Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Major news events are often covered by a wide array of news sites. This can present a challenge for Google users who are looking for publications with a particular expertise on a topic—such as a finance outlet for a query about the impact of an economic report or a local publication reporting on a disaster in their area. Such knowledgeable and helpful work can be overtaken among more general coverage.
To better surface relevant, expert, and knowledgeable content in Google Search and News, Google developed a system called topic authority that helps determine which expert sources are helpful to someone’s newsy query in certain specialized topic areas, such as health, politics, or finance.
How topic authority works
The topic authority system looks at a variety of signals to understand the degree of expertise a publication has in particular areas. A few of the most prominent signals are:
- How notable a source is for a topic or location: Our systems understand publications that seem especially relevant to topics or locations. For example, they can tell that people looking for news on Nashville high school football often turn to a publication like The Tennessean for local coverage.
- Influence and original reporting: Our system looks at how original reporting (for example the publisher that first broke a story) is cited by other publishers to understand how a publication is influential and authoritative on a topic. In 2022, we added the Highly Cited label to give people an easier way to identify stories that have been frequently cited by other news organizations.
- Source reputation: Our system also looks at a source’s history of high-quality reporting, or recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies. For example, a publication’s history doing original reporting or their journalistic awards are strong evidence of positive reputation for news websites.
How topic authority helps with news searches
Topic authority has been an important signal to better serve local news queries—giving readers around the world more helpful local and regional content in both Top Stories and other news features.
Here’s one way topic authority can help in a search: say, for example, there was a flood where you lived. The topic authority signal helps us identify content from publications in that region that regularly cover topics in your city or town and surface them towards the top of your search results. These are likely familiar publications that are trusted voices in the community, even though larger national outlets may be covering the flood as well.
Our emphasis on topic authority means that we’re also able to serve original reporting from the news teams that are intimately familiar with the location and topic. Local publishers are more likely to show up more often for news events they cover in their area. Publishers with a specific expertise are more likely to surface when their content is most helpful to understand a news story about a specific topic or field.
Publishers looking for success with topic authority should do exactly what their publications would normally do: provide great coverage about the areas and topics they know well. Such work should naturally align with what our topic authority system measures and with our general guidance about creating helpful, people-first content.