Hey marketer, are you a lover of long-form content? In-depth reporting? Then you’ll love this statistic:
That’s the percentage, according to a recent Google study called Daily Information Needs, of people who might want detailed, long-form information from search.
And like we always say around here, “go where the data indicates.”
On August 6, 2013, Google did just that and announced the inclusion of in-depth articles in search results on broad search terms like cheese, investment, chess, terrorism, football, censorship, or abortion.
But this move really shouldn’t surprise us … Google has been heading this way for quite some time, notably with its Panda updates.
Neither should it surprise you that the engineer behind this new search feature is none other than Pandu Nayak — the guy behind the Panda algorithm.
On the Google Search blog Pandu writes:
I’m happy to see people continue to invest in thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication. This is exactly what you’ll find in the new feature. In addition to well-known publishers, you’ll also find some great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs. If you’re a publisher or webmaster, check out our help center article and post on the Webmaster Central blog to learn more.
How can you read that and not think of the practice of writing cornerstone content — a staple that Copyblogger has been preaching since day one? This is good news for content marketers.
Under the hood of In-Depth Article search results
Here’s how this new feature works.
Search for “prison reform” and you get a snapshot of articles from Washington Monthly, The Daily Beast, and The American Conservative — including a thumbnail image, title, brief description, source, and logo.
That’s fine and good for politics and culture, but is this new feature relevant to the business world? Indeed, it is.
I have to admit … those results were hardly relevant to the term “marketing.” Furthermore, when I search for “content marketing,” “email marketing,” “landing pages,” or “copywriting,” there were no in-depth articles available (although our cornerstone content landing pages for those topics rank prominently).
Off the top of my head I can think of at least one article for each of those subjects that could qualify as an in-depth article. Something is afoot.
What’s clear is that articles between 2,000 and 5,000 words in length and written by big brands dominate these new search results. Not too inspiring considering Google’s promise that “you’ll also find some great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs.”
Search Engine Land, however, did show up for “search engine” — but the article rendered was a peculiar choice:
As were the others.
One wonders if novelty and surprise are the distinguishing requirements for inclusion. Perhaps not a far off premise considering Wikipedia can give us detailed, but vanilla, information on topics like cheese, Facebook, and chess.
My biggest concern boils down to this: why those three articles and not three others? Strange choices for such broad terms. And is semantic search even at play here? Is it even possible to sniff out user intentions with such broad terms?
It’s still early in the game, and Google could be tweaking the system to eventually rank in-depth articles on long-tail keywords that more accurately reflect a users intention.
So should you invest in in-depth articles?
YES. In fact, my hope is that you already have been as part of your over all content marketing strategy.
And don’t worry. Not every article you write needs to be epic. One a month is a good rule of thumb. But you do have to optimize your articles for in-depth search.
Here’s how …
Adapt schema article markup
For the non-technical among us, don’t let this scare you.
Google uses optimized metadata to find and properly index your content. The microdata we are talking about includes:
- SEO title tag
- A crawlable and indexable image
- Date published
- Article body
At the moment the best method to achieve this is through the Schema.org Article markup. That page will probably make your head explode, which is one of the reasons our Genesis 2.0 update included simple-to-use Schema markup.
Here’s how Copyblogger Media’s Director of Marketing for Synthesis and StudioPress Jerod Morris puts it:
What Schema support means is that Genesis 2.0 allows you to output microdata in your site’s code. This enhances your site’s search engine optimization even further, and ultimately its conversion optimization, in numerous ways.
Claim your content with Authorship Markup
When you claim your content through Google’s Authorship Markup, anything you write online — whether on your site or someone else’s — can be connected to your global author profile.
Also, the benefits you get from the rich snippets include higher visibility and an increase in click-through-rates in search.
Furthermore, as Mark Traphagen stressed, Google is now using Authorship markup as a means to find relevant authorities on specific subjects to render in search results — the first of such public admissions.
Paginate and canonicalize long content
To break up long-form articles many online publishers split the article into multiple pages.
While the suggested purpose for this practice is “better user experience” (which is debatable) what gets lost is the extent of the article’s depth …
Proper pagination markup will fix that. Using rel=next and rel=prev helps Google’s algorithms identify the scope of your articles.
Furthermore, it’s important that canonicalization is done correctly, “with a rel=canonical pointing at either each individual page, or a ‘view-all’ page (and not to page 1 of a multi-part series).”
Optimize your logo
Google serves up logos to give users a quick glance to know the source of an article. There is a three-step process to optimizing that logo for in-depth search:
- Connect your website with your Google+ profile (see authorship markup above).
- Choose the logo.
- Specify your logo with organizational markup (more schema.org markup).
I’m told your logo may not show up right away in Google search, so be patient.
Implement First Click Free (FCF) for restricted content
This one is optional.
If you have content behind a subscription, registration, or pay wall … and want that content indexed in Google search … then implement Google’s FCF protocol.
FCF not only gives Google permission to crawl your hidden content, index it, and then serve it up in meaningful search queries, but when a user clicks through to your site from the search results page, they get access to the entire article.
The moment they click on any other link that leads to restricted content, however, they are forced to register. This is clearly something online newspapers can use, but equally successful if you are building a membership site with a registration-protected content library.
Create killer cornerstone content
Finally, the rubber is meeting the road.
If you’ve been creating meaningful, original, and thorough (2,000 words or more) content, you are more than half way to showing up in Google’s in-depth article search feature. You could knock all the steps above in an afternoon, and get back to writing.
But if you are new to the content marketing world, here are six more “in-depth”articles to help you get started:
- How to Create Cornerstone Content That Google Loves (Brian Clark)
- How to Create Epic Content (Demian Farnworth)
- What The New Yorker Magazine Can Teach You About Content Marketing that Works
- How to Immediately Become a More Productive (and Better) Writer (Jerod Morris)
- A Simple Plan for Writing One Powerful Piece of Online Content per Week (Pamela Wilson)
- How to Write Interesting Content for a “Boring” Topic (Pratik Dholakiya)
Good luck, and here’s to rocking the new “in-depth articles” world!