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In-Depth Articles - Only for Brands and Google ? Or for Everyone?

 11:30 pm on Aug 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

Will Google's new "in-depth articles" feature bring opportunity for big and little publishers alike or bury non-branded authorities even more deeply?

Often when you're searching on Google for a person or organization name, or other broad topic, you'll find a block of search results labeled "In-depth articles"....there are steps you can take as a webmaster to help Google find your high-quality, in-depth content and best present it to users in the search...




 6:07 am on Aug 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

You can help our algorithms understand your pages better by following these recommendations:

use schema.org “article” markup,
provide authorship markup,
rel=next and rel=prev for paginated articles (also watch out for common rel=canonical mistakes),
provide information about your organization’s logo,
and of course, create compelling in-depth content.

- My visitors do not see schema markup
- My visitors do not see authorship markup
- My visitors do not see rel next and rel prev tags
- My visitors see the logo just fine
- I provide the best content I can

I guess 1 out of 5 isn't bad, if you're a visitor. I have yet to see any site suddenly rank better because they followed any of the first 4 recommendations, perhaps I'd spend my resources making Google's life easier if it actually changed something.

This link might be better - [insidesearch.blogspot.com...]
Click on the first example Google gives from Salman Rushdie of the New Yorker, you'll see nothing but ads above the fold and a popup ad covering part of the navigation bar. Look at the code and it's 7256 lines long with more whitespace than I've ever seen! Hardly a good example of code imo.

and improves the chances of it appearing in this new set of search results.
We'll see, I'll check the top results for markup, now excuse me while I get back to my Panda hunt...

 4:20 pm on Aug 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

I wonder if the schema markup suggestions could also be a hint for possible Panda issues. Clearly, if Google needs help identifying logos and articles, they may be misdiagnosing some quality content on the web.

Robert Charlton

 9:07 pm on Aug 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

With regard to part of the question posed by the title of this thread "In-Depth Articles - Only for Brands?"... it does seem that Google's examples of in-depth articles are only picking what I'd call "high-hanging fruit". ;)

In the censorship articles, eg, that are noted on the Google Inside Search article which JS_Harris links to, there's a matching up of writers and subjects in a way that makes these choices pre-ordained to be noteworthy regardless of how good the articles are. This is an example of what's known in show biz as "high concept"... and there appears to be a strong element of "high concept" in the sample results presented.

Nothing wrong with the articles cited. They're well worth reading. But this is how branding and the world work. Name publications picking name writers on subjects they're widely associated with are going to deliver an expected level of editorial quality and relevance. Salman Rushdie on censorsip in the arts. Eric Schmidt on filtering on the internet. These are safe choices, so good that they're almost too good to be true.

Is there more nuance and perspective to this algorithm? I don't know. I'd like to think there will be a lot more. I haven't seen any of these "in-depth" blocks out in the wild, though, and it's hard to say how the algorithm is going to react, eg, to controversial points of view, but that is an area that concerns me, as this is where high-concept generally breaks down. It's very often a damper to change... and it's very hard for outsiders, or for new approaches, to break into those circles.

The potential of the controlled and fragmented web, eg, which Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen describe in their excellent article, can be viewed as a description of the ultimate in "filter bubbles". While it's very different from the kind of filter bubble we'd get if featured authors are limited to the usual suspects (and I don't know if that will be the case), there some similarities worth thinking about.

What is happening, though, is that the algorithm increasingly reflects the way the world at large has always been working, and I'm thinking this troubles those who may have viewed the internet as a new frontier, away from that world.


 10:36 pm on Aug 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

What is happening, though, is that the algorithm increasingly reflects the way the world at large has always been working, and I'm thinking this troubles those who may have viewed the internet as a new frontier, away from that world.

Exactly. It used to be a search for a medical condition would bring up scholarly articles, discussion forums and blogs of personal stories. The personal element is getting lost from the SERPs, IMO mainly because unverified personal stuff just isn't the kind of safe, lawsuit repelling choice large corporations make.

So now search just brings up the kind of information your local library used to carry - safe, recognized publications, not people's diaries.

But the good news is, people still want to find the personal and non-mainstream stuff. They're just looking for it via social media, and they're sharing it in social media. Google's becoming more like a curator of information and social's becoming more of a public forum.

