Google has developed new tools it says will make it easier for webmasters and publishers of news sites to control how the search engine indexes their content for inclusion in the Google News portal.
As of Tuesday, publishers of English-language news sites indexed by Google News will be able to include them in Google's Webmaster Tools service.
This means that publishers and webmasters will be able to specify through a site map the articles they want Google News to index. A site map is a file that webmasters and publishers put on their sites to guide search engines' automated web crawlers in properly indexing their web pages.
Webmasters and publishers will also be able to see a list of their latest articles featured on Google News, as well as a list of indexing errors made by the automated Google crawler, so that the problems can be addressed.
Previously, publishers' control over Google News' indexing was more rudimentary, limited mostly to including an instruction to prevent the crawler from accessing certain pages.
Before launching the new site map tools, the company tested them with several news organisations, said Nathan Stoll, Google News product manager. Stoll said publishers had asked for more "transparency and control" of what content is indexed specifically by Google News.
Google News is a portal for news in which Google aggregates headlines, short text snippets and thumbnail pictures linked to the original articles on news organisations' websites. The service is at the centre of a lawsuit brought by the news agency Agence France Presse, which alleges copyright infringement from Google's inclusion of its material on the portal.
Tuesday's announcement follows last week's news that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will support the open source, XML-based Sitemap Protocol .
This protocol, which was developed by Google, will simplify how webmasters and online publishers submit their sites' content for indexing in the companies' search engines.
(Mike Barton is online editor of InfoWorld.)