In-depth articles are Google’s solution to general searches that require more than a quick answer. Google estimates that approximately 10 percent of the billions of searches made every day require in-depth results.  According to excerpts of Google’s “Daily Information Needs Study,” this statistic reflects a virtually uncharted area of content that users tend to explore away from the Internet. In-depth articles are meant to bring those hidden needs back to the table.

Although the in-depth feature uses algorithmic signals to determine the relevancy and quality of an article, steps can be taken to help Google find and display in-depth articles on search results pages.  The complete formula for obtaining an in-depth results spot is still a bit ambiguous. Many of the sites that have been included don’t actually demonstrate all of Google’s recommendations. Still, a few early observations may shed a little light on the road ahead.

After dissecting 10,000 MozCast queries, folks at the Moz Blog found that posts with news results were most likely to show in-depth articles. Over 50 percent of queries with in-depth articles contained news results, the majority of results stemming from major news sources. While it’s clear that major news sources have an in-depth edge, the source of the advantage seems to be related to a combination of factors including domain authority, article schema, and basic on-page SEO best practices. As more non-mega news sites gain access to article schema plug-ins for platforms such as WordPress, the advantage of major news sites is likely to decrease.

In terms of word count, the MozCast study does indicate that Google is embracing brevity with two-word queries making up the majority of in-depth article results. A handful of long-tail queries also made the data set cut, however.

Line-by-line code analysis has also revealed some interesting plot twists. Although Google recommends authorship markup, several of the sites with in-depth articles that I have examined either neglected to add them or have implemented them incorrectly according to the snippet optimizer tool. Organizational markup and schema tags, both recommended by Google, were also missing or not deployed in the way Google recommends on many of the sites with in-depth search result listings.

The best way to make the most of Google’s in-depth articles feature is to make sure some basic on page optimization and article schema and SEO principles are in place. You can follow the evolution of in-depth articles and submit links to search engine results pages that highlight the success of smaller sites within in-depth results on Twitter using #indepthseo.

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