One of the biggest mistakes so many companies make when it comes to the grand old fight for top ranking on Google is doing the bare minimum using their relatively limited understanding of SEO to create content. Many companies struggle endlessly to create content they hope will get them to that golden haloed “top ranking” they have read about and heard about but have never been able to achieve.
Part of the challenge stems from Google constantly keeping us honest by updating and improving the algorithms they use to search for content. The reason they do this is a reason many of us put out of our minds when writing content: They provide a service and are trying to improve it.
It is of no benefit to Google to let us all in on their secrets and how they really search, because that just encourages us to create content based on their criteria, not on the best interest of their users. However, they are always happy to offer advice as this allows you to write better content for their users. Their latest introduction to enhance their users’ experience: In-depth articles.
Introducing In-depth Articles
In-Depth articles is the latest addition to Google’s search “benefits” stemming from the fact that 10 percent of Google searches are performed by people who are really looking for some in-depth, reliable content.
Google’s response to this is providing an additional three in-depth articles that will appear at the bottom of the first ranking’s page. These are not your average pillar or SEO articles, but are more news-worthy, journalist grade material.
They appear only for broad searches at this time, and do require some specific elements to be considered. As the searches currently work, only well-known authority publications are being listed on the three most relevant in-depth article list. But at this time it does not appear Google has any hard and fast rules around this, and this could simply reflect the rolling out of this feature. Time will tell.
How to Rank
Google says that they will be providing both well-known as well as lesser-known resources for searches as long as the content is the best and most relevant in its category.
Examples of searches that have been tested for in-depth articles include a rather interesting spectrum of article topics. Of these searches the most common articles that appeared were all from high ranking, heavy hitters such as The New Yorker, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.
This may have some people worried that their content will get knocked off that first page and they will never be found again. But remember, Google is in the business of providing information and they pride themselves on providing the best quality of information they can find.
Again with the Content
Although the word ‘content’ is constantly thrown around at marketing meetings, the truly savvy marketer knows that content is so much more than words on a page. It can’t be regurgitated. It has to be original and it has to be packed with information for Google to acknowledge it as worthy to appear in those top ranking spots.
So what does this mean for the little guy still struggling to get noticed?
It means that all is fair in love and war and Google is still geared up to discover the unsung hero, if in fact you truly are a hero worthy of note. And to be worthy of note there is a whole new list of things that will get you found and make your way onto that soon to be coveted top three listing of in-depth articles.
Suffice it to say things are getting complicated. (The term I used is a common slang but maybe not in Australia! LOL) It takes a lot of work and effort to complete the types of articles required to provide the detailed information that makes a good article.
The problem with content creation is that people, particularly if you offer a service or if your expertise is actually your ‘product’, are trying to avoid providing the real answers that your ‘ideal clients’ are looking for – because then they wouldn’t need you, right?
If you are providing a worthwhile and valuable service, unless your content forms a training guide or manual, then it would be pretty hard to give away everything you do. Your content will need to find the balance that makes you worthy of Google ‘in-depth article’ status by providing legit, useful information without giving away all of your trade secrets.
Getting your In-depth Articles Noticed
When it comes to this whole in-depth article deal, you need to continue focusing on the same basics of good content in general, but add to your legitimacy using a few tactics Google itself has provided:
• Schema Mark-up: Google is saying that if you want to get noticed as an in-depth article you can add schema mark-up. This is where you say, “Really? What the heck is that?”
Schema provides a common set of microdata that allows search engines to find you. If this just makes your brain hurt even more, you are not alone.
You should continue to do the same stuff you have likely been providing all along in your good, original, honest content:
- Your headline
- Your tagged image
- Your SEO title tag for your sub heads and headline
- Description of what you are talking about
- Date of publication
- Of course, your article body
Using schema mark up just makes it that much easier to find. Google even provides a tool to allow you to test your schema called rich snippets. Modern WordPress versions may have a snippets tool built-in, but there is an array of plugins available as well.
(or those who want more information, this post in Moz with link to schema.org will help).
• Authorship: This may be one of those things that make you say “Hmmmmmm.” Google is saying if you can provide authorship you become more legit. But how do you provide authorship?
Firstly by setting up a Google+ profile. Many marketers thought that Google+ would disappear and not provide any competition for social sites like Facebook. but when they want you to use it to get your content noticed you kind of have no choice but to register.
But let’s put on our ‘pro-Google hats’ and say this is a good idea because it provides legitimacy to your articles, but also helps to establish you firstly as a real person, and ultimately, in a best case scenario, as an authority in your niche.
• Provide Pagination: This one seems a little odd, especially in light of the fact that the endless scroll is quite popular, particularly in sales copy. That said, pagination for your article means breaking up copy with a next and previous button, or a list of numbered pages or both, allowing for easier reading as well as letting Google know it is a longer article and therefore more in-depth.
