive the best business results.
Top Stories is the largest driver of search visits to most publishers, but at the moment there is no way to distinguish it from regular organic search traffic in GSC nor web analytics. This severely hinders our ability to track and improve.
Let’s hope 2022 will finally bring us an official Top Stories performance report, whatever form that may take.
4. Evergreen Grows in Importance
News publishers are starting to realise that their dependency on the vagaries of the news cycle isn’t entirely healthy. Top Stories drives most of the traffic, yet an article rarely has more than a 48-hour lifespan there before it gets axed and newer content takes its place. And Google has a fickle temperament about which articles it’ll show in Top Stories on any given day.
The ‘regular’ search results below the Top Stories carousels offer solace. They can send a steady stream of traffic to your site, separate from the news of the day.
The ranking rules for evergreen content are more or less the same as for news content, with a bit more care needing to be placed on ‘classic’ SEO signals and an emphasis on regular updates. Publishers who get the formula right can thrive and earn a steady stream of revenue from ads and affiliate links.
I expect 2022 will see many publishers put more emphasis on their evergreen content strategies. The best approaches always play into existing strengths and don’t try to reinvent the publisher's brand.
5. Discover Will Change
This is probably my boldest prediction - hence why I put it last. Google’s Discover feed has been a rich source of traffic for many publishers, yet it’s also one of the most mysterious ones.
In contrast to SEO for Top Stories and classic SEO for regular search, the rules for ranking in Discover are mostly unknown. This is because it is visibility without search; there are no search terms to optimise for, as Discover isn’t search-based but interest-based.
Discover’s search-less rankings means that publishers must try entirely different approaches to optimising content, and extrapolate from what they see.
Due to the increasing popularity of Discover in Google’s news ecosystem, I expect that in 2022 Discover will change.
We may see the ability for users to do more than just consume one article at a time as it is shown in their feed; I expect things like topic carousels and publisher carousels to find their way into Discover, enabling deeper engagement with content on a given topic and content from specific publishers.
It’s also likely we will get some additional documentation from Google about how to make sure your content is eligible for Discover. Expect things like more clarity on images, expanded structured data guidelines, and perhaps even the return of meta keywords (in the form of the keywords attribute in NewsArticle markup) to align a piece of content with Discover’s own topic graph.
(Bold claim, I know, and I don’t expect that one to come true - but hey, you never know!)
I don’t think we have seen Discover’s final form yet. As a feed it’s been pretty static with only some minor tweaks, but I doubt this will last all the way through 2022.
Whatever changes we will see to Discover in 2022 and beyond, publishers should be ready to react quickly and maximise their traffic opportunities.
What do you think?
Do you think my predictions are way off? Do you have a prediction of your own to share? Please leave a comment and let me know where you think I got it wrong and what else you see happening in the next year.
Some interesting bits and pieces from the past several weeks:
The 2021 Web Almanac is live and contains many interesting titbits. Worth perusing to see the state of the web this year.
With Discover data now accessible through the Search Console API, Tobias Willman provides some interesting starting points for analysis.
If you can’t be bothered coding something for the API yourself, Alexis Rylko created a great tool that does some very useful Discover traffic analysis for you.
Speaking of Search Console, Google said they’ve made the Google News report more accurate which may show lower impression numbers now.
The latest data on the UK media market shows the BBC is of course still the biggest, with Reach’s combined presence beating DMGT’s and The Guardian’s.
The Google News Showcase isn’t really taking off in the US, hindered by publishers not playing Google’s game.
New toys for the techies among you: Cloudflare now allows you to do bulk redirects on the edge.
That’s it for the final edition of SEO for Google News in 2021. For those of you taking a well-earned break, enjoy your time away from the madness and I’ll see you all in 2022. As always, thanks for reading and subscribing.