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Why Your Brand Cannot Ignore Google Discover
If your business has any sort of online web presence, you know just how important Google is to your brand. You know that SEO is essential and that showing up at the top of search results is a game-changer for your business. Doing what you can to rank higher on the Google search results page is (or at least should be) a top priority for businesses, big and small.
What you may not know as much about is Google Discover. Never heard of it? Take out your phone and type Google.com into your browser. When that comes up, below the search bar you should see a feed of links and news stories tailored to your interests and based on your search history and other personal factors. That is Google Discover.
The Discover feature from Google is something that is much less well-known than many of the other features that Google offers, but it is a growing feature that savvy businesses and brands are already using to their advantage. Here, we’ll discuss what Google Discover is, why you should care about it, and how to optimize your content for Google Discover.
A Quick Primer on Google Discover
Google Discover is a relatively new and largely unknown feature that Google offers. It is growing in importance though, so it is worth learning about to see how it can benefit your brand. Here are the basics of what you need to know about Google Discover.
History of Google Discover
Google has long looked for ways to optimize the mobile experience and leverage all the information it collects from users’ devices to create a better, more engaging experience. This quest for an engaging and useful mobile-centric user experience started back in 2012 with the introduction of Google Now. This system took info from your phone and put it on cards that you could scroll through. It gave users information like important Google calendar dates, package tracking info, travel itineraries, and more.
In 2016, Google shifted this feature towards their virtual assistant platforms and replaced it with a new but similar feature known as Google Feed. This feed focused less on personal details and more on personalized news and website recommendations based on the information Google gleaned through search history and sites visited. Google Feed was optimized for mobile devices and created as a smart feed that shifted its recommendations with users’ evolving interests.
Over the course of the next few years, Google tweaked the algorithm that delivered the feed as well as the aesthetics of the feed. In September of 2018, Google rebranded and launched what is now known as Google Discover. This visual-heavy feed is a feature that Google is now working on monetizing and sees as a future competitor of the social media giants.
Importance of Mobile
The key thing to understand about Google Discover is that it is a mobile device-only feature. It is not available on desktop or laptop computers. It is available primarily on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. This is important to understand because, while it may seem limiting, it is actually a smart play by the search giant because of the massive growth of mobile search.
Google thoroughly dominates the overall search market, accounting for well over 90% of all organic search traffic. Therefore, it is no surprise that Google also dominates mobile search, which has been steadily growing over the course of the last few years.
One reason for this is the rise in smartphone and tablet usage. In the last four years alone, 30 million more Americans have become mobile search users. That trend will only continue in the coming years.
Users' search activity is also shifting away from desktops to phones and other mobile devices. As of 2016, more than 50% of all Google searches came from mobile devices, making them the most prominent searching devices.
In addition to searching, mobile devices are also used a great deal for social media. In recent years, with the rise of platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, social media has shifted to become a very visual medium. Google Discover is a feature that Google believes can eventually compete with social media platforms, where more and more people are getting their news from, in the future.
When you look at Google Discover, you will notice that while the links it provides function as a traditional news feed, the big, bold pictures that accompany each story are eye-catching. It mimics the look and feels of social media feeds more than traditional news feeds and is meant to be scrolled as such.
The similarity to social media feeds, in the form of an emphasis on visuals, is very important. Google wants to mimic the look and feel of a social media feed, not just the functionality. They are trying to create the habit of endless scrolling through Google just like people do on social media platforms. To do this, the visuals need to be there.
Algorithm drives content
The content shown to users on the Google Discover feed is based on an algorithm. The updating and streamlining of this algorithm is a big reason for the rebranding from Google Feed to Google Discover. As is true for all of its algorithms, Google does not release the exact data that goes into this algorithm and how that data is weighed, but the general idea is that the algorithm uses search info to provide stories related to topics the user is already interested in.
In addition to search history, the algorithm also takes into account things like location data to provide the best-personalized stories for the user. The goal is to provide “evergreen” content which means content that is new to the user (hence being DISCOVERable) but not new to the internet (and has proven to be of interest to others). This is also a dynamic feed, so searches on topics that take place more recently and more often get moved to the top.
