Source Syndication & Original Source Meta Tag Review

Google News recently added two new meta tags to help news publishers get credit for their content, the Source Syndication and Original Source meta tags.

Source Syndication

The Source Syndication meta tags works much like the canonical meta tag and is designed to indicate your preferred url to Googlebot-news. If you syndicate your news to several different websites in Google News it would be ideal to have them add this tag on the syndicated stories. Of course having another website add this tag will not always be the easiest task but it can’t hurt to ask.

To implement the source syndication tag you will need to add the below code to the <head> section of your Google News article.

<meta name="syndication-source" content="http://www.example.com/wire_story_1.html">

Original Source Meta Tag

The Original Source meta tag differs from the source syndication meta tag in that you use this tag to point to the news source that first broke the story and multiple instances of the tag can be used in the head section. For example if you compose a news story based on reports from Reuters and the Associated Press you can add two original source meta tags that point to both the the breaking news stories. Google states that this meta tag is still in the experimental phase and it does not effect rankings in Google News, nevertheless it is always important to be ahead of the competition and Google probably won’t tell us when or if they push this tag into the live ranking algorithm. So while you may not see immediate results the light implementation effort if could be worth it.

<meta name="original-source" content="http://www.example.com/scoop_article_2.html">

Do they work?

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph Google states that the original source meta tag is still in the experimental phase, I would argue that both are in the experimental phase. Google does state “Please note that in both cases, the content attribute contains a URL. The URL of the current page can be used to indicate that it should receive credit with either tag. Our expectation is that you should only need to use one of these tags for a particular article, since they address different scenarios. If a publisher uses both syndication-source and original-source on one article, we’ll pick one of the two to use.” Note that the original Google New Blog post I linked to was updated on 2/11 stating that when both source syndication and canonical are used that the canonical meta tag will be used. This leads me to draw the following conclusions.

Scenario 1

Site A uses source syndication tag to point at it’s canonical url.
Outcome: From my test this has absolutely no effect in Google News or Everything search.

Scenario 2

Site A uses source syndication tag and canonical tag to point at canonical url.
Outcome: Google will use the canonical tag and discard the source syndication meta tag.

Scenario 3

Site A uses original source meta tag, claiming it is the original source
Outcome: Google collects data but has no effect on rankings

Scenario 4

Site A uses both original source and source syndication meta tag to point to its canonical url of the story.
Outcome: Google chooses one, most likely the source syndication considering although no effect on ranking

From the above logic and some testing both meta tags are in the experimental phase and I have actually implemented the source syndication meta tag on a site of mine in Google News that is scraped by sites in Google News with absolutely no effect. Although I can see one scenario where the source syndication tag is used, that being when it is on used as a cross-website canonical, which brings up a few more questions.

Scenario 5

Site B uses source syndication to point at the syndication source (Site A) but also uses the canonical to point at their canonical url. If only the canonical used like Google says, if so it negates any value of the source syndication meta tag.

Scenario 6

Site B uses source syndication tag to point at Site A as the syndication source, no canonical. This is the only way I can think of that the source syndication tag would be worth while in which case you might was well tell them to add the canonical considering Google prefers the canonical and it will be recognized by both Googlebot and Googlebot-News.

Conclusion

While I believe the Google News team had good intention with these meta tags it doesn’t seem through testing or logic that they are used in Google News. If you are able to get syndication partners to add a meta tag pointing to your article your best off with the canonical tag. Although it wouldn’t hurt try your own experiments.