reporting and research

Shortly after Google announced its In-Depth Articles feature, a SearchEngineWatch.com reader expressed his frustration about it in a comment. It was clear he wasn’t a fan of this algorithm update that intends to help users find relevant, in-depth content in Google’s main search results.

In his online comment, he posed a question that piqued my interest: “Explain to me how you can write a 2,000 word article about key cabinet tags, or even key cabinets.”

As a former journalist, his remark captured my attention, because you’d be amazed how a story about key cabinets starts taking shape when you think like a reporter or a researcher. I understood his underlying concern about writing a lengthy article about what some would consider a mundane topic. His concern is likely shared by many other businesses, particularly in the B2B space.

Okay, I admit that key cabinets don’t top my reading list! But, no matter what product and/or service you sell in a vertical market, there is always a story with several layers that can be covered in a compelling way and prove helpful to users – and more importantly, help drive business. You just have to step back and peel away the layers.

How Do You Start?

Let’s take the key cabinets example that I mentioned. You can dissect the subject matter by first covering the main questions taught in Journalism 101: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Then ask follow-up questions. Here is a sampling of questions:

  • Who came up with the idea for key cabinets and why? Where?
  • How have key cabinets evolved over the years?
  • Why are they important?
  • What milestones have been achieved in the history of key cabinets?
  • How big is the industry?
  • Has there been any industry growth or decline? If so, explain.
  • What kinds of companies use key cabinets?
  • What is the projected growth of the industry?

For this exercise, it might even be helpful to have the questions asked by an industry outsider such as a friend or family member, because they’re not as heavily immersed as you are in the area and may think of other questions.

It’s important to note that, for the In-depth Articles, Google is seeking content at a minimum of 2,000 words that is well-researched and non-commercial. So, in addition to gathering information through questions, you should consider interviewing any industry sources. In this example, think about interviewing home security or business security experts.

Even if you’re an expert about your business or industry, you may have to do more research as a result of any questions that are left unanswered. But, the silver lining is that you will uncover more stories or interesting information about your industry.

Writing Resources

What if you are a small to medium-sized business owner and you feel like you don’t have the resources to write quality content?

You should consider hiring a graduate student who is studying journalism and/or communications to write an In-depth Article. A graduate student will have the training and skillset to write a lengthy piece. There are many graduate students who are looking for writing experience and additional income while in school. A graduate student will also probably charge an inexpensive rate compared to a professional writer.

Implementing the Content

I didn’t cover the technical implementation that publishers should follow as they create this content or how In-Depth Articles impacts SEO, because I mainly wanted to provide some ideas on how to approach the research and reporting of the content itself. There is a good article on Search Engine Watch about In-Depth Articles that discusses both the SEO impact and technical implementation.

Without a doubt, this new feature will favor the big brand names (that can afford any amount of research and production) or well-known publishers, initially. But take note: Google has also said the In-depth Articles that it features will also come from lesser-known publishers and blogs. That gives you the opportunity to play in the search engine results space based purely on the quality of your work.