Are In-Depth Articles in Your Higher Ed Content Strategy?
Higher Education Marketing

Are In-Depth Articles in Your Higher Ed Content Strategy?

Date posted: December 27, 2013

You’ve probably noticed In-Depth Articles coming up on your Google search engine results pages. In-Depth Articles (IDAs) were introduced back in August 2013 to Google search engine results pages (SERPs), in an effort to provide a new type of content for the approximately 10% of searchers who are known to be looking for detailed content on broad topics. Here is an example of the In-Depth Articles section that was presented to me recently in a SERP when searching on the keyword, “admissions”.

In-Depth Articles

Why are In-Depth Articles important to your Recruitment Efforts?

IDAs are important to marketers for a number of reasons. The general type of search that Google is talking about here is the broad research individuals conduct at the very top of your recruitment funnel. If your in-depth article is seen and read by this type of searcher, you get the opportunity to interact with them as they are shaping their initial ideas around your topic. That is a good place to be from a search engine marketing standpoint. Looking at SERPs from a very practical point of view, in-depth articles are quite important because they take up 3 of the 10 search engine results displayed on a page. Add in a map, an author photo and some ad extensions on that same page and it could easily be reduced down to 7 results, including the 3 IDAs. As we’ve discussed in the past, 70% of searchers never go beyond page 1 results so with the addition of in-depth article, it is now even harder to get that precious page one real estate.

Getting an article or post listed as an IDA could be a very good thing for your search traffic volume. But is it possible to actually make that happen? Well, the jury is still out on all of the criteria, and their relative weighting, so let’s say maybe for now.

So how does Google select Posts for In-Depth Article Status?

Here’s what we’ve pieced together from Google’s guide and research conducted by various SEOs on what the optimal characteristics are of an IDA:

  • They are typically 2000 – 5000 words long
  • They discuss a very general, non-commercial topic that is typically one or, at the most, two keywords i.e. “admissions”, “higher education”. Long term keywords of 2 or three words typically do not provide IDAs on their SERP pages
  • Have received strong social endorsement on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter
  • 60% of IDAs come from 10 major publishers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Wired, Forbes, etc.
  • Have publication dates of posts ranging from 2011- 2013 (but note the example above dating back to 2005 from The New Yorker)
  • Have a strong number of backlinks
  • Include Authorship markup
  • Include Shema.org article markup
  • Include a primary image that is crawlable and indexable
  • Use pagination
  • Include a company logo

One criterion that is reported above and generally perceived as quite important is that IDAs generally come from major publishers. If you do some testing you will see that this is true for many, if not most IDAs, but you will also see that some come from much lower profile sources. This is where the opportunity lies. Higher education institutions generally have lots of credibility and authority so I believe that they have as good or better an opportunity as any to get posts ranked as IDAs.

An In-Depth Article Strategy for Higher Ed Marketers

So I think there are two approaches you can take to maximize your chances of being published as an IDA.

  1. Take an existing, long general post that has been popular and well ranked and revise it up to meet the higher standards, (as seen above), of an IDA. Remember, it has to be written to a general topic (one-term keyword is best) to get IDA ranked, so select very carefully.
  2. Start from scratch and create a post about a general topic that is closely associated with your institution or your programs, for example, nursing or accounting or social work. Develop the new post to meet the specs, publish and roll the dice.

Ultimately you can’t control if you get an IDA or not, pretty much like everything with Google, but if you do manage to get listed as an IDA you will reap the benefits. And to repeat an earlier point I do believe higher ed institutions have a really good chance of being treated as authorities by the algorithm in the future.

If you have had a post get on to an IDA list, please share it with us. I plan to keep track of higher education related IDA’s that I can find and report back on this topic in the future to try and make more sense of what is working and what is not. Stay tuned for that update in a couple of months.

References on In-Depth Articles:

What SEO’s can make of Google In-depth articles – Search Engine Journal

Dive Deep into In-Depth Articles – Forbes

How to Make Your Content Show Up in Google’s ‘In-Depth Articles’ Search Results – Marketing Profs

What Google’s ‘In-Depth Articles’ Algorithm Update Means For Your Content Strategy – Hubspot