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Most marketers are probably aware that Google has introduced the concept of in-depth articles in searches, in its aim to provide answers instead of just listing results.

According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), this update was likely sparked by an experiment Google carried out last year. The search engine found that around 10% of the information users needed on a daily basis required learning about a broad topic, so providing in-depth article results was the next step for Google.

In order to rank as an in-depth article, content marketers should readjust their content plans. To feature in the results for in-depth articles, Google suggests that marketers should consider schema article markup, coding for paginated articles, schemas that highlight the organisation´s logo, Google Authorship markup, and of course, unique in-depth content. However, these alone may not be enough, and according to the CMI, optimising for in-depth article ranking appears to be somewhat more complicated.

The Official Google Search blog claims that in-depth article results will not only display content from well-known publishers but also some less known ones as well. However, a simple research on six topics quoted by the CMI revealed that just one of the results in the searches had a page rank lower than seven, while 14 out of the 18 pages ranked between eighth and ninth position. The search indeed ranked publishers that were not particularly well-known, but the majority of results showed major publishers, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek. A recent study on the same topic by Forbes found that the New York Times accounted for more than a quarter of results.

Interestingly, none of the results that appeared in searches had a proper Authorship citation, raising questions of Google´s statement that it was a key factor for in-depth article rankings. Another contradiction to Google´s claim that in-depth content is evergreen and old high-quality articles will be ranked was also found during the Forbes research. Just one in ten articles dated back to 2008 or earlier.

Google recommended paginated coding but did not mention article length as a factor that influences ranking. The search, however, revealed that the average word count for articles that ranked was 4,500, but there was a wide gap between the shortest (800 words) and the longest (16,000). In conclusion, the CMI reported that articles with a word count between 1,500 and 5,000 were the most likely to appear in results.

Last but not least, Google stated that schema article markup was an important factor for ranking. The CMI pointed to an earlier research that showed that 22 of 59 in-depth articles appearing in random searches had no schema markup at all, and a further 22 had some schema markup.

Apparently, ranking for in-depth articles is a complicated matter, and Google should provide more information on the topic to help marketers produce better content that would be of use.

By Ben Hollom