How our various businesses fit into that is tougher to say. We each have to find our own way. But if you know you can't compete in Google, at least you know you have to find someplace else to shine.


 1:48 am on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Great points by folks here.
...the algorithm increasingly reflects the way the world at large has always been working...

I'd modify that to "increasingly reflects the way the world at large worked from mid-to late- 20th century." I'm seeing many statements that assume that the way the world was trending in the 20th century represents an inexorable progress toward a corporate-centered growth economy, and more and more, I'm tending to doubt that assumption. Historically, periods of super-production following energy/technology watersheds such as we experienced in post-industrial times have been time-limited, capped by the availability of the energy sources (whether it's human labor, wood, coal, oil, etc.) and other resources.

I'm not seeing any indication that the same won't apply to this period in history. Certainly, the economic climate we were in before seems to be struggling to sustain itself in its desired state of continuous growth.

How our various businesses fit into that is tougher to say.

It looks like some centralized commercial entities will fragment and decentralize while new ones will arise. The "long tail" is not just a marketing artifact. It's a new framework for action. We'll have more power and less power at the same time. (a la Michel Foucault and his "panopticon" effect and suchlike.)

Large corporations may continue to grow for a time but will not be able to sustain themselves at some point and will have to enlist government help (already happening, obviously). Something not nice is going to happen, then. Hopefully not too not nice. But small businesses, even micro-businesses, are where things will be in a few decades, I believe.

...says your neighborhood Cassandra-wannabe, flinching as she looks up at the hostile stares around her...

Robert Charlton

 1:54 am on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

So now search just brings up the kind of information your local library used to carry - safe, recognized publications, not people's diaries.

diberry - While I feel your comment is a big overstatement of the point I was making, nevertheless I understand the thrust of your point, and it's sobering. That is perhaps a statement of my worst fears, but not close to what I meant to suggest.

I don't think that those Google results are anywhere near the tenor of what many local public libraries feature... but it's been a while since I've visited those libraries.

From the "local library" perspective you put on these, I would argue that Google's current choices for the articles I mention are inspired and probably radical. I didn't mean to quibble about Salman Rushdie as someone qualified to discuss censorship. Right now it appears they're picking mainstream intellectuals or practitioners, and to make it clear, I am grateful for that.

I can also see something of the algorithm that picked them, and I am concerned about writing that's perhaps even more in-depth, and about thoughtful voices of dissent. There, we probably all have our partisan sides. Let's keep political specifics, though, out of this discussion.

Robert Charlton

 2:02 am on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

PS - Lapizuli... you touch on some of the voices of dissent I was thinking about, in a way that's eloquent. Great post. Thanks.

I'm curious to see what in-depth articles they start featuring, say, about "nutrition" (to try to pick a neutral topic that's currently going through great change).


 2:07 am on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think it's too early to draw any conclusions about Google's "In-depth results." The examples are just examples, like the first examples of Google Authorship "rich snippets" (which featured photos and bylines of people like David Pogue of The New York Times).

I wouldn't be surprised to see "In-depth articles" results in SERPs on all kinds of informational topics. That won't happen overnight, though, because it will be a while until there's a critical mass of in-depth articles with schema.org markup.

Robert Charlton

 9:10 am on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I should mention that I just saw a block of three, the first I've encountered, on a single word search. The block was at the end of the results page, not in the middle... and, major surprise to me, one of the publications that I feared might be too far from the mainstream to be considered (I've never seen it appear in Google News, eg) was the source of one of the three articles. It was a 5-pager, very long, very much in depth. It's not like this publication is unknown, but I can't imagine a local public library carrying it.

Additionally, I note in Greg Sterling's Aug 6, 2013 coverage of this new feature in SearchEngineLand [searchengineland.com...] the following postscript with a statement from Google...

Google has confirmed the block will appear in the center of the page. The company also said there was no "white list" as I suggested above. Here's a statement provided by a Google spokesperson:

"Our goal is to surface the best in-depth articles from the entire web. In general our algorithms are looking for the highest quality in-depth articles, and if that's on a local newspaper website or a personal blog, we'd like to surface it."