This means that news and interesting links related to your favorite sports teams, TV shows and movies, businesses, and other topics – everything from woodworking to politics – will show up in your feed. If you have been googling things because you are planning a trip to say, Spain, Google Discover will add that to your feed as well.
Why care about Google Discover?
There are a million features, feeds, and platforms out there that you can leverage to help promote your brand. Why is Google Discover one you should pay attention to? Here are a few reasons why, in 2020, it makes sense to start paying more attention to Google Discover.
Boosts Organic Traffic
Many people ignore Google Discover, but those who don’t get a big reward in the form of an increase in organic traffic. Organic traffic is the opposite of paid traffic. It is the measurement of unique visitors you get to come to your website without the use of paid ads. In the world of online marketing, whether you do B2B or B2C marketing, organic traffic is gold.
When you produce content that shows up in people’s Google Discover feed, you are getting a tacit endorsement from a trusted source. People trust Google almost implicitly, so when your brand’s content shows up for a user in a curated feed such as Google Discover, your content, site, and brand are automatically thought to be trustworthy by users.
Placement in the Google Discover feed also works as a targeted social media ad for your brand but increases organic traffic instead of being paid traffic. The Google Discover algorithm will place your content in the feed of users who are already known to be interested in who you are and what you do.
This will help your brand attract organic traffic that will develop stronger brand loyalty, come with more purchase intent, or be more willing to share your content with other, like-minded users to increase organic traffic even more. Google Discover can offer an exponential organic traffic effect when used properly.
In the world of internet searching, there are two types of feeds. There are query feeds and queryless feeds. A query feed is something you are very familiar with and that you probably think of most when you think of Google. This type of feed is where you search for something by typing in a query (or question) and you get a feed of the results. For example, when you type in “bagel shops near me” or “NFL news” to Google, you get a feed of links that relate to your search.
A queryless search is something you probably associate more with social media. It is a much more passive experience. For example, a platform like Facebook has a news feed that you can scroll through. On this feed, you will see stories, links, and posts that an algorithm has decided you would most like to see. This is based on your actions and interactions on the platform.
Google is the undisputed king of query searches but with Google Discover, Google is hoping to provide what they are best at – connecting users with the useful information they want to see – in a way that will be more automatic, engrossing, and less effortful, exactly the ways people scroll through their social media feeds.
Although they dominate one type of feed, Google is not showing signs of shying away from this type of queryless feed. So, get used to it. Not only is Google leaning into this style of feed but other tech companies are as well. Microsoft, for example, is another tech giant that is also pursuing queryless search in a big way these days.
Creating a Feedback Loop
A feedback loop can be thought of as the gift that keeps on giving. When brands optimize their content so that they show up in users’ Google Discover feed, they are boosting organic traffic that is made up of users who are predisposed to be interested in your brand (as discussed above).
Once you have attracted these users to your site, the next step is to keep them engaged. By finding ways to keep your Google Discover traffic engaged, you initiate a feedback loop. This happens as Google Discover detects the engagement of consumers who visit your site via their Discover feed. When Google Discover detects this, it will put more of your content on the user’s Discover feed. This is when the feedback loop is created.
Google Discover’s main goal is to help users “discover” sites, information, stories, and brands that they like. If the algorithm sees engagement, meaning a user commenting on a story, answering a poll, clicking on to other stories, or making a purchase, then they will see your content as content the user deems valuable. This creates a feedback loop.
Creating a feedback loop is important because it helps create a stronger brand with new loyal customers. It helps you acquire new consumers organically, without costing you money, and ups your credibility with pre-qualified consumers. It is a big win for your brand that will happen on its own once you start using Google Discover in the right ways.
How to Optimize Your Content for Google Discover
Hopefully, by now, you are convinced that using Google Discover can be positive for your brand for all the reasons listed above. But how do you get on Google Discover so it can start working for you? Here we will go through some of the best ways to optimize your content for Google Discover.
Google Discover, like Google itself, has a stated goal that they want to provide the highest quality, most useful information to users. They want to give the user exactly what they want, whether they search for it specifically or not.
