Another great example of their weird acceptance policy, if they even have one that is, is the fact that the Search Engine Watch Blog is included, while John Battelle’s Searchblog isn’t – even though they cover a good deal of the same news.
We’ve seen this discrimination (don’t really know what else to call it) first hand with Metroblogging. Google News includes our Los Angeles art specific blog art.blogging.la, but declined to include the main site www.blogging.la. They claimed it wasn’t original news, but rather covered news reported elsewhere. They specifically asked if we could create a section of the site which highlighted the original news which they could then include in their index. We created the section and then they turned it down again without reason.
I have in fact asked Google why Searchblog isn’t in the Google News index, and the answer is not specific, it’s general – along the lines of “we prefer sites that are run by institutions, not individuals.”
I think this points to a larger issue. Like the original Google index, Google News started pretty quietly, without a lot of concern about the impact it might have on sites it indexed. But as its grown and started to really matter as a source of traffic, the very same concerns which webmasters had about the Google index are surfacing. What do I need to do to be in the index? Why are my competitors there, but not me? How do you rank my stuff? Is Google singling me out?
It’s clear that there is not, as of yet, a well communicated set of policies with regard to how Google makes decisions about what is and isn’t news. And that’s Google’s prerogative. There is no question, however, that the company is making editorial decisions by including or excluding sites. If and when Google begins to make money from the site, however, those policies will have to be clarified. Given how long it’s been around without a business model, it’s fair to say that day may never come.
Update: A posting by Jon Udell of InfoWorld on this topic is worth reading.