Google’s In-Depth Content and What It Means for Writers

Hand drawing Content flow chart on transparent wipe board.

Google’s done it again. On August 6th, the search giant unveiled a new search feature rewarding longer, in-depth content. This is good news for web writers!

Truth is, it’s been coming for a while. See, it’s Google’s goal to provide the most relevant search results. To that end, it initiates updates to its search algorithm on a regular basis to weed out the bad and enhance the good. The most famous examples of these updates are Panda and Penguin. These updates penalized sites for thin content and bad links respectively and millions of site owners saw their traffic (and income) vanish overnight.

More on that in a minute.

First, let’s look at what “in-depth content” means for web writers.

In-Depth Content is Valuable

A 2,000-word article has more opportunity for deep explanation than a 350-word post. That’s no surprise. And, you can make that comprehensive article even more valuable if you write on a topic that has longevity. Think about it. If you write an article that will be as useful next year as it is today, you can continue to get visitors to that article. If you write 25 long, useful pieces, you can continue to draw visitors to each of those articles for years to come.

You’ve probably heard this called “evergreen” content. It means content that is always relevant. Think about the article headlines you see on the covers of popular magazines. “6 Ways to Flatter Abs by Next Week,” “How to Save $500 this Year,” “The 7 Signs You May Be Pre-Diabetic.” These are all good examples of evergreen content. It doesn’t matter if they’re published in the April, August, or October issues … they are always relevant.

You can do this, too.

How Can You Create More Evergreen Content?

Think about some of the most frequently asked questions in your niche. Consult your keyword research or go to Google and use “Google Instant.” These are the search suggestions that show up when you start typing something. In this example, I began typing in “Best restaurants” and Google is returning four of the most searched for cities.

You can use this same feature to generate ideas for evergreen content. Try entering “How to + your keyword,” and you’ll find plenty of great ideas. Let’s say you’re writing blog posts for a chiropractor and you want to supplement your keyword research to make sure your next blog posts target highly searched for terms.

I go to Google’s home page and start typing in “How to ease ba … ” and before I finish the word
“back,” I have these results.

So now I have four terms to write content around. I can write four blog posts for the chiropractor, but I can also suggest a longer piece such as focusing on back pain during pregnancy, which can give a deeper digital footprint than a shorter blog post.

Now, getting back to the Panda and Penguin updates I mentioned earlier. In the ongoing effort to return the best quality search results, Panda penalized site owners who had little content, duplicate content, or content that wasn’t very good. Those site owners had to improve the quality of their content in order to regain their rankings.

Penguin penalized sites with low quality links.

Both were a wake-up call to savvy site owners and SEO experts that Google expected higher quality. The new emphasis on in-depth content is simply an extension of that.

How Longer Content Benefits Your Clients

As a web writer, you bring value to your client in many ways. One of those ways is writing keyword based, benefit-rich content that positions your client as a resource AND brings in more visitors who can become customers.

By writing longer pieces that answer visitors’ questions, your content can benefit your clients for months and years to come. In the example above, I can write an in-depth piece on the topic of back pain during pregnancy and optimize it well. When people search for that topic, the chiropractor’s site will show up high in the search results.

If I do that over and over again, my client will have a strong content site that outperforms competitors who are not putting the same effort into growing their website.

Of course, the search engines also need a little help to know what your content is about.

If you write for the Web, you probably already know about meta data. That’s the required keyword rich and benefit-focused title and description that go into the code and tell search engines what the page is about.

Good meta data is essential to your on-page SEO.

In August, Google rolled out another way to incorporate “micro data.” This code gives more detail than the typical meta data. It’s called Schema and it’s a markup language, which is tech-speak for making your content more SEO friendly. For example, if the page is a restaurant serving Turkish food, there is specific code sharing those details.

But you’re a writer, not a coder you say? No problem.

If you use WordPress, there’s a plugin called Schema Creator by Raven, which makes it easy for non-coders to fill in the necessary data. You’ll just plug in the details.

See below:

You’ll choose where your content best fits and then fill in the details. Schema is important because Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have all agreed to use this language. It will make it easier for your content to get in front of the right prospects. While you still need the standard meta title and descriptions for your web articles, Schema gives you the opportunity to take it a step further.

And, though it can be used for any blog post or web page, it’s true impact may lie in the new “in-depth” content Google likes.

What Does “In-Depth” Content Look Like?

Earlier in this article, I mentioned that writing longer pieces that were “evergreen” could serve your clients for years. And that’s true. Google says it will also put these articles in a special box marked “In-Depth Articles.” Below is an example for the word “chess.” As you can see, the first is from September 2012 and the second example is from February 2010. In the past, articles that old often got pushed to a deeper page.

Now, the “In-depth articles” designation means it gets prominent billing on page one.

To be considered as an “in-depth article,” these pieces should be 2,000-5,000 words in length and marked up with that schematic language mentioned earlier. If you typically send your content in a Word doc to your client and they handle putting it online, you can make the recommendation to incorporate this code and explain why it’s important. Chances are, they’ll be impressed at your knowledge.

 How Can You Put This Into Practice Starting Today?

You can either pitch a client on this longer-form content or start with it on your own blog. If you use WordPress, install the Schema plugin. Then, determine your topic and your angle and write your piece as usual but plan to go deeper.

As you start doing this more often, you’ll see the results in increased traffic and you may find yourself as the author of an “in-depth article” listing! Plus, you can charge more money for longer articles.

What about you? Do you see longer pieces resulting in more visitors and customers? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


Jen Phillips April

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