A Guide to Google’s In-depth Articles
Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”
To fulfill that mission, last year it recruited 150 people to take part in its “Daily Information Needs Study.” The research included calling each participant eight times a day and asking him or her, “What did you want to know recently?” Google found people don’t go to a search engine every time they have a question.
People still don’t think of a search engine — or don’t want to bother with a search engine — for every question they have, or even for most questions they have. Instead, they ask questions via other means, whether that’s asking a friend, opening a book, or searching for a product manual they filed somewhere. Google wants in on those searches.
Searchers Want In-depth Information
Google is amplifying search to assist with more in-depth content. Requests for this kind of in-depth knowledge make up at least 10 percent of people’s daily searches, according to the Daily Information Needs Study and other Google research.
To address those searches, Google launched its in-depth articles program in August of this year. It has gone through several updates since then. The good news for marketers is that in-depth articles can be one of the best ways to gain traction in search results.
Get Listed Under In-depth Search Results
To be eligible to show up in the in-depth articles, at least 10 percent of your pages should be between 2,000 and 5,000 words long.
Microformats that follow Schema.org format are also critical to rank for in-depth searches. Your pages will need to include tags like:
No Ungated Content without First Click Free
To rank for in-depth articles, your content will also have to be ungated, or you’ll need to set up an interesting workaround called “First Click Free,” discussed below. Ungated content means you can’t require an email signup to access the content or have it in a password-protected area.
Website owners with paid or gated content can set up Google’s First Click Free and still be able to have their content appear in search results. Visitors to your site will be able to see the full version of the one page they found via search, but if they attempt to click through to a second page, they will be required to subscribe and pay.
First Click Free is intriguing. It may deliver better returns than even in-depth articles for subscription-based sites.
Images Are Essential and Require Special Coding
Note that image and description tags are required. You’ll need at least one image for each page, and more than one may be a good idea, especially if you want to hold your readers’ attention through these very long articles.
Your logo is an image that needs special attention. You’ll want to identify your logo on your Google+ page, and you should use organization markup to specify your logo.
Here’s sample HTML of how your logo image could be coded:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Organization"> <a itemprop="url" href="http://www.example.com/">Home</a> <img itemprop="logo" src="http://www.example.com/logo.png" /> </div>
If you really want, you can break your extremely long articles into several pages. You will have to use pagination and canonicalization markup correctly, though, including tags like “rel=next” and “rel=prev”.
Another page element that you’ll benefit from is subheads. These are a blogging best practice already, but as your content grows to 2,000, 3,000 or even 5,000 words, you will need to add subheads to give your readers a visual breather every few moments. Keeping your paragraphs to less than 5 to 7 lines each will also help them get through.
Create the Authoritative Articles on your Subject
Finally, your in-depth articles need perspective and depth. Try to write your articles as authoritative sources on your topic across the entire Internet. That’s a lofty goal, but if you do them right and make Google happy, there’s a strong chance your article could become the authoritative article on that topic.
Expect to Compete with Major Sites
While some marketers have received excellent traffic bumps from in-depth articles, they’ve had to compete against some major websites. It appears that in-depth articles are actually slanted to favor larger, more established sites, at least according to a Forbes article by Dr. Peter J. Meyers and Denis Pinsky written earlier this year. They found 10 websites accounted for nearly 65 percent of the results for in-depth articles.
Here are the top 10 sites dominating the in-depth results.
- nytimes.com — 25.3 percent
- wsj.com — 8.0 percent
- newyorker.com — 5.7 percent
- theatlantic.com — 5.6 percent
- wired.com — 4.2 percent
- slate.com — 3.9 percent
- businessweek.com — 3.7 percent
- thedailybeast.com — 3.3 percent
- forbes.com — 2.8 percent
- nymag.com — 2.7 percent
Not all Categories are Equal
Meyers and Pinsky also discovered that in-depth articles don’t appear as frequently for some topics as they do for others. Here’s a list of topics, and what percent of searches within those topics triggered an in-depth article box:
- Family & Community — 14.4 percent
- Health — 12.8 percent
- Law & Government — 12.0 percent
- Arts & Entertainment — 7.2 percent
- Finance — 7.0 percent
- Jobs & Education — 5.8 percent
- Hobbies & Leisure — 5.6 percent
- Computers & Consumer Electronics — 4.8 percent
- Internet & Telecom — 4.4 percent
- Food & Groceries — 3.6 percent
- Home & Garden — 3.2 percent
- Sports & Fitness — 3.2 percent
- Travel & Tourism — 3.2 percent
- Dining & Nightlife — 3.0 percent
- Real Estate — 3.0 percent
- Apparel — 2.8 percent
- Beauty & Personal Care — 1.6 percent
- Retailers & General Merchandise — 1.4 percent
- Vehicles — 1.2 percent
- Occasions & Gifts — 0.8 percent
If you want more traffic and you’re in a category that’s low on this list, in-depth articles might give your search traffic a major boost.