Understanding news topic authority

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.