Marketers near and far are asking, what is Google Discover and how can I optimize for it? Google Discover optimization aligns itself with some similar SEO best practices, but it also runs counter to a number of them. So what is Google Discover? How can you optimize your site to win at Discover traffic?
About Google Discover
Even when you aren’t searching, Google says you are. That probably feels a touch unsettling given the current data privacy environment stoking the flames of Congress, but we can get that all cleared up (not DOJ privacy investigations, rather, Google Discover).
Google Discover is a Google content feed found on Android devices. It was originally called Google Feed.
It supplies users with relevant content through an app. You notice the use of “content feed,” not “news feed,” to distinguish that the platform supports more than just trending news. That’s relevant because many people assume that Discover is just for news. Evergreen content is content that doesn’t need to be new, rather, it lives on as useful beyond the date it’s produced.
Google Discover – The New Big Thing For Publishers?
Many site owners curiously report mysterious googleapis.com referrals, that’s actually Google Discover traffic. Wait, this MIGHT be Discover traffic (more on that later).
Maybe you think you are getting Google Discover traffic. Maybe you know you are. This might be the reason you searched for how to SEO for that platform. Because your googleapis.com referrals have you stymied, you’re now looking for a way to improve and evolve your site’s content accordingly.
We can get to all of that, but first, let’s get to the brass tacks.
What Is Google Discover?
The Google Discover example above nicely illustrates the concept. For now, it remains an app on Android devices, but soon, it will work on all Google Mobile browsers. In other words, this is expanding and that means its referral traffic will become more and more important to content marketers.
The app currently displays content cards.
So, why is Discover “search without searching?”
That’s because users of this platform don’t search, the content is instead recommended to them based on browser history, AI learning, and marked interests. So you don’t search on Discover, rather you discover content preselected for your taste.
There are roughly 800 million people “discovering” search to date.
Make no mistake about it, publishers need to get to know Discover from Google. It’s here to stay.
And if you don’t, you’ll be missing out.
How Can You Optimize Your Site For Google Discover SEO
Now the meat and potatoes – how do you optimize your site for Google Discover.
The introduction of Discover into SEO isn’t dramatic, but it’s relevant to strategy. As a base strategy, nothing should change in your current traditional SEO strategy. BTW, here’s a great list of over 40 powerful SEO tools from our friends at 10Web if you feel like you need something new to add to your arsenal.
The same way you optimize for search query traffic is the same way your content will get “Discovered.” If your content has trouble ranking in traditional Google search, it is likely to have trouble ranking in Discover.
So then what’s left?
Google Discover SEO Checklist
Here’s a simple to remember Google Discover SEO optimization checklist (you can scroll to the illustration if you prefer prettier checklists).
Create Impactful Content – Does your content engage? Is it timely? If it isn’t timely, is it an evergreen piece that engages? Would someone want to share your content? Straight up, your content needs to engage users. People should find your content interesting and shareable. If they don’t, it isn’t likely that Discover will determine it to be a relatable piece for a specific user set. Remember, Discover isn’t a top listing of content, rather, it list content on a per user basis.
Create Trending or Evergreen Content – Your content marketing strategy can be one, or both, of these two content types. However, trending content remains the ruler of the roost. Discover is doing its best to not pigeon hole it’s algorithm to just trending news. However, a good idea is to create evergreen content that’s supported by relevant trending news.
Who Wrote Your Content? – If your answer is a fake author or a nameless author, you’re probably doomed with Discover. Much like a traditional search, Google aims to foster an environment of trust between search and user. Anonymous authors signal untrustworthy content.
How Interactive Is Your Content? – Are people sharing and commenting and liking your content? Google needs to get signals from users regarding which content they like, and don’t like. High-quality content tends to engage users, which often results in more sharing and liking. You might consider boosting Facebook posts to help increase user engagement. Additionally, leverage email marketing as a way to increase content engagement.
Here’s a Google Discover Infographic that’s easy to remember.
In the end, promote your content.
Google Discover vs. Google News
Some site owners jump to the conclusion that Discover is the highway fast track to getting into Google News. At first glance, this seems like a reasonable conclusion. At second glance, it feels like fake news.
The answer is somewhere in between.
Google Discover’s content optimization instructions, located here, cite that “your pages are eligible to appear in Discover cards simply if they are indexed by Google and meet Google News content policies.
The verbiage leads many to believe that if they are getting Discover traffic, they are eligible for Google News. Although the verbiage seems to imply such, the fact is, there is no supporting evidence of this connection. In fact, we’ve known a number of sites experiencing Discover traffic that got denied by Google News.
So we aren’t sure what to make of things. Maybe it’s best to view Google Discover as a step towards Google News, rather than a confirmation.
Google Discover Search Console Addition
To help you optimize for Discover, Google Search Console added a section for it. You can find the Search Console Discover link on your left menu.
After you click on it, you’ll see the same type of content you see in regular Search Console. You’ll see total Discover clicks, impressions, and the average CTR. You’ll view a clicks timeline, along with the pages receiving the clicks and the countries those clicks derive from.
Don’t expect anything mindblowing. The big takeaway is learning which site content is garnering Discover clicks. This helps you learn what Google Discover picks up, and what it doesn’t. This isn’t an exact science, so take it all with a grain of salt.
Discover CTR Is Higher Than Traditional Search
In terms of what to expect from Google Discover search stats, you likely can expect the CTR to be more inflated. You might expect three times higher CTRs. This, of course, depends on your content. But overall, CTRs seem to be higher on Discover than they are on traditional Google search.
Googleapis.com Referral Traffic – The Ongoing Mystery
Google doesn’t tell anyone what Discover traffic referral links are. We aren’t sure they are protecting a coveted secret as much as they just don’t care to mention it. But using some super sleuth digital marketing detective work, we’ve discerned it is possibly coming from Googleapis.com. The traffic used to come from discover.google.com, but it seems Google switched it to Googleapis.com sometime in late 2018.
Or did they?
It’s important to note that IF Googleapis.com is Google Discover’s referring URL, it doesn’t account for only (or all) Discover traffic. It accounts for “Articles for you” recommended content on Chrome browsers, which isn’t exactly the same as Discover. It also seems to not account for all Discover traffic. In other words, it is likely that Discover has a different referral as well.
There is a lot of chatter online linking Googleapis.com to Discover, but that seems like a messy conclusion.
For example, when I use Google Search Console to view a specific article’s clicks from Discover traffic, I see 128 total clicks. When I match the time period with Google Analytics for the same article, I see 2 Googleapis.com referrals. And things get trickier from there, Google Console displays 36 hits under Pages, but 128 total clicks in the overview for the single page. There are not other URLs listed. The disparity between Console and Analytics is confounding.
Adam Roth’s article featured above gives away free data studio templates. It made it into Google Discover, that much we know. It’s a top-ranking article on Google Search. But how much traffic did it receive from Discover? That depends on if you ask Console or Google Analytics. Google Analytics shows only a couple of referrals in the same time period for that article. The article, as a whole, gets a lot of traffic.
It should be mentioned, Google Discover often comes in as a rush of traffic. The traffic spikes then decline over time. It isn’t the same as having a high-volume top keyword ranking for evergreen content. That’s why you see the quick surge of clicks on the article.
Google Discover is a platform that helps users discover relevant content without the act of searching. Publishers who desire Discover traffic, or an increase in Discover traffic, need to create impactful, readable content. Google Discover now has a tab inside of Google Search console. But Discover stats between Google Analytics and Google Search Console seem to be in infancy and unreliable for publishers.
Create great content, fly statistically blind, and hope for the best seems to be just what the doctor ordered.