Food for thought.
Google announced another new feature on Tuesday that is now in a search box near you, called “in-depth articles“. This new feature is designed to promote authoritative articles and content that are long-form pieces of content, from blog posts to scholarly works. In their example, if you search for censorship you will see the “One Box” (the same box that displays the weather in the search results) appear with longer form articles written about censorship. In an admirable effort, Google is trying to help you learn something by showcasing the most authoritative content it can find.
Why is this important? We spend a lot of time focusing on creating short “snackable” content that people can consume and move on with their day. Is it all that healthy for us to reach for the quick and not the long? Well, would you rather eat a Lunchable turkey/cheese lunch box (the turkey is overprocessed, and the cheese isn’t really cheese!) or a real turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato? I think we both know which is better, but we tend to pick the choice that is fast and cheap, but not necessarily good.
Over time, “snackable” content, while efficient, leaves us with a shallow understanding of what we want to know, but not always what we need to know or in the level of detail we need to be effective. It cannot be a replacement for thinking, learning and even discussing topics with friends, family and co-workers. It’s basically teaching our brains to work quickly and move on when that’s not always the right approach or a healthy one.
Longer form content takes more time and knowledge to create, but it gives you the nuances of a topic, the insights that only true expertise can showcase. Anyone can say censorship is bad. How censorship is used against people in Iran requires much more in-depth research and knowledge than just an opinion blindly being put on the Internet. In another example, each of us has a different point of view on the death penalty. A long-form piece of content that Google would consider authoritative would examine more than one point of view and provide links and research to those perspectives.
Creating bite size content is easy for content marketers and some audiences want it that way, but it’s not the one-stop marketing solution that some marketers are promoting. There are some pieces of content that should be snackable. Importance, however, at least from Google’s POV, should be placed on longer form content that spurs more thought and less creamy filling.
What is the ultimate reason this is important to you as a marketer or communications professional? Google’s search algorithm is based broadly on 3 meta-factors: recency, popularity, and authority. In the world of SEO, we’ve come to rely on just the first two factors (publish often, publish link bait) because we’ve had no insight, no visibility into the part of the algorithm that measures authority. With this change to the search results, we can now get a glimpse of what content Google believes is authoritative, what content Google deems worthy of being considered subject matter expertise. It’s also a signal from Google that cheap tricks like tabloid-style headlines and a 20-posts-an-hour beat isn’t going to cut it for top rank much longer.
Authority is becoming more prominent in Google, which means that it must become more important to you in your content marketing efforts. If you’re not an authority, do your homework to become one. If you are an authority, you need to step up your game and stop relying on mass-manufactured content “snacks” from “content marketing companies” that grind out the same level of unhealthy, unhelpful content as mass food manufacturers put on the shelves at the local quick mart.
Senior Marketing Analyst