Google In-Depth Article Search Results: How to Qualify Your Content

Google today announced that  “In-depth Articles” are to be featured in Search.

The Official Google Webmaster Tools blog today announced that Google is beginning to roll out a new feature in Search (US first) that will highlight “in-depth articles” on certain broad topics. When someone searches for a person, thing, or general subject, Google’s algorithm may now show them a special set-apart listing of several authoritative articles on the topic.

Google In-depth Article Results in Search

A new Google Help Page article offers guidelines to webmasters that will help them markup their best content in ways that will help Google to identify it as possibly qualifying to be shown in an in-depth article result. Suggestions include:

  • Use schema.org article markup to identify the headline, altHeadline, main image, description, publication date, and article body of your in-depth content.
  • Use Authorship markup on the content.
  • For multi-page or multi-part articles, use proper rel=next, rel=prev and rel=canonical tags
  • Clearly identify your brand logo (either by linking to your Google+ Page or using organization markup).

Authorship and rel=Publisher Take New Front Stage Roles

For someone like me very interested in Google Authorship , the buried headline in this help article is not only the fact that Google recommends using Authorship as part of the qualifications for “in-depth article” status, but what Google says about it:

Authorship markup helps our algorithms to find and present relevant authors and experts in Google search results.

I had to read that several times to believe it says what it says.

author rank is alive omgThat is simply the most definitive statement we’ve had to date that Google is probably already beginning to use Authorship data as a measure of “relevancy” and authority. The fact that it is included as a recommended best practice for identifying “in-depth articles” seals the deal.

Authorship as a real factor in search results is here. It’s now. The day has dawned.

Now I want to still express that with some caution. I’m not running through the hallways of Virante screaming “AUTHOR RANK!!! IT’S ALIVE!! IT’S ALIVE!!!” Not quite yet.

It very well may be that Google is just beginning to use a limited amount of this data, and perhaps only (at this point) for this in-depth article project. And it may only help (at this point) the very most authoritative authors in each topic area.

But make no mistake. Authorship and Author Rank are rising in importance. That much is no longer in any doubt.

Publisher connection has new importance as well. Authorship’s weak step-brother, rel=publisher (i.e., a verified connection between your official site and Google+ brand page) takes on new importance as well with this update.

Google will use that connection to grab your brand logo (from your Page’s profile image) to use with in-depth article results for your content. For one thing, that means more opportunity for brand recognition for you in the SERPs. But it also reinforces just how important your Google+ connections are to Google.

I’ve always maintained that the rel=publisher and page verification process was being used by Google to reinforce its trust in the official sites of brands, and beyond that to establish brand site topical authority. This new search feature is the first indication we have that that is exactly where Google is going.


  1. Now I didn’t expect this, pity it is only restricted in the USA. But I guess it gives the the UK guys time to prepare our content for in-depth search.

    It seems rel=publisher is more prominent than rel=author. Isn’t this more publisher rank (I know it doesn’t exist) rather than author rank?


  2. Vagish, this particular search snippet does display publisher rather than author attribution, yes. But…the Google Help Page recommends using Authorship and hints strongly that author authority comes into play in deciding what articles will be used for this feature.


  3. Great article Mark, it is interesting to hear Google officially say that authorship is being used to evaluate relevance and authority. I also appreciate that you mentioned how important connections made on Google Plus are. It’s these connections, in conjunction with markup that are really going to be influencing Google’s SERPS. Welcome to the Semantic Web!


  4. Agree Brian! What so many don’t yet realize is that with Google+ and Google Authorship and Publisher connections, Google gave us free entrance into participating in helping them build the connections that will make the semantic web work. Some of us are now two years ahead of the Google+-nay sayers 😉


  5. I think it’s great that Google is committed to Authorship (and, by implication, AuthorRank), but I’m less enthusiastic about the schema.org article markup for two reasons:

    1) It’s likely to work best for large organizations that can automate the markup process (or, more likely, force their editorial employees and freelancers to adopt a fill-in-the-forms approach to writing).

    2) If Google favors editorial content with schema.org markup, that’s going to create problems with user access to “legacy content,” because the cost of going back and marking up years’ worth of articles, papers, blog posts, etc. will be too enormous to justify the effort in most cases. Even worse, it goes against the notion that content should be created for users, not for search engines. (The best writers usually aren’t librarians, database experts, or SEOs.)


  6. Durant, I feel your pain. But this is why SEO (white hat) exists and remains important. It’s always been the case that the search engines need help from webmasters in being able to properly crawl, understand, and index their sites. And its always been the case that those willing and able to do that work have been ahead because of it.


