In-Depth Articles Are Gone

Miriam Hirschman, April 10, 2016

Google’s in-depth articles appear to be removed from the search results. These articles, which frequently appeared as part of Google’s search results for known entities (brands, companies, etc.) as a group of three results, were a thorn in the side of reputation managers. They tended to be unfavorable to their subject and not necessarily recent. In addition, unlike with regular search results, they could not be influenced with standard SEO tactics. For a brand, that meant that once in-depth articles started appearing in their search results, they were stuck.

But over the weekend, in-depth articles vanished. Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz was the first to report this on Twitter.

In the nearly three years since they debuted, Google tweaked the in-depth article feature a few times, with the last edit leaving this feature nearly indistinguishable from standard results. Maybe the rationale was that the content of in-depth articles would be interesting to searchers, but calling them out as in-depth was deterring clicks because of the extra time investment needed to read them. And now, they have disappeared completely.

While the in-depth articles were a key source of unfavorable results on the search page, their disappearance should trigger not celebration (OK, maybe a little), rather refreshed vigilance by brands who care about their digital reputation. In-depth articles appeared as three distinct results, however they were actually treated by Google as taking the place of a single organic result. With the three-pack gone, something must replace it. Especially now, when the search page is in flux and new results are coming in to replace the in-depth articles, companies and people must be especially careful to monitor their search results.

Tyson Foods is an interesting example. These screen shots are from this past weekend, Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9. Note the 3-pack of in-depth articles at the bottom of the earlier screenshot, all marked red by our analysis tool to indicate these are negative results.

Tyson Side by Side

The in-depth articles are now gone (right side image) and Google replaced them with another unfavorable result. The disappearance of the in-depth articles does not necessarily mean the disappearance of all negativity on the page.

In-depth articles often ended up highlighting – or maybe dredging up – stories and issues from a company’s past. Their disappearance continues to shift the focus of the search results to real-time and timely information. A reputation crisis can happen at any time and Google’s algorithm will do its best to make sure searchers see it. More so than before, it is imperative for a brand invested in its digital reputation to partner with a company that can help them put their best foot forward.


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