Have you ever been searching for something on Google and seen “featured articles” that relate to your search? Although featured articles were first introduced in August 2013, it feels like a much newer feature to most businesses. These featured articles highlight long-form content for topics (usually generic in nature) that a user might be trying to research. Click Seed notes that according to a Google Webmaster blog on featured articles, “users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10 percent of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic.”
If you Google a specific person or organization name, question, or other broad topic, you’ll find a block of search results. These results provide high-quality content to help users learn about or explore a subject quickly. These results were previously labeled “In-depth articles” however, as of last year they are no longer labeled as such (see the screen shot below — Search Engine Land noted that @SEOlytics posted a nice before and after shot of the In Depth Articles. What you see on the left is the old version and what you see on the right is the new version):
Google informed Search Engine Land that this was an attempt to streamline the search results page design overall, since these results are now “officially” a part of the web results. Now, rather than being labeled as in-depth articles, they can just be considered Google’s Featured Articles.
In the screenshot below we can see a recent search for “climate change” with featured content before the general search results are listed. This is obviously a huge search with a lot written on it, so it makes sense that it would be something that Google has chosen to select featured content for this query:
While results for these “featured articles” aim at providing high-quality pages and content to users, so that they might explore a subject immediately upon “Googling” it, there are things that you can do to attempt at being a leading expert on a search. The feature is based on algorithmic signals, and as such, there are steps you can take as a Webmaster to help Google find your high-quality, in-depth content so that it can be presented to users that have interest in your topic of expertise.
A word of caution. Before I get in to these optimization strategies, there is a big word of caution. Not every business, organization, brand, or individual is going to be well positioned for success this way. We would never advise every small business to expect to become a Google featured article (by nature, these are highly specific to begin with and your content may not be relevant); however many of the tips to get there are also optimization best practices, so it makes sense to put your best foot forward. Consider a few of the instances where you may find success below:
When should you optimize with featured articles in mind?
- When you write and produce very specific content on questions that are asked a lot in your field.
- When your page has been working on its SEO efforts for a while, and you have decent analytics.
- When you have high-ranking pages that are in response to a broad industry topic.
- Consulting with SEO specialists might help you to see a clear path towards a featured article, if there is one, or be able to advise you on other optimization strategies until you get to that point.
- There is no doubt that the opportunity to surface your strongest content within a special set of search results is appealing, if you can optimize by following the advice below, and it is a fairly smooth and attainable goal, you should definitely go for it.
Optimizing with Google’s Featured Articles in Mind
Google Support has recommended some very specific guidelines for optimizing with getting your articles featured in mind. There are four main categories they address (1) Having a Schema.org Article markup, (2) Pagination and canonicalization, (3) Logos, and (4) Restricted Content & First Click Free.
1. Schema.org Article Markup
Google does have features in place to understand the metadata you provide for your pages. However, if you really want to strive for having your content become a featured article, you want to implement certain aspects of the schema.org Article markup. Google Support explicitly states the following attributes:
- Alternative Headline
- Article Body
- Date Published
- Image (note: the image must be “crawlable” and indexable)
2.Pagination and Canonicalization
In summary, you will need to use the “rel=next” and “rel=prev” properties if your content is paginated — this is so that indexing properties can be consolidated for the full set of paginated URLs. Google Support also recommends that, if you have a “view-all” version of your content that you want to see indexed, be sure the canonical URL on each page points to it.
This is a pretty big topic. For more information on Canonicalization click here.
Authority and logo go hand-in-hand. Logos are a great way for users to be able to quickly identify your brand as associated with content, and logos are an important part of the “authority” of featured articles. Here are some recommendations to make sure that Google knows which image is your logo:
- If you don’t have one already, create a Google+ Page and link it to your website. Choose an official logo or icon as the default image.
- Use “organization markup: to specify your logo.
- Google support also acknowledges that it may take some time for logo changes in the search results, so don’t panic or think something went wrong if this doesn’t happen immediately.
4. Restricted Content and First Click Free
This may not apply to everyone eligible to become a “featured article”, but if you offer subscription-based access to your website content, or if users must register, then search engines may not be able to access some of your site’s most relevant content.
If Google can’t properly crawl and index your content (including text, images and videos), they will be unable to show it in their search results. This is especially relevant for “featured articles” optimization. Google Support recommends using First Click Free so that your content is accessible to Google’s search crawlers.
It is hard to say whether everyone is equally likely to become a “featured article” on Google, but one thing is for sure — these optimization suggestions are definitely worth looking into when it comes to general SEO best practices. Considering there are only four criteria to be crawled and ultimately selected (if of course, your content is relevant and useful), it is worthwhile to set up your content in this fashion. At this point, major news sources seem to receive most of the featured article spots, however it is safe to say that brands with great content that abide by Google’s suggested best practices are still able to rank in Google’s “featured articles.”
Republished by permission. Original here.
Images: (Top) Small Business Trends via Google, (Inside) Higher Visibility
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