  7. Mark, let’s look at it from a searcher’s point of view: What we seem to be talking about here is a return to the structured databases of the 1980s. In my field (travel publishing), the database approach has been used by some guidebook publishers, and the results haven’t always been pretty. But the bigger issue is one that I mentioned in my earlier post: reduced user access to valuable “legacy content” and other editorial content that hasn’t been sliced and diced to fit schema.org’s formula.


  8. My previous reply stands. I’m not trying to be belligerent or snarky; I really agree with you. I’m just being realistic. We tend to think of Google as being really, really smart and almost omniscient. And compared to other data retrieval systems, it is leaps and bounds ahead. But the reality is that properly indexing, evaluating, and ranking the billions upon billions of pages on the web is more enormous than most people think. And at the end of the day, even Google ends up taking easy short cuts.

    We have to face the reality that Google doesn’t care about “surfacing the little guy” or “reduced access to legacy content.” Their business model is built upon getting something useful to the searcher withing the top few results or ads. They may say they want to rank the “best,” but at the end of the day, how can they even successfully judge that, and if users are happy with what they are getting in the top few positions, then it works for Google.

    So….what can the “little guy” do? It’s hard, but not hopeless. I think things like markup and authorship and social actually give the “little guy” who’s willing to put in the work a fighting chance he never had before in the history of marketing.

    Think about pre-web marketing. If you were a small business wanting to break into a national market, what could you do? The big guys could way outspend you for advertising on TV, radio, and publications. But now, if you combine targeted content, a well-designed and optimized site (both for SEO and conversion), a strong and growing social network, intelligent email marketing to captured leads, and employing tools like Authorship and structured markup, you have a fighting chance to get heard by the right people.

    While Google may not care about giving your small business a “fair shot,” they also aren’t’ automatically prejudiced against you. If you start regularly producing things that people seem to like and share and engage with, Google will begin to pump you up. It’s nothing personal. But that’s the game.


  9. Mark, I don’t expect Google to give me a “fair shot.” That wasn’t the focus of my comment. The concern i expressed was about users having access to legacy content and other editorial content that hasn’t been marked up according to the Schema.org formula. Google is moving away from “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines,” and I don’t see that as a good thing.

    Side note: I managed to mark up an article according to the Schema.org and Google requirements yesterday evening, and it checked out fine in Google’s testing tool. The process wasn’t efficient, though, and I’d have to say that the schema.org markup scheme was designed by and for engineers, not for the writers and editors who’ll be expected to use it.


  10. I certainly agree with schema markup being a nightmare for the average content creator. Last night I tried to find a WordPress plugin that would help, but none that I could find that automate schema markup include the Article function. Even Google’s Data Highlighter tool, which has an Article component, doesn’t include many of the tags that the Google help article suggests using for the new feature.


  11. I think the schema.org markup is a great fit for things like business locations, addresses of schools or government offices, and other data that’s intended for export to third-party sites (such as Google local listings). For editorial content? It’s a mixed blessing at best.


  12. 1. I hope some Google intern didn’t screw up when this line was written Authorship markup helps our algorithms to find and present relevant authors and experts in Google search results.” lol

    2. Authorship doesn’t exactly carry any authority of its own – it’s just a markup that tells Google who the content author is, right?

    Author Rank is the one that tells us (whenever it’s actually implemented) how authoritative the source of the content is, thus indicating which content source should potentially rank above others.

    3. It’s great to see rel=publisher finally coming into play (hint: connect your G+ page with your site!).

    4. Looking for ways to automate the markup was the next task on my list; I was hoping for an easy way out with a WP plugin of sorts as well. Will keep looking.

    Thanks for the update, Mark!

    It was interesting to read your thread with Durant – how is it that you are basically agreeing with each other’s points, yet still seemingly battling on them? 🙂 Human nature I guess…


  13. I wonder what is going to happen to all high quality posts before the author rank was implemented. Does it mean that you may have to hire a writer with a high authority, to re-write some of your content, in order to rank high in SERPs ?


  14. Asher,

    I don’t think Author Rank is ever going to be a do or die. In other words, it will never be the one and only thing that can get your content to rank. However, it will be a boost to those who earn it via high quality content that users trust and share.


  15. Hey Mark – Your plugin is adding our article titles within all of our posts at the very bottom of the post. Is there some way to turn this off? I’m not sure whether this is something the plugin is supposed to do or if it is some kind of bug. How can we get this sorted out?




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