Since the start of this pandemic, Google has reiterated how lookups related to COVID-19 are surpassing Search’s “most common and consistent queries.” Many people are seeking local news and information, with Google making tweaks to the Top Stories AMP requirement.
Google Search has never seen as many searches for a single topic continue over a sustained period as is happening now with COVID-19. Many searches are for news about what’s happening in local areas, such as sheltering updates or the latest on testing.
For an article to appear in the mobile Top Stories carousel, it normally has to be an Accelerated Mobile Page. The format — marked by a lightning icon in the top-right corner — greatly speeds up load times and has seen wide adoption in recent years.
According to Google, “both AMP and non-AMP stories will appear” in that section for queries related to COVID-19. This measure is likely aimed at helping smaller publications that have not transitioned to a wider reach, with all other search queries still requiring AMP to be featured.
Meanwhile, Google has added a “Local news” section below the carousel for Top Stores. Rolled out last month, it’s again only present for coronavirus-related searches, with the AMP waiver also present here.
What is local news content? It can be material produced by publishers like local newspapers, that we understand specifically serve particular cities or regions. It can also be content we identify as relevant to a particular area, even if written by those outside the area.
Publishers do not need to make any changes to appear in this new section. Across Assistant, Snapshot, and Discover, Google in the past few weeks has placed shortcuts to access COVID-19 resources everywhere. People’s interest in the topic even surpasses searches for the weather and news.
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