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.