Back in August of 2013, Google introduced in-depth articles to the SERPs in order to provide more complex information for searchers who want more than surface-level answers to their queries. Sounds great, right? Type in a keyword phrase and easily identify high quality information from respected sources.
For SEOs, this function can be incredibly valuable as well. Since these in-depth articles rely on reliable, influential information, getting one article listed in this section of the SERPs can provide a huge authority boost. However, it may be tricky to successfully leverage content so that Google identifies it as worthy of being an in-depth article. Despite the allure, many SEOs are beginning to wonder if it’s worth it to spend time optimizing for the in-depth articles function.
How Do In-Depth Articles Work?
According to Google, roughly 10% of searchers require more informative answers for their search queries. The in-depth articles function is designed to meet this need by allowing these searchers to go directly to useful long-form content. Currently, the in-depth articles section displays 3 reputable posts at the bottom of the page. These articles, which are accompanied by images, are usually some combination of case studies, business reports, and white papers. In general, they come from major sources and are written by experts in their field.
Although in-depth articles have been around since last summer, they’ve gained more attention recently because of a few updates as well as the fact that searchers outside the US will likely be seeing them for the first time soon. One of the recent updates includes the ability to view a wider selection of in-depth articles, which provides 10 more high quality results. To allow searchers an even greater opportunity to expand their knowledge on the subject, Google has also added the option of exploring other in-depth articles based on related keywords.
Google’s Guidelines on In-Depth Articles
In order to help content publishers and creators cope with this change, Google did release some guidelines on optimizing for in-depth articles. To maximize your chances of getting an article featured in this function, Google recommends taking the following steps:
- Improve your Schema.org mark-up. In order to make pages easier to understand for search engines, make sure to include elements such as a headline, an alternative headline, the date published, an image, and a meta description.
- Identify pagination within the article. Again, adding rel=”next” and rel=”prev” to the HTML helps Google to understand the flow of a longer article.
- Clarify a link to your logo. If you want a logo to appear with an in-depth article, make sure to link your website to a Google+ account and utilize the organization mark-up on the logo.
- Utilize Google Authorship. Connect the article to your Google+ page through authorship in order to demonstrate authority through the connections with your other work. Let’s face it – using Authorship is a good idea anyway.
- Create awesome content. This is easier said than done, but if you publish rich, informative content that contributes something of value to the conversation and make sure that it’s up to date, you’re well on your way.
Leveraging Content for the In-Depth Articles Function
So how do you create outstanding content that is worthy of appearing in the in-depth articles section? The goal with this function seems to be to focus more on the “why” behind searches rather than the “what,” which means that in-depth articles need to go way beyond surface level answers for keyword queries. Emphasize thought-provoking, insightful content that brings something new to the conversation. An added benefit? The goals of in-depth articles coincide nicely with the goals of Hummingbird.
One factor that might contribute to having an article appear in this section is length. Although Google has not released specific guidelines, some SEOs have suggested that in-depth articles are generally 2,000-5,000 words. Others have noted that they’ve found articles as short as 800 words and as long as 16,000 words.
One benefit to writing articles that fit the criteria of in-depth articles is that writing deeper posts is bound to inspire new ideas for future content. When exploring a subject, make notes about related topics that might also be valuable to explore in an in-depth article.
Is It Worth It?
As a writer, I naturally appreciate the whole concept of in-depth articles because it means I’m freer to explore topics more deeply without worrying as much about SEO concerns. However, SEOs have to question whether or not it’s actually worth it to try to optimize articles for the in-depth articles function.
Several factors suggest that optimization for this section simply isn’t worth your time. For instance, in-depth articles don’t appear in every SERP. In general, they seem more common on pages related to current events, but it can be hard to predict.
Another issue is that in-depth articles almost always seem to come from major, respected sources, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Even though Google has claimed that the section will also feature posts from lesser-known publishers, we aren’t really seeing that happen yet. Forbes conducted a study that found that in-depth articles are dominated by these major sources:
Since it’s still unclear how effective it is to try to optimize for this section, it seems like most SEOs should continue to focus on the big picture rather than worrying about getting an article listed. However, even though it may not seem highly advantageous to optimize for this function quite yet, the concept behind in-depth articles is a great launching point for content creators. Rich, in-depth content will always be rewarded by Google, so creating content that could be included as an in-depth article can never hurt.
Do you plan to optimize for the in-depth articles function? Do you think it’s a worthwhile task for SEOs?
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