 2:45 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Libraries are pretty good places to go.

I suggest anyone who hasn't been to one lately go and visit and strike up a conversation with the people who work there (will have to be a quiet conversation).

Most people who work at a library are passionate about books, authors, and enjoy diversity in thought.

They seem to be less concerned with financial gain.


 4:55 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

That is perhaps a statement of my worst fears, but not close to what I meant to suggest.

I wasn't restating your thoughts, but rather springboarding from what you said to... well, what I described IS somewhat of a worst case scenario, but I believe in "hope for the best, but plan for the worst" in business. That said, it's promising that you saw a result you would have feared might not be mainstream enough.

Also, just for the sake of clarity, I don't think Google's on some mission to wipe out non-mainstream "voices of dissent" - there's no profit in that, and it certainly doesn't fit with their corporate culture. I just think that when you have people in Congress questioning why you "let" naughty sites into the top results, and clearly not understanding that an algorithm can't detect piracy et al, and these people are powerful enough to maybe convince an equally ignorant Federal judge that your magic SERP fairies are not doing enough... it's worrying. I can't blame Google if they're leaning toward "safe choices".

That said, Lapizuli's points about the current economic trends not being sustainable rings true. I firmly believe they are not, and I believe they will turn around... but when? That's what I can't plan on.

One interesting point: this "in-depth article" move clearly suggests schema markup is here to stay, and I can see it eventually leading to a system of tagging not just for engines but for visitors. I.E., I'd like to see an agreed-upon standard that makes affiliate links have a distinct look, not just for engines but for readers who might not realize they are sort of transactional in nature. Maybe someday we'll have tags that differentiate "opinion pieces" from "scholarly research" in a way that's visible to audiences. I think an agreed-upon set of rules like this could help visitors and also help engines serve visitors what they want. Like, maybe after seeing articles routinely categorized as "opinion", "discussion" or "research", people would react favorably if Google put buttons like that by the search bar so you could choose which set you wanted results from.


 6:15 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

major surprise to me, one of the publications that I feared might be too far from the mainstream to be considered (I've never seen it appear in Google News, eg) was the source of one of the three articles

That's good to hear, and it supports my belief that the current "In-depth articles" examples from the likes of Forbes, The New Yorker, Business Week, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg. I think we'll be seeing a lot more "In-depth articles" SERP boxes for a wide range of informational topics within a few months (if not sooner).


 9:21 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is this an attempt to take our content and directly integrate it into the serps to keep people from visiting our sites? I've lost enough traffic because of Google's shenanigans and don't want my work plastered all over the serps. It's bad enough Google rewrites titles to my site without my permission. This is all getting ridiculous if you ask me - even if it's disguised as something good. Because when it comes to Google, they have no mercy for the little guy and will take the food off of the plates your family eats from if it would make them a buck!


 10:22 pm on Aug 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

How does one define an "in depth" article?

Research think tanks can easily produce 20-50 page long pages when printed. But since Google mentioned that the in-depth articles can include blogs, how long should the article be to be considered in-depth? Is it 10,000 words? Is it 25,000 words?

It would be interesting to see whether a New Yorker publication with 10,000 words on the topic will still manage to snag a spot in the in-depth box, compared to a no-name blog post on the topic with 25,000 words. I'm sure the brand strength will be a huge factor in this.

Also, would it be better to have the article all in one page, rather than break it to different pages? Instead of having 5 pages of 5,000 words each, put them in a 25,000-word long single page?


 3:35 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is this an attempt to take our content and directly integrate it into the serps to keep people from visiting our sites?

Have you actually looked at the sample "In-depth articles" results? They're pretty much like other Google Search results, except for being larger, more visually appealing, and more likely to encourage clickthroughs.

Robert Charlton

 8:23 am on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

alika - I don't think it's as simple as word count / author reputation / publication brand... and particularly not as simple as longer=better. The article I saw from the source that surprised me was five pages, about 8,000 words in all.

My guess is that Google is dealing with audience acceptability as one of its factors, and it would probably never go for 25,000 words, even if it were the New York Review of Books.

