Google announced yesterday on their Inside Search and Webmaster Central blogs that they will be rolling out a new feature called In-Depth Articles which will aim to “display thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication” for particular search queries. It’s unclear as to what keyword searches will trigger these in-depth search results, or whether or not they will be displayed to a user based on their location, but your law firm can still be prepared for what may be the next big thing in the SEO/content marketing world. Here are three ways that your law firm can be more prepared than your competition to obtain In-Depth Article spots on Google search results, which will likely result in an increase in quality, relevant traffic.
1. Focus on Longer, More In-Depth Content
According to Google, websites which have pages that are more focused on the quality of content versus the quantity of how many pages are indexed (and creating lower-quality pages to attempt to rank for specific search terms) will have a better chance of appearing in the In-Depth Articles section.
While the feature is based on algorithmic signals, there are steps you can take as a webmaster to help Google find your high-quality, in-depth content and best present it to users in the search results page.
The theory that website pages which are longer, more thought out, and grammatically correct are preferred by Google over pages which only include a few sentences (or “spun” content) is one that is accepted by many Internet marketers and content writers who are continuing to evolve along with Google’s algorithm.
One common method when it comes to developing a law firm website’s content is to build out a FAQ section for each of the firm’s practice areas. So when you develop these FAQ’s, should you create a separate page for each individual FAQ, or should you list them all on one page?
While creating a page dedicated to each FAQ might seem like the more SEO-friendly method since you can optimize each page for keywords and keyword phrases (by including the keywords in each individual page’s titles, meta descriptions, content, etc.), Google is more likely to assign authority and trust to a collective FAQ page which is longer and more in-depth, especially if those individual pages only contain a few sentences of content. We were recently working on a client’s website which had been negatively affected by some recent Google Panda updates, so the first thing we did was a full crawl of the site so that we had a better idea of which pages were actually indexed. With over 4500 pages indexed in Google, we had pretty good reason to believe that a number of these pages were too short, or (in some cases) contained no content at all. The majority of the smaller pages (operating under the assumption that the pages which are smaller in size are likely to be pages which are shorter) were their FAQ pages, which we eventually condensed into one longer, more in-depth FAQ page for each practice area. The jury is still out (no pun intended) as to whether or not this will improve the quality and/or quantity of their organic search engine visits since it’s only been a few weeks, but we’re pretty confident that Google would prefer a page that answers the visitor’s question and also presents additional practice area-specific questions and answers all on the same page, versus the visitor having to click through a website and view multiple pages to find related content.
Whether or not the In-Depth Articles section will be displayed for geo-specific search terms remains to be seen, and it’s unclear as to whether or not the user will be presented with in-depth articles from a local law firm’s website based on the user’s location, but one thing is for sure- you probably want to audit your website to see if you can build your pages out with more content length, condense some of your shorter related pages, and focus on writing content focusing more on quality and less on quantity.
2. Implement Pagination and Schema.org Markups
There are two on-site coding implementations that your webmaster or website development provider can implement to improve user experience and what data is proactively presented to Google’s spiders.
The first is pagination, which is basically a website’s ability to properly present multiple pages in a specific section of a website (like blog posts, articles, FAQ’s, etc.) to the user and to search engines properly. For example, let’s say that you have a blog on your website which has 400 posts split up evenly between 4 categories/practice areas. If the blog only lists 10 posts, and each category page also lists 10 posts, then the main blog will have 40 pages and each category/practice area page will have 10 pages. For a lot of content management systems like WordPress, once a user gets to the last post on the page listing blog posts, you can only go to the next page (or previous) with the next 10 older (or newer) posts on them.
From a user experience perspective, they have to go through each page one by one, versus jumping to a specific page number if they know that they’re looking for older blog posts. From an SEO perspective, Google’s spiders aren’t guaranteed to crawl all 40 or all 10 of those pages (since there are only links to previous and next pages).
Google’s feedback regarding pagination (and canonicalization, which can also come into play):
For multi-part content, proper pagination markup using rel=next and rel=prev can help our algorithms correctly identify the extent of those articles. In addition, it’s important that canonicalization is done correctly, with a rel=canonical pointing at either each individual page, or a “view-all” page (and not to page 1 of a multi-part series). Learn more about pagination and canonicalization.
To properly implement pagination into your website, check out Google’s Pagination recommendations, and also be sure to check out Moz’s Guide to Best Pagination Practices for SEO and User Experience where they talk about implementing/tweaking page numbers, etc.
3. Advanced Schema.org Markup Code
The second on-site coding improvement that you’ll want to look into so that your law firm’s website has a better chance of ranking for the in-depth article search results is advanced schema.org markup code implementation.
Without going into too much detail regarding the history of schema.org and how it potentially affects the history of which websites obtain top rankings on Google (which I talk more about in a recent blog post [shameless plug]), schema.org is a markup language that is accepted by all three major search engines which allows webmasters and developers to mark up certain aspects of a website which will allow Google to properly identify, classify, and display information. Schema.org markup language is commonly implemented around a law firm’s name, address, and phone number (aka NAP) to improve Google+ Local rankings, videos to improve their search engine visibility, reviews/testimonials, and images.
But if your website developer or webmaster can work on implementing schema.org markup language around different content-specific attributes such as page titles, headlines, images, content areas, published dates, authors, etc. by using schema.org’s predefined article properties, then your law firm’s website will have a better chance of appearing in Google’s new in-depth article results, and possibly improving your site’s overall search engine visibility since Google will likely prefer websites which include the schema.org markup code over those without it. But don’t take my word for it. Straight from the horse’s (or panda’s) mouth:
In general, we’ll do our best to understand the metadata you provide for your pages to better present search results to users. For this feature, it’s particularly helpful if you can implement certain aspects of the schema.org Article markup, notably the following attributes:
image (note: the image must be crawlable and indexable)
Those are three things that you or your web developer can implement into your law firm website to make sure that you’re staying ahead of the competition. Each implementation will come in handy when it comes to improving your website’s search engine visibility, and how it communicates with Google to become their choice for #1 rankings.