Not only news and news sites: the Discover feed is a useful and powerful source of organic traffic for many types of sites, which must therefore know the Google tool to try to appear in the list of content shown to users. Here then is a guide to Google Discover, concise but rather complete, so to try and intercept the now famous query-less searches.

Google Discover and the query-less searches

We should know this by now: Google Discover is the new feed of personalized contents created by Google, which proactively offers relevant articles to users. This is the updated and redesigned version of the old Google Feed, which at the time of launch (in September 2018) was called “an innovative experience to help you discover fresh and interesting contents on topics that really interest you”.

Thus wrote Karen Corby, group product manager for Google Search, who also explained the three great steps forward that the tool would allow the Search system: the evolution from “simple answers to complete journeys”, “from the need to perform a query to a queryless way of obtaining information” and finally “from textual information to a more visual mode“.

The Google Discover system

Discover is available for users who use mobile devices in various forms: on the Google app, on the right screen of the home for various Android devices and opening Google.com in all mobile browsers (when you sign in to a Google account).

The feed uses artificial intelligence to adapt the content shown to the individual user to articles and information that the algorithm deems interesting for him, based on past search history, browser history and other information such as app activity and location, organizing the news in an interface based on very obvious tabs, large enough and rather attractive.

In particular, it uses two main mechanisms to determine what content to show:

  • Google News AI / ML to bring a variety of perspectives to the latest news.
  • Topic Layer in the Knowledge Graph to understand the interests of users and how they progress over time.

People can also interact with the system to report to Google if they want more or less content on that topic or if they want to avoid the appearance of specific sites, with the ability to also report articles deemed inappropriate for causes such as “misleading or sensational information, violent or repugnant, inciting to hatred, offensive and so on”.

The innovative extent of Google feed

In addition to providing the latest news, Google Discover has the broader goals of making “exploring your interests easier than ever” and, as mentioned, of shifting the focus of research, by bringing instant information and improving the understanding of more complex user journeys.

Thanks to its “endless access to information, Google is trying to filter and highlight contents for the user who wanders the Internet”, says Abby Hamilton on Searchenginejournal presenting her definitive guide to the discovery of the tool and optimizations to intercept this important source of organic traffic.

To predict and intercept user interests

In this system, which as said represents for Google the latest innovation in “query-less search“, the understanding of the individual user replaces the understanding of a single classic query. Therefore, at the center of Discover there is the user, the central focus of this experience, and all the information are used to identify and display the topics – or interests – that Google believes are relevant to him.

To better understand the interests that appear in Google Discover, the author has examined over 700 types provided by members of the SEO Community, anticipating that it is an “extraordinarily small sample size compared to all potential interests” which still allows “some remarks worthy of note”.

The most frequent interests in Google Discover

In general, it seems that the news that appears most frequently are those related to the sports and entertainment categories and activities to do in our free-time, such as hobbies or special passions. In addition to that, there is also a strong presence of brands, as almost every presentation included specific brands or local companies, offering users the contents of favorite shops and restaurants.

Not only the latest news

As we were saying, one of the goals of Google Discover is to offer new contents and, scrolling through the feed, anyone can mainly stumbles on news. However, even sites from other industries have begun to see incoming traffic from Discover through the Google Search Console reports, and this has led Hamilton to delve into this aspect (all subsequent images are from the Searchenginejournal linked article).

La media del CTR per settore di sito in Discover

So, she analyzed 12 months of Google Discover traffic to over 11 thousand Urls from 62 domains, discovering that:

  • 46% came from news sites.
  • 44% came from e-commerce sites.
  • 7% came from entertainment sites.
  • 2% came from travel sites.
  • The remaining 1% came from other sectors including B2B, automotive, school education, finance and health.

The results of the research

Very interesting are also the subsequent focus of this study. First, it turns out that news sites received 99% of the clicks (although being less than half of the tabs shown) and got much more clicks per page.

Distribuzione delle tipologie di siti in Discover

  • Discover as source of traffic so to reach a wider audience

A news domain being analyzed has seen over 30% of its total web traffic coming from Discover, while other publishers have reported that in a few months Google Discover has brought more traffic than the traditional organic search.

There could be an explanation for these data: “news contents could have been shown to a wide audience, while contents from other sectors are aimed at a smaller audience based on specific interests,” Hamilton speculates.

