Google Releases “Top Stories” Feature

Google Releases “Top Stories” Feature

Back in the early 2010s, technology started to radically change for the better. SEO was becoming more and more complex and Google was releasing changes left and right. One such change back then was Google’s “In the news” which was implemented in lieu of the original news vertical results. “In the news” changed many things but its greatest advantage over its older sibling was that it relied on a wider set of sources from all over the internet which increased its results as well as tapping into other credible websites that produced quality, share-worthy content.

In 2016, Google changed things up again by launching “Top Stories”, a modernized, better-performing card-style design that presents featured stories better.


A quick (and random, might I add) Google search got me the card style interface for Top Stories and it is looking sharp and clean. Google has been fighting “fake news” for the past couple of weeks so can the new Top Stories differentiate between real news and fake news? Well let’s try to find out in a bit.

Another aspect of Top News that is definitely worth noting is that it has two distinct styles of presentation. We have the card-style shown in the screenshot above and there’s also a vertical-style of presentation that can show up to three sources for whatever you search for.


As you can see here, I randomly searched for news on Rick Fox and I was greeted with the vertical style of Top News. In this case, they’re only showing one source. I liked the new presentation so much that I gave it a quick read. As of today’s writing, there’s still no news as to what determines what can make Google’s Top Stories and in what way will they be presented.

Who gets to be featured in Google’s “Top Stories”?

Like I said earlier, Google has yet to announce the criteria for what qualifies to be shown as Top News. However, looking up various keywords, I’ve seen various recurring websites presented as Top News. Here are some of them:

  1. Reuters
  2. Forbes
  3. NYTimes
  4. WashingtonPost
  5. FoxNews

These are some of the recurring sources for Google’s Top Stories and most of them are pretty reputable websites that are known for reporting on various pieces of news with accuracy and research. Basically speaking, it seems as though that most of the websites listed here are known as legitimate sources for news.

With regards to the search terms that I used such as Kanye West, Donald Trump and Rick Fox, most of the content featured in Top News are pretty relevant to my search terms. Another thing that I noticed is that the search results don’t seem to be following a pattern. What I can surmise from these findings is that what qualifies as “Top Stories” for Google is still up for debate but I’m confident that Google will at least release some guidelines for Top Stories in the following weeks.

So why “Top Stories”?

Google switching over to Top Stories is a mystery for most people even though I personally think that this is a great change. Some people think that Top Stories is Google’s way of pruning out fake stories that aim to generate revenue from their click-bait titles and false reports.

Of course, Google has yet to comment on what I just pointed out. However, most people agree that Top Stories is a step forward with regards to the design or UI change. This seems to be true as Top Stories has been in testing status for a few months now and the design seems to have changed over time.

What qualifies as “news”? 

It can safely be assumed that Top Stories prioritizes news articles over other forms of content. However, another thing that I noticed while looking up a bunch of keywords is that “news” is contextual in this case and the results that we get are determined by the information that we are really looking for. What do I mean? Here’s an example.googlenews_playstation4

I used the search term “PS4 Games” and lo and behold, here are the featured content for Top Stories. What immediately caught my eye is PC Advisor’s article on PS4 Pro’s pricing, features and specs. Normally speaking, PC Advisor wouldn’t be my go-to website if I was looking for news on SEO but in this case, PC Advisor’s featured content is really spot on.

While most people would agree that Top Stories is definitely a UI overhaul, what I think is that this is the beginning of smarter search for the internet. Removing the keyword “News” from Google’s “In the news” is indicative of Google gearing towards more relevant content instead of focusing purely on news. While my current thoughts contradict with each other, I’m definitely sure of this: Google is definitely pruning out dubious sources for news and content and Top Stories is the sword they’re using to carry this task out.

Optimizing for Google News

As the world of search constantly evolves, there is also a call for better methods and strategies. Given that highly reputable sites are the ones that have the authority to be featured in Google News, you can also aim high and optimize for it. Who knows? You might just see yourself in the SERP together with those sites. The best way to optimize for this is to build up credibility around your website. Be transparent and bring value to your audience.

Key Takeaway

I’m still not sure how this affects SEO and copywriting as a whole as I’ve only seen big, reputable websites featured for Top Stories but I’m sure that this will change overtime as the system is currently being optimized. I mean, it’s only been out for a short time and Google is most definitely making changes to improve on their system.

I can confidently give this advice, however:

By all means, keep churning out quality content. What we’ve learned for SEO throughout the years still apply even though Top Stories is a new addition to Google’s ever expanding repertoire of tools. Keep doing SEO the right way and make sure you don’t do things that will make Google hate you.

This is a pretty exciting time to both be an SEO specialist and as people who use the internet. What are your thoughts on these changes? Let’s talk about ’em in the comments section below.



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Sean Si

About Sean

is a Filipino motivational speaker and a Leadership Speaker in the Philippines. He is the head honcho and editor-in-chief of SEO Hacker. He does SEO Services for companies in the Philippines and Abroad. Connect with him at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Check out his new project, Aquascape Philippines.