In August this year Google introduced an update to its ranking algorithm which included new organic listings in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) called In-depth Articles. These in-depth articles are listed towards the bottom of the SERPs as part of the natural listings (not paid search).

What are In-Depth Articles

When a user’s search may warrant a more in-depth result (not a quick answer) – it will show 3 links with proven long-form (‘research’ and ‘informational’) articles from trusted publications at the bottom of the SERPS.

In-depth Articles Evergreen Content image

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Why In-Depth Articles were introduced into the SERPs

According to Google’s research, approximately 10% of all searches performed on Google are broad – where researchers appear to be looking for information containing more depth to it. In the past, these users would typically have skipped past the top results to dive deeper into the search results in an attempt to find this in-depth content, often having to click to several pages before finding something that is highly relevant, but possibly a little older than the more current content that they are used to seeing on page one.

In an effort to assist the user in finding the most relevant information faster, Google provides the user with a selection of results that are current, but now also those that are highly relevant (even if not so current), namely In-depth articles.
It is important to note that not all search queries will result in in-depth articles appearing on the SERP’s. It is only for those broader searches, most likely for those who are searching with only one-word. While two or three word searches do sometimes yield the in-depth results, this is not nearly as common as with the one-word searches.

How do In-Depth Content benefit Publishers?

This Google update could add significant value to publishers by providing them with more ‘real-estate’ space on Google’s first page. For those authors who have spent a great deal of time and effort researching and carefully writing a professional, original piece of content, this new Google feature is likely to revive their former work of art.

In other words, where some publisher’s (sometimes costly) content might previously have dropped far down the rankings over time, this change now means that previously well-researched, original content no longer has to be lost or forgotten.

Is In-Depth Articles only for big brand Publishers?

At the moment it seems that bigger brands are definitely winning most of the In-depth articles spots on Google’s SERPS, although Google has promised that less prominent brands should also start to see benefit soon – provided that they have followed Google’s recommended mark-up guidelines.

It is not that Google necessarily favours specific brands, but rather that it wants to show results from quality publishers with a first-rate reputation and with unquestionable credibility. Big brands are often deemed to higher authority.

How to get your content to rank as In-Depth Articles

In-depth articles typically have between 2,000 to 5,000 words (broken up into multiple page). To help search engines index all of the pages of content, ensure that you apply proper page pagination mark-up using rel=next and rel=prev.

Produce several pieces of evergreen content – content that will be relevant for years to come. A minimum of 10% of your website’s total content should be evergreen, long-form articles. Make sure your content is not hiding behind login.

Articles must be well-researched and written by a professional (good grammar and spelling).

In-depth articles cannot be commercial (not focused on selling).

Create thought-provoking content that is original – a different view or angle to the rest of the content that is available on the same topic.

Ensure that the target keyword exists in the title tag (following SEO best practice guidelines) and headline – make sure they are also easily re-tweetable.

Make sure that you have included at least one image in the article where the image alt tag (alternative text) is descriptive of the image while containing the target keyword.

Ensure that the date of publication of the article is visible on the page and is marked up as such.

The publisher’s logo must appear on the article page. Your logo must be specified as such with markup.

Ensure that your website has been verified by Google and that you have connected your website with your company’s Google+ profile by applying the verified Publisher Tag (rel=publisher) to your website (Publisher Tag Validation).

If the web site hosting an article featured in the In-Depth results box has a verified Google+ brand page connection, Google will pull the brand’s logo from that page.

It is very important to ensure that you have applied authorship mark-up (Author Tag) to your articles as this seems to have the most significant impact on ranking for in-depth article.

Publisher Tag Evergreen image

What does NOT help you rank for In-Depth articles

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) experts have performed several studies analysing top in-depth articles to understand what does – and what doesn’t – seem to carry the most weight in having achieved their rankings. All studies have shown high keyword density in either the body copy or anchor text links and high PageRank don’t seem to play as much of a role in rankings here.

Most ranking articles do however seem to incorporate all (or most) of the points listed above. With the most common variable amongst most being proper publisher and author tag mark-up being applied to ageless articles containing no less than 1,000 words (2,000 plus in most).

Final words of wisdom

If you want to rank for in-depth articles, see if you currently have broad-topic related articles on your website containing over 2,000 words and then enhance them with the recommendations in this article. Don’t forget to claim your authorship and validate your website (publisher tag) with Google.