Google Rolls Out First Refresh to In-Depth Articles

In competitive SEO, they used to say, “If you don’t like your Google results, wait five minutes.”

Google results generally have the propensity for rapid change, but this is not the case with Google’s relatively new  ‘in-depth article’ feature.

Rolled out in August, in-depth articles appear in a section of three new Google results from publications such as Rolling Stone, Time and Vanity Fair. They usually appear at the bottom of the page.

A few weeks ago, we wrote an article published in PR Daily describing the change and providing some conjecture on how this feature could play out.

 Refresh of In-Depth Articles

As of early Friday morning, we detected a major refresh to in-depth articles. (I would like to call it the kreplach update.)

The refresh was characterized by a significant increase in the number of keywords for which in-depth articles now appear, as well as changes to actual articles presented.

We Observed the Following Changes:

  • On August 8th we recorded just 28 Fortune 500 companies whose Google results include in-depth articles.
  • As of Sept 13th we are seeing 49 Fortune 500 companies with in-depth articles.
  • We have seen no significant change to the negativity of articles. We are still seeing about 2/3 of articles as negative for the brand.

Some of the new additions to the list are: (screen caps below)

  • Google (all positive results, hmmm.. Note that the in-depths returned in a search for Google Maps are not as peachy)
  • Costco (also very positive – but it’s Costco – you gotta love Costco…)
  • AT&T (holy cow – are these articles negative!)
  • Southwest Airlines (lots of love in those in-depths)

In-Depth Articles 1

In-Depth Articles 2

In-Depth Articles 3

In-Depth Articles 4





Only one company in the Fortune 500 lost its in-depth articles: Citigroup. (No worries, though, all three articles were unfavorable for the brand.)

 Other Changes Observed:

Of the 28 companies showing in-depth articles, 22 have had at least one of their results changed; but there does not seem to be a pattern.

  • Coca Cola now shows a result from Fast Company rather than Bloomberg.
  • Chesapeake Energy shows the NY Times instead of Reuters.
  • Apple had its NY Times article switch from one on their tax strategy to a different article; this one is entitled “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work”.

It is interesting to note that in-depth articles themselves are extremely static. Once one has read an article, they will not get much benefit from returning to it. This is in contrast to most search results for corporations (typically made up of corporate homepage, news index pages, financial pages, social media, news results etc.) – most of which get refreshed content. Assuming many of the searchers of these terms come back and search again – it would make sense for the algorithm to change the  articles or risk having very low resonance with searchers.

 Lessons Learned:

–          In-depth articles are not going away – in fact their reach, at least vis-à-vis searches for corporations, seems to be growing significantly.

–          The publications that Google’s algorithm is choosing for in-depth articles are still Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and NY Times; only rarely do we see unusual publications.

–          Some suggest that authorship etc. would help blogs get their articles into the in-depth section, but this has not panned out.

–          Switches within the articles do not seem, in most cases, to be the result of new articles being published; perhaps these are tweaks based on actual click-through.


Data – the following is a list of all Fortune 500 companies recently displaying Google’s in-depth articles:

(* indicates companies added on Sept 13th. # indicates a company that no longer has in-depth articles )

Bank of America
Barnes and Noble
Berkshire Hathaway*
Booz Allen*
Campbell Soup*
Chesapeake Energy
Coca Cola
Duke Energy*
Fannie Mae*
Freddie Mac*
General Electric*
General Motors*
Goldman Sachs
JC Penney*
JP Morgan
Morgan stanley
News Corp
Southwest Airlines*
Whole Foods