Google Takes on another Universal Search Feature: In-Depth Articles

On August 6th, Google announced that they are rolling out a new feature to help searchers find relevant in-depth articles about broad topics in the universal Google search results. Google has estimated that about 10% of searchers’ daily information needs require more than just a quick answer, and therefore, are trying to meet this need.

When you search for a broad topic, like “happiness,” you will now see in-depth articles showing up at the bottom of page 1 of the search engine results page:

in-depth-articles-google

 

What is interesting about the featured articles here is that none of them are particularly current. While they are all from very reputable, authoritative news sources, two of the three articles were published in January 2013 and the other in April 2013.  It should be noted that the Slate article is about how Google’s office is a “happiness machine” so perhaps that is influencing their decision to feature this article.

I took a look at how many social shares these articles have and the results were pretty striking. Over the last 4-8 months, these articles have gathered a massive amount of shares on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It seems very likely that these social signals are a large factor in the algorithm for this feature.

Figure 1: Data retrieved from http://www.socialsignals.de/ on August 9, 2013

 

Implications for Search

There are a number of implications for search from this new in-depth article feature. First, this is yet another feature that is pushing organic results off of the first page for broad, non-branded searches. Second, this feature reveals Google’s big push for getting compelling, quality content higher in the search engine rankings. Authorship markup will continue to increase in importance as well – content coming from authoritative authors will most likely get preference over lesser known ones. Third, social signals are definitely increasing in importance in the Google algorithm. It will be imperative for anyone creating new online content to use social media to promote and share their content.

Google has recommended to anyone trying to get featured in this in-depth article feature to do the following things to their content so that search engine bots can better understand the pages on your website:

  • Use schema.org “article” markup
  • Provide authorship markup
  • Use rel=next and rel=previous tags for paginated articles and watch out for rel=canonical mistakes
  • Provide information about your organization’s logo (you can use schema.org markup for this now)
  • Create compelling, in-depth content

For more information, check out the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

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