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So your boss wants you to "optimise" Google Discover?
Send them this.
Being asked to optimise content for Google Discover is like being asked to make something go viral (remember those days? You’d rather not? Fair). Below is a quick guide you can whip out the next time you’re asked about Discover. Plus, a few things I’ve been reading.
What is Google Discover?
It’s the thing your boss keeps asking you about.
Google Discover is a super personalised feed of stories and videos based on browsing and search history. This content is surfaced in Chrome, in the Google app on iOS and Android, and lives left-of-home on Pixels (a bit like Apple News on iPhones).
Discover can also bring a big audience, anything from a few thousand views to hundreds of thousands. Let’s get into it.
BTW: my boss is great and has never asked me to “optimise”, “juice” or “leverage” Discover.
Can you optimise for Discover?
Bad news for your boss: not really, no. Personalisation in such a big factor in determining which content is surfaced that traditional SEO techniques don’t carry much weight. Plus, Google is open about Discover being unpredictable:
Given the serendipitous nature of Discover, traffic from Discover is less predictable or dependable when compared to Search, and is considered supplemental to your Search traffic. [Google]
One thing you can do is ensure pieces have large, high quality and compelling images as Discover is a very visual place. But you probably do that already!
» For geekier tips, watch this Whiteboard Friday episode from the Moz team.
Which stories work on Discover?
Discover isn’t the place for hard or breaking news. It’s much more likely to surface lifestyle and entertainment coverage, like recipes, home improvement guides, analysis of hot TV shows, that sort of thing.
Sometimes, newsier entertainment stories have risen to the top. When I was at HuffPost, day-two reads on Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing With The Stars for US readers) or daytime TV moments would appear in Discover but these tended to be stories in reaction to the news rather than the news itself.
SEO pro Lily Ray dug deeper on this recently and summarised her findings in a Twitter thread. In short, she found that content with headlines that start with question words (the classic who, what, where, when pieces which are usually newsier in nature) tend to perform better in traditional search results, while headlines that are statements perform better in Discover.
» For more detail, see Google’s content policies for Discover.
What’s the deal with Discover and TikTok?
I have a theory about viral TikToks and Discover traffic (which I touched on in last week’s edition). It is just a theory though and I don’t have enough data to know for certain if there’s a link. It goes like this:
A publisher’s TikTok gets a few hundred thousand views. Happy days! The content of the video is based on an article from the publisher’s website. The video script, title and caption are all adapted from the article.
Two days later, Discover starts sending readers to the source article. Discover traffic rockets and this spike lasts for around two days. Then it’s back to normal.
I’ve seen this happen on at least three occasions. What’s causing this? Discover recommendations are based on browsing and search history, so it’s possible Google is using social media viewing habits to inform curation.
How do I track Discover content?
Google Search Console is your friend. Use it to see clicks, impressions and click-through rates for all of your content. If you see funny spikes in traffic but can’t pinpoint them, chances are it’s Discover.
In the news
Alexa Heinrich created an excellent guide on making social media content more accessible. Everyone should be able to enjoy the web!
On that note…I’ve been reading the excellent Internet For The People by Ben Tarnoff.
I’m reading a lot about AI right now, partly for work, partly for fun, including this report by Felix Simon and Luisa Fernanda Isaza-Ibarra on what AI is doing to news.
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