Also, 25,000 words on a "long single page" would, I'm sure, be wa-a-ay too slow-loading for Google's speed standards. 1,600 words per page seems to be a standard followed by several of the news sites I've checked for these results.

I would think, in fact, that 25,000 words on the web would cause many readers, no matter how serious, to exit, and that in itself would send negative quality signals.


 1:15 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Putting aside the generalities for a moment, does anyone have suggestions about how to take advantage of this, provided it ends up possible?

I'm actually looking for some examples of the MINIMUM ways of using schema markup for this, and possible SEO effects on articles. Since I have so many articles, and it looks like they'd all have to be tagged manually, rather than just changing a template, I want to make sure I do it right the first time?

It looks like schema markup can get very detailed, so ideas about a general minimum?


 3:02 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Coachm, Google has specific markup suggestions:

Appearing in the "In-depth articles" feature
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/3280182 [support.google.com]

Note that these are recommendations, not requirements.

FWIW, I'd be curious to know how Google plans to differentiate an "in-depth article" from an article that's merely long enough to look like an "in-depth article" when a dumb algorithm is doing the judging. Could there be a human component to this new feature? (Maybe a selection will be vetted, however briefly, by a quality evaluator who'll have to click a checkbox before the article result goes live?)

Another thing:

On the SERPs where I've seen "In-depth articles" results, those results have been at the bottom of the page. Is it better to be featured higher on the page in the normal organic results or lower on the page in the special box? (I assume that the same article won't be listed in both places.) Maybe Google is hoping that the "10 percent" of searchers who want in-depth results can be educated to scroll down when they're looking for comprehensive information instead of a quick answer?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 11:41 pm (utc) on Aug 9, 2013]
[edit reason] Fixed link to prevent side-scrolling [/edit]


 8:24 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Have you actually looked at the sample "In-depth articles" results?

Yes and Google loves to scale. I think this the beginning of something bigger that will take our content and post it in the search results. First it starts with a sentence or two and is embraced by everyone as a good thing. Next year Google will display a paragraph. A year from now the whole page. Have you forgotten how Google killed image traffic?


 9:21 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

hate to say ...
and of course, create compelling in-depth content
+ markup as that makes it easier for us to scrape !

 10:04 pm on Aug 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

markup as that makes it easier for us to scrape !

It should be fairly obvious that the markup for Google's "In-depth articles" is needed to populate the results box with a headline ("name"), description, image, byline, and logo. Providing that data in a standard format gives the publisher control over what's displayed, and the results are likely to be more predictable than items extracted by an algorithm.


 12:32 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think this the beginning of something bigger that will take our content and post it in the search results.

Do you mean like how Google tries to provide a condensed answer in the SERPS for "how to cure acne" and other "how to treat" queries? Although Google does link to these sites for such queries, some of the condensed answers are complete enough that users would never have to visit the actual site that posted the information to find a satisfactory answer. Therefore, Google is already doing what you speak of.

This raises a host of ethical and legal questions. Should someone follow the health treatment information that Google posted in the search results and have a bad outcome, does that make them liable since they provided the answer on their website? And just what kind of rights do we have to the content we create? Can a search engine pick apart our content with such precision, while ignoring industry standard meta tags, that they can display what they want to their users without violating our rights?


 2:35 pm on Aug 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Turbocharged, what you're talking about is an "abstract." Google didn't invent abstracts. And if the goal of "In-depth results" is to help Google create abstracts, Google certainly did a poor job in choosing schema markup elements for its "Schema.org Article markup" recommendations. (Identifying the "articleBody" section of a 2,000-word article isn't exactly rocket science. It certainly doesn't require schema.org markup or creating a new "In-depth articles" feature for Google Search.)

Instead of looking for Google monsters under every bed, publishers should be asking themselves:

1) "Do I have any articles on my site that might qualify for Google's 'In-depth articles' results?"

2) "Am I likely to gain enough traffic from 'In-depth articles' results to justify the time required to mark up those articles?


 12:27 pm on Aug 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Editorialguy: Thanks for the link. I had checked that out previously, but it's still helpful. What I'm actually hoping to find is some examples/samples of markup applied to articles so I can see what they look like before I start adding markup to my pages.

Can't seem to find any at the moment. Any suggestions?

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