Because of this, to optimize your content for Google you need to produce high-quality content that also passes Google News guidelines. You will not get on users’ Google Discover feed with clickbait or shock factor articles. In fact, Google explicitly warns against doing this.
The Google Discover support page explicitly tells brands hoping to get onto the feed, “Our automated systems surface content in Discover from sites that have many individual pages that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T).”
That EAT acronym is one of the top things to keep in mind when creating content for Google Discover. Your content must be plentiful and it must be top-notch. It also means that getting on Google Discover is not something you can do overnight. It takes a consistent, concentrated effort in order to create the volume and quality of content needed for Google Discover to pick up your content.
Give it a visual element
One of the key elements of Google Discover (as discussed above) is the visual aspect. The query search feeds that Google so thoroughly dominates are simple. They are blue text with a standard black description underneath. Google can get away with this on their standard search page because they dominate the market so completely, and with a query search, because you already know what you are looking for, you don’t need anything extra to convince you that you should click on something.
Google Discover’s queryless search feed is not competing with Bing or DuckDuckGo; it’s competing with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. To do this, the feed offers big, bold visuals such as high-quality photos or engaging video stills. It is meant to mimic the social media feeds that are so popular today.
Adding a visual component to your content is the only way to get on the Google Discover feed. Google has launched many features meant to compete with social media over the years, most of which have failed. This incarnation, where they focus on mobile and are latching onto the visual news feed element, is an attempt that looks like it may have a chance for success and the visual piece is huge for that. Your content needs to match this Google mandate.
Make it relevant content
The content needs to be high quality (think EAT) and visual but it also needs to be relevant. Relevant is an interesting word in this case because it can mean two different things. To be picked up by Google Discover, content can be relevant at the moment or it can be relevant evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that stays relevant for a relatively long time and will be useful to users’ weeks, months, or even years after it is published.
Content that is relevant at the moment usually speaks to search trends or current events. Creating this type of in-the-moment relevant content is a very good way to get picked up by Google Discover. You can ride the waves of trends within your larger topic or industry and get rewarded. However, this content can be time-sensitive and requires constant updating and staying ahead of the curve.
But Google Discovery enables brands to get more return on their effort because high-quality evergreen content also shows up in the feed. So, if you can produce content such as a “Guide to the Best Chicago Restaurants,” this content will show up for a long period of time. It will show up when you first publish it for Chicagoans interested in eating out, and it can still show up months later for a user who has just arrived in the city and loves to eat out. Evergreen content is great for Google Discover and will continue to reward your brand long after you publish it.
The last trick to optimize your content for Google Discover is to create content that promotes engagement. This is how you can get ahead of the competition. Google Discover looks at a previous engagement to drive future engagement. We mentioned this above while discussing feedback loops. Engaging content is the best way to signal to Google that users are getting what they want and need from your content.
When you are able to find ways to keep your readers engaged, your brand will benefit from a snowballing effect as Discover recommends your content to them more often. This feedback loop will take consumers who have never heard of your brand and turn them into customers and even ambassadors very quickly. It is the type of thing that brands pay thousands of dollars for with paid advertisements.
To create content that promotes engagement, there are a few things you can do. You can make the content shareable so that people send it to friends or post it on social media. You can also enable comments so people can join the conversation. Your content can include lists and facts with links that people can click on to learn more. It can also include a call to action at the end so that the user does something engaging, like provide their email address or buy something.
No matter what engagement style (or styles) you use, the key is to get the user to engage at all costs. This will start the feedback loop and before you know it, Google Discover will be doing your marketing and brand building for you.
This is what Google Discover is, how it can help you, and what you can do to use this (relatively) new and exciting feature to benefit your brand. The best part is, the tweaks and changes you need to make to your content to help get you listed on Google Discover are not that different from normal SEO best practice. This means that they should not be impossible or even all that difficult, for you to implement.
And, when you are able to implement these content changes, it will help you attract the golden goose of digital marketing, organic traffic. This organic traffic, that Google has prequalified for you and lends its trusted reputation to, will help your brand gain, loyal customers, through repeat engagement. This repeat engagement will help you build a stronger brand and, ultimately, make more profit. All of this can come from just sitting up and noticing how Google Discover can benefit your brand.