Google are now displaying Google Discover report data in Search Console. That’s great for you guys that are active in pursuing this type of traffic, but what about the other half? Some of you may have seen this report and thought, “what is Google Discover?”. Others may be au fait with Google Discover, but have no idea how to optimise for it.
We’re going to have a quick run down of what Google Discover is, why it’s a useful traffic source and how to optimise for it. No surprises there. Let’s get to it.
What is Google Discover?
We had a quick look at this when discussing the new report in Search Console. To recap, google Discover appears as a feed on the Google app or when opening Google on a mobile browser. It’s a feed of content aligned to your own interest. The content is based on your previous search activity and/or your settings.
Google claim that Discover has over 800 million users, although as previously mentioned this number appears to be at least a year old. That’s a lot. That’s the same as Tik Tok. For those of you who don’t know what Tik Tok is, it’s more than double the MAUs of Twitter.
The feed works in a pretty traditional fashion. Images, titles and excerpts appear on a tile and allow the user to click through to the content and enjoy. Google Discover looks to provide updates, fresh content as well as evergreen content, according to your interests.
Why should you optimise for Google Discover?
It’s a legitimate question. As SEOs there are times when we may invest in a change, only for it to fall out of popularity or be reverted. We want to avoid wasting time expanding meta descriptions if Google revert to the way it was before. Or Google Author profiles. Don’t even start with Google+.
Google Discover feels different. Yes, it has been around for a couple of years and some of you may not have known about it. 800 million users is significant number though. What’s more significant is that it ties in with the way that we expect technology to work for us. In Google’s article referencing the past 20 years, and the next 20 years of search, one of the three main items is:
“The shift from queries to providing a queryless way to get information”
Couple this with our culture of endless scrolling on smartphones and it makes sense. Forget copying Facebook with Google+, that obviously didn’t work. Instead, Google are utilising the vast amounts of data they have on our digital activity. They want to push themselves as a platform that does not only provide proactive search. They want Google Discover to be your news feed for all types of information.
There are a couple of other points to cover here. That Discover can be a large traffic source for relevant websites. Also, that it represent another chance to break into your prospects’ echo chambers.
Another traffic source
Some magazines are reporting significant percentages of search traffic from Google Discover. Conde Nast claimed a figure of 20% for U.S sites and more than half for their international editions. To give further context, that’s more traffic coming from Discover than traditional search. From our experience, we have seen news based sites with 30% of their traffic originating from Google Discover. It’s not limited to news sites either. There is a real opportunity for sites to develop it as a strong, and different, traffic source.
Breaking into the echo chamber
This is a larger subject and something that we will covering very soon. Suffice to say that Google Discover shows content that matches a user’s interests. The way that a user interacts with results (search, Youtube, Discover) will have an effect on this. As such, it does represent a form of echo chamber. If you are able to break into this echo chamber, you greatly increase your chances of appearing in your prospects’ feed. Who wouldn’t want to appear in a prospects’ feed?
If anything, it will improve your content strategy
Google Discover is going to force websites to revisit their buyer personas. It should help us develop sales funnels further, along with content strategies. Even if you don’t think Google Discover will continue to grow, treat it as an exercise. Undertake it as an opportunity to further improve your engagement across all channels.
How do you optimise for Google Discover?
We’ve set the scene. We’ve gained buy in, now let’s look at the steps we need to take if we want to increase our Google Discover visibility.
The good news is that there aren’t many items specific to Google Discover. In fact, including images that are at least 1200px wide is probably the only one. The rest should be part of your content strategy anyway! Let’s look at the basic optimisations first:
The Discover feed is specific to mobile devices. Guess what that means? Correct! Your website needs to be mobile friendly. It needs to load fast. The content needs to be laid out for mobile. We hope this one didn’t actually need explaining.
As one would expect from any type of news feed nowadays, each tile is accompanied by an image. Google displays both thumbnail images and larger images to the user. They recommend to use “large, high-quality images that are at least 1,200 px wide”. They also recommend using AMP or submit a form in their opt-in program (related to Google compressing images for search).
As publishers, we want to choose the most enticing images to increase our click through rates. Higher click through rates not only result in more traffic, but are likely to be a positive signal for the big G.
Blend of Content
It’s excusable to think that the Discover feed contains only the freshest, most up to date news. Depending on what Google perceives to be most relevant, the type of content can vary. They want to provide both the latest news, as well as content that could be of interest. In their words you’ll see “more videos and fresh visual content, as well as evergreen content”. Importantly for publishers, the distinction is whether the content is new to the user rather than new in relation to time.
We should therefore be revisiting content that could be useful for Discover. At Catchworks we always recommend regular reviews of existing published content. The data can surface opportunities or updates for only a small amount of extra effort. In addition, we should already have a blend of evergreen and time sensitive content as part of the strategy.
E-A-T & Relevance
Ever since 2018’s medic update (a.k.a E-A-T), search has been aligned with the principles of expertise, authority and trustworthiness. It stands to reason that these still stand true for Discover. Relevance will continue to be of high importance, especially for a feed looking to display interesting content.
Who are you targeting?
Of course, we should have a clear idea of our buyer personas, how they search and the information they might want. This is going to dictate key articles to create. The complexity lies in the fact that Google looks to predict what their users want. They claim that they can determine your level of knowledge and apply that to the content displayed in Discover. Pretty cool. That means that as long as we have completed our buyer research, nothing much should change. We should always be creating content that is directly relevant and of interest to our buyers.
Don’t dilly dally
We can see this being one of the biggest advantages. Websites that react to time sensitive news can get a jump on their competition through Discover. There are reports of content that does very well when linked with other events which spike interest. It makes sense because a user’s interest profile will be complex and evolve through time. Many will also be using Discover as a news feed to keep up to date with the goings-on in the world. We recommend taking advantage of this time-sensitivity. Ensure that you provide industry commentary as part of your strategy. Link in with other news stories to continue breaking into your prospects’ echo chambers.
Use the Report!
Compared with traditional search, Discover is still in its infancy. The Search Console report gives us clear data on what content is working, and what is not. As SEOs this data is important in amending our strategies based on facts, rather than gut feel. The tips listed in this article apply to all websites. Couple these with the data that you see for your specific website, industry and user base. Adapt, amend and revise accordingly.