When optimising content and webpages for SEO, you may not have considered how your stratagems could tie neatly into Google’s other search entities, such as rich snippets and news feeds.
Publishing mobile-optimised content that provides important insights can boost your traditional rankings, but did you know that it can also increase the likelihood of being front and centre in Google Discover?
What is Discover?
Google Discover is a personalised content feed available to users on mobile via the Google app and the Google.com website.
Google launched the ‘Google feed’ in 2017, before rebranding it as ‘Discover’ a year later. At that point, it noted that 800 million people were making use of the feed every single month. With the rise of content consumption on smartphones since then, it is fair to say that the number in late 2020 is considerably higher.
The Discover feed is yet another aspect of Google’s ongoing effort to “surface relevant content” to users, but this time in the context of them not even having to search for it. The pages that show up in this feed are personalised, based on a user’s interests and online activity.
What content is eligible for Discover?
Google says that any content that has been indexed and complies with Discover’s policies is eligible to appear in the news feed. No additional tags or structured data need to be implemented.
Similar to search, the best way to appear in Discover is to publish “outstanding and engaging content” that users find “interesting”. With this in mind, Google has outlined a few best practices.
It advises brands to serve up timely content that aligns with current interests or provides unique insights, includes high-quality images within the text, and has a title that accurately captures the “essence of the content”. Google also warns against any tactics that could mislead readers.
How does Google generate the feed?
Google uses a variety of different data sets to generate and populate the Discover feed for users. This data includes location history, followed topics and general activity across Google products, which includes search and YouTube history.
Google even goes as far as to weigh how important a topic is to a user and their level of expertise within that topic or niche to create a truly unique, personalised feed.
Can I drive traffic to Discover?
Chasing clicks through Discover is likely to be a fruitless exercise as it is incredibly difficult to predict how an article or blog will perform in the feed. Some pieces can see a short spike in activity, while others can gain traction over a longer period.
Analytics is also in short supply, with only limited data available in Google Search Console. This means that unless your search strategies are ‘mature’ and you have considerable time and resources available, optimising for standard organic traffic is the best route.
Fortunately, many of the best practices for organic traffic in search overlap with high visibility in Discover. You might find that you only need to update or tweak a few of your processes to give your content a better chance of being surfaced in the feed.
The Discover section is another aspect of search that is directly linked to the quality of your mobile site. SEO expert John Shehata estimates that almost two-thirds of content that appears in Discover uses Google’s mobile-optimised AMP framework.
Mobile-readiness is something that you should already be focusing on for general search, especially with the launch of Google’s mobile-first index and the arrival of new page experience signals in 2021. Discover should give you another incentive to make the necessary changes.
Include high-quality images
Google recommends using high-quality images in its own guidance. Images are important in Discover as they catch the eye of users within feeds and can lead to more clicks and engagement.
This means that any images you use should have a minimum 1200px width and be supported by optimised schema image markup. The latter provides Google with important information and context about the image.
Post the right content
Creating the right content is slightly different for Discover as it is skewed towards current events and trending stories. If you load up the Discover feed on your smartphone right now, you will probably see a large number of news articles.
However, this does not mean that other forms of content cannot thrive in this environment. For example, ‘evergreen’ content that provides value and insights to readers months or even years after its initial publication can still generate a large number of clicks in Discover.
As mentioned before, it can be very difficult to predict whether a post will be surfaced in Discover and how it will perform. However, Google says that the best chance of being featured is by providing unique insights. You can do this by creating a comprehensive and compelling blog or article.
Build your E-A-T
Another factor that pops up in Google’s own recommendations for Discover is E-A-T, which is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Google says that pages that are able to demonstrate E-A-T are surfaced in Discover by its automated systems.
Again, there is a crossover between the principles for E-A-T in both search and Discover, so working on this is in your general best interests for SEO. You can improve E-A-T by becoming the ‘go-to’ source for industry or product-related information, publishing content with a high level of expertise, and by being open, honest and transparent.
Content that you have published might not show up immediately in Discover, but don’t lose hope as a refresh or update could be the trigger for a rise in clicks and impressions. Going back to a blog and adding in more relevant insights is something that is worthwhile when attempting to drive traffic and improve rankings in traditional search, and it can also pay off in Discover.
Consider distribution channels
Sites that have performed well in Discover have often found that there is a strong link with engagement levels on social media. By improving the scale of your distribution channels and generating a ‘buzz’ around your content on social channels, you could increase the chances of making it into the Discover feed.
To conclude, targeting Discover for clicks with a dedicated plan is probably not a worthwhile use of time and investment, but by aligning traditional search practices with this popular mobile-curated news feed, you could potentially increase the visibility of your content and drive clicks to your pages.