A lot of content on the Web today is syndicated across multiple sites. For Google News, that’s a problem, as the service has to determine which one of these sources to pick as a headline. Today, Google introduced two new metatags that allow publishers to give “credit where credit is due,” as the company puts it, and highlight original sources and indicate when something is a syndicated copy. Google will use this information to rank stories on Google News.
The two new tags that Google introduced today are syndication-source and original-source. The syndication-source tag can be used to indicate the location of the original story. The original-source tag should be used to highlight the URL of “the first article to report a story.” A story that uses material from a variety of original sources can include more than one original-source tags to point to these. Both of these tags can also point to the current page URL, so publishers can call attention to their own original reporting. You can find more details for how to implement these tags on your site here.
For now, Google still calls this an experiment is only using the syndication-source tag in its rankings to distinguish among groups of duplicate articles. The original-source is “only being studied” and doesn’t factor into Google’s rankings yet.
It is worth noting that the hNews microformat, which was developed by the Associated Press and the Media Standards Trust, already offers a similar functionality, including a tag for identifying the originating organization for a news story. According to Google, though, “the options currently in existence addressed different use cases or were insufficient to achieve our goals.”
Can You Trust the Internet?
The problem with this system is that it is based on trust, as Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee rightly notes. Nobody can stop a spammer from marking unlicensed copies of a story as original sources, for example. In it’s FAQ for these tags, Google says that it will look out for potential abuse and either ignore the source tags from offending sites or completely remove them from Google News.