  • Blog posts work

For non-news sites, the remaining 1% of clicks (which however are more than 1 million in a year) have been dispersed between different types of content. Among all sectors, the most popular are blog posts, especially those extremely relevant to specific interests/ hobbies, such as hiking, makeup and nutrition.

Moreover:

  • 49% of the clicks on e-commerce sites go to product pages, which include both categories and pages with details.
  • Entertainment sees the highest percentage of clicks (16%) on pages with a video as the main content (such as cast interviews or movie trailers).
  • Special offers, mainly travel offers or hotels with limited time/availability prices, represented the largest percentage of clicks on travel sites (53%).

For non-news sites, then, it emerges that the winning contents are those strongly focused on interests, which are probably shown to a smaller but more targeted audience.

  • The traffic in Discover generally has a shorter life

In line with Discover’s focus on the offer of fresh contents, most of the studio’s Urls received traffic only for 3-4 days, with a peak that occurred 1-2 days after publication.

However, some older and evergreen-like contents have been able to achieve longer-term traffic (up to 183 days), meeting the interests of new or evolving users. The author points out that, in her personal experience, when she saw tabs with evergreen contents in her personal Discover feed she had “searched on Google similar topics two or three days before”.

Il traffico di un evergreen in Discover

  • Users click on Discover contents

One of the first things that emerges from the data on Google Discover is the high click rate (CTR) for all pages analyzed, which reaches 11%; excluding news sites, the average CTR drops to 6%, a value however very interesting.

La media del CTR in Google Discover

Looking at the performance of the same 62 domains in the traditional Search system, the CTR drops to 4%, but there are some aspects to consider: “numbers cannot be compared directly because the CTR is calculated as clicks divided by impressions equal CTR, while impressions in Discover are measured differently than traditional search”.

Specifically, as the Google guide reminds us:

  • The URL of a link records an impression when it appears in a search result of a user, who opens the page containing this result (even if the result is not made visible on the page by scrolling).
  • In Discover, an impression is counted only when the user scrolls a tab to view it, and is assigned to the URL of the source page.

So, ultimately, we know that Google Discover pages record higher click rates than traditional search, but also that this may be the result of the difference in the way impressions are measured, rather than a difference in user behavior.

How to connect to users through Discover

The conceptual difference of the tool therefore imposes to who manages a site and intends to intercept this traffic to take a step forward to understand what users want. In traditional search, queries serve as a connection point between the search intent – the concrete and immediate need of a person – and the relevant content (for instance, the user is hungry, looks for [food near me] and Google shows restaurants nearby).

Google Discover shows content before a user’s need occurs, “fuelled by the strength of the correspondence between the content of an article and interests”, as Big G always says. Without the keyword research and reports on queries, the traditional content creation process is limited, but there are still ways to increase your chances of appearing in Discover.

To have a mobile friendly site

Google Discover is only accessible on mobile devices, so having a mobile friendly site is practically a minimum requirement in order to hope to enter the feed: so always check the Google Search Console Mobile Usability Report to make sure there are no errors.

Focusing contents on the entities

Interests are entities, objects or concepts that can be uniquely identified and that cover any aspect, such as hobbies, niche activities, brands, people or companies.

The SEOZoom Knowledge Graph Search tool can be very useful in this sense, as it allows you to discover the entities recognized by Google and the relationships between them, so to understand which entities are associated with our brand, industry, products and then find potential connection points with our users.

Creating quality contents

As we have already said on other occasions, the SEO path for Discover is always the same: creating quality contents that are relevant, useful and above all interesting for the predicted target group.

Apart from the “search volume” and SEO tactics, we can write a little freer contents, deepening the points of connection identified and creating texts that can really intrigue users and entice them to read.

In the article it is recommend, for instance, to identify intersections and relationships between topics (like, “home training tips” rather than “best restaurants near…”), trying to associate the content to current events.

Entering high-quality images

We already talked about the images in Discover, too, remembering how in this case really – and almost literally – works the saying that goes “a photo is worth a thousand words“. The best way to get a boost on the feed is to use large and high quality images, with a width of at least 1,200 pixels, and the results are concrete: according to Google, who optimizes in this way its content gets a 5% increase in the percentage of clicks.

Setting up a video strategy

Lastly, we should not overlