We don’t often hear regarding how Google ranks their news related results nor how the “Top Stories” are chosen for desktop and mobile users. Usually when someone from the search team comments on the news results, it’s to say they use their own algorithm for news.
But John Mueller offered some insight into how Google determines which stories to display and how they rank them.
The “In the News” and the “Top Stories” section in the search results are completely algorithmic and based partially on the content, partially on the queries, partially on how we predict it makes sense to show websites with that quite top stories set up there. Some of this also depends on whether you are using AMP on your pages, valid AMP or not, so all of these things kind of are available together. Essentially, it’s organic ranking and that kind of determines which URLs we show in which parts of the search results.
So specifically in regards to these one boxes and completely different parts of the search results it really depends on a number of different factors. Thus there’s no one single thing to always show up there or to ne’er show up there.
The “how it makes sense” is the part that most SEOs will be thinking about. Since most news stories don’t have direct link equity to those news stories, that would be a poor signal, although overall link value to the site could be used. And appearing in Google News isn’t an exact science either, as we’ve seen stories in these sections that aren’t in Google News, or at least not ranking well.
Personalization could possibly play more of a role here, over it might in Google News proper.
It is AMP results that are featured prominently in their top stories section in the mobile search results, and exclusively as AMP for a big number of queries. So if you are attempting to break into this section, implementing AMP could build the difference.
While none of this is surprising, it’s interesting to hear it from Google.
In a detailed post in the blog tekkibytes About Google Mobile first indexing you can check out more in details.