What Is Google Discover & How Can You Optimize For It?
To talk about Google Discover, we’ve got to first backtrack to 2012 when Google launched the first iteration of the concept, Google Now. The feature was part of the Google Search app, initially available for Android and then available for iOS devices in 2013. Ultimately, the goal of Google Now was to present end-users (like you) with relevant information — like sports news, entertainment news, and so on — through voice assistant and a series of swipeable cards. No search required.
For example, if you’ve been planning a trip to Switzerland, you might see articles about the best hikes nearby or places to visit. The feed would also deliver news updates, information about packages you ordered, traffic updates, sports scores, and anything else you might find interesting.
In December of 2016, Google announced that Google Now would be updating to provide a better experience for users. It would be split into two sections — the Feed, which would deliver news and other relevant content, and Updates, offering more personal information like flight details, appointment reminders, and more.
The Feed (a.k.a. Google Discover)
The driving idea behind splitting the two was to make it easier for users to find interesting content and personal information in clearly defined places. In both cases, the more you use Google and the more it learns about you, the better your experience will be. You can also customize your interests in the Google App’s settings menu to help it get there faster!
Fast-forward to today, and the “Feed” is called Google Discover.
What do users think of Discover?
While Google makes it fairly easy for people to submit feedback on what they like and don’t like (for example: by asking if notifications are helpful or if they shouldn’t be shown again), some haven’t found a great deal of benefit from it yet.
Here are some issues we’ve come across:
- If Discover learns that you’re searching for a product — like a camera, for example — it could later serve you a review that was dated from four years ago. This could benefit websites (by driving traffic), but it’s not helpful for someone looking for the latest information. (Update your evergreen content! We’ll get to that later.)
- If someone searches for a topic as a one-off, they might start seeing more content around the topic, even though they’re no longer interested. If you’re not a person who’s eager to update their interests in the Google App settings, it might take a while for Discover to get the hint.
- That brings us to settings customization in general. If you’re not the type of person to set up your interests from the start, it will likely take a long time for Discover to serve up information that’s relevant and interesting to you.
- Plus, since people are always changing, Discover may only work best if you update your interests from time to time. Otherwise, it will serve up information that the old you liked (kind of like if your Grandma buys you a gift that you’ve totally grown out of!).
While Discover may still be a work in progress (and some still prefer channels like Twitter, Reddit, etc. for their “feeds”), people are using it. And since the Google App will send notifications about content directly to users, you should definitely be thinking about how to get in on the action.
But, can you even optimize for it?
In some cases, Google Discover can drive even more traffic than Google Search. For example, some publishers are reporting a spike in traffic from Discover. Since Discover helps build familiarity and habit by learning from a user’s search history and interactions, a concern is that the big players will win out while the little guys suffer. On the other hand, if you learn about a less popular site through traditional Google Search, this should influence Discover to feed you similar content and sites. We can only hope!
So, let’s talk about how you can optimize your site — whether big or small — for Discover. While SEO doesn’t play as big of a role for Discover as it would for traditional search, many of the rules still apply. Essentially, if you’re optimized for Search, you should be on the right track to being discovered, too!
Let’s take a look at the best practices for showing up in Discover.
1. Create content that’s interesting and useful
Google Discover doesn’t just serve up current content, it serves content that’s interesting to people. That means you can benefit from both the new and older content on your site. While people may be learning about the latest in entertainment news, they’re also developing new hobbies, learning about new places, and more — all topics that they may be just now be discovering.
While the point of evergreen content is to last, you’ll want to be sure to revisit your evergreen pieces to make sure they’re still relevant. It could be especially useful for your team to keep track of your evergreen pages in Botify. You can do so by creating a segment (or “rule”). This allows you to easily see crawl, keywords, or log data for your evergreen pages specifically. This can help you uncover issues that may be affecting these pages and make the relevant changes.
2. Make sure your pages are trustworthy
Make sure that your site and its content is trustworthy. To start, you should consider making your site secure by switching to HTTPS (if you haven’t already). Not having HTTPS in your URLs could be a red flag to your visitors, and Google confirmed that HTTPS is a ranking signal. Furthermore, if you have any content on your pages that isn’t secure (like an image file that’s HTTP), Google might still consider your page insecure, which could negatively affect your page’s ranking.
On the content side, you should make sure to include bylines (even better if your visitors can click through and read about the author), dates, contact information, links to your social media channels, links to information about the publication (i.e. an “About Us” page), and more to boost your site’s credibility — giving the reader a clear understanding of what your site is and where the information comes from. Check out the “Page quality rating” and “E-A-T” sections of Google’s quality rater guidelines for more information.
3. Use high-quality images and video
Pages with high-quality images or video perform better in Discover. Not only is Discover serving up single images and videos, but they’re also prioritizing pages where the image is directly tied to the content. Make sure your images are compressed, at least 1,200 px wide, and have a descriptive file name and alt text attribution. It’s also a good idea to include a relevant caption to help visitors (and Google!) understand the image or video’s meaning.
4. Get your pages indexed
This might sound like a no-brainer, but getting your pages indexed is an important step for showing up in Discover. That means making sure Google can crawl your most important pages (Optimize your crawl budget!) and considering what users would find most interesting. It’s not just about what’s current but also about evergreen topics that would be useful for people exploring new hobbies and interests.
For example, that article on the best tripods for travel enthusiasts might be great for travel-interested people on Google Discover, so make sure to check off basic tasks like making sure the page is in your XML sitemap and that other pages link to it. You can find tips on making sure search engines are indexing your most important content in our post on “Getting Your Pages Crawled, Rendered, and Indexed.”
Speaking of indexing, we’re excited to share that we’ll be making it easier than ever to index your newest, most critical pages through FastIndex (the first solution within Botify Activation). More to come on that!
5. Get someone to interact with your content
In general, a person is likely to get content from your site in Discover if they’ve previously interacted with your site in some way. Use all your marketing channels to reach and engage your audience, and they’ll be much more likely to see your content in Discover. You can do so through general SEO, paid advertising, newsletter campaigns, social media, etc. Initiate the interaction, and hope for the best!
Tracking Discover performance data
As of April, 2019, you can learn about your site’s Discover performance data in Google Search Console, which retrieves data from as far back as March 2019. In the report, you’ll find information about how often your site is showing up in Discover, how much traffic you’re getting from it, how your content is performing in comparison to traditional search, and what’s performing best.
Discover performance data in Google Search Console
Help your potential visitors find you!
Google Discover has grown up a lot! It’s refined its content cards and personalization cards, changed names quite a few times, and implemented better intelligence. Especially with the recent BERT update, content should be getting more relevant than ever before.
So, while not everyone is using Discover, it’s worth it to consider the best practices we’ve mentioned to improve your likelihood of showing up in Discover and boost your SEO. It’s a win-win!