Google is looking for rel=next and rel=previous to gauge the size and scope of your article.
• Use Your Logo: Google would also like to see your logo as part of who you are and what you are all about. Logos can be added to your Google+ profile and listed as part of your schema organizational mark-up.
• First Click Free: This term is going to be popping up left, right and centre when it comes to articles on in-depth articles.
Many sites create content that easily gets caught by Google and tossed to the top of the rankings, but then users hit a bit of a snarl when they are told they either have to be a member or subscribe to view the article.
This seems kind of mean, but at the same time that is obviously how many businesses wisely build their lists to generate leads or to get subscribers.
If this sounds like you, then you might want to consider offering a ‘first click for free’ option to visitors in order to help your article be found within those three top ranked in-depth articles. The benefit of this may well outweigh any advantage of adding to your list/funnel.
Having Google find well-written and original in-depth articles on your site, and index them accordingly, will send more people to your site. Allow them to read the entire article from the search, and only then ask them to register, i.e. after you have delivered value to them. If they do, they are obviously interested – ‘warm prospects’. If they don’t, then they are probably not interested enough to buy/contact you anyway.
Cornerstone Content in 2,000 Words or More
The beauty of in-depth articles is you can go deeper into a topic without being confined to the oft quoted ‘ideal’ 450 word count.
Instead you can go all out and provide details that will really help solve a problem. Writing content for some articles is a challenge when it comes to hitting just 400 or 500 words, but most subjects can get detailed and hitting 2,000 words really isn’t that difficult – is it?
Filling an article with padding won’t get you ‘in-depth article’ status – just re-read the words ‘in-depth’ – in fact it takes away from the legitimacy and usefulness of your article.
Just because you have plenty of pages doesn’t mean Google is going to say, “Hey, these guys have 25 pages on a brand new fishing lure. They must really know their stuff”.
The articles might be longer, but the rules remain the same. Here are some tips to help you to prepare an in-depth article:
Solve a Problem: The only way you can be of any service to anyone and convince Google you are worthy of note is to make sure you are being helpful.
Whatever it is you do, prepare your problem solving articles based on your business.
Sell Pools? Write an article about how to avoid algae, but include research and solutions.
Are you a Chiropractor? Write an article about how to avoid work injuries perhaps include some stats from various industries, the types of injuries often sustained and what is the current best-practice in treatment.
Sell Baby Clothes? Write an article about what you’ll need when you bring baby home from the hospital. You might discuss different situations – sleeping, going out, seasons – and perhaps the need for lots of bibs and changes if your baby is inclined to bring up feeds. Again, provide as much real information as possible.
Of course, you have to research the heck out of each article and make sure it is original, engaging and full of helpful information. It can’t just be the same information everyone else is using, it has to offer originality and insight that demonstrates that you really are the authority and expert in your field.
Keyword Research: Yep, same old same old still applies to in-depth articles. You need to know what keywords and key phrases people are using in their Search Boxes – terms that will help you get noticed. This is a fine science and not for the faint of heart or weak of patience. It takes time and expertise to know which will work and help you find a niche in a world rife with competition.
If keyword research is a challenge for you, I offer a service that provides a comprehensive keyword report that will help with your ongoing content creation. Contact me to learn more.
Branding and Personality: You’re now writing about what you know and it is relevant to your business. But what sets you apart? Are you funny? Are you sympathetic? Are you able to use the “I know what you are going through because I’ve been there” angle?
Find your voice and use it consistently so you can build a following who loves you and wants to know what you know and what you think.
Link well: You can link to your other posts and pages in your in-depth articles. If you have previously written in detail about something to which you are eluding, link to it. But you can also link to information off your site, but do it as a new window. You don’t want to encourage people to leave your site. Google finds links to be very helpful.
Better yet, share your post on social media with the view of having others link to it. Google notices these links from other high value sites and that your information is regarded highly enough to be referenced. Avoid sneaky link building strategies – Google has a specific algorithm to track these called Google Penguin. When it finds questionable links it will actually suppress your ranking which is the search engine equivalent to black listing.
Use an Image: Use relevant, original images and name them with your keyword or key phrase. I’ve noticed that original graphics, including photos, graphs and charts, are features of In-depth Articles. Having your own artwork created is well worth the effort.
So there you have it. Over 2,000 words later you can see what in-depth articles are all about, how to write them and most of all, get them noticed by Google.
Obviously, researching and writing In-depth Articles is time consuming and takes some journalistic expertise if you want to stand a chance of hitting those three in-depth article spots. You might find yourself with a dilemma: do you take the chance of not including them in your content marketing strategy or do you pay for a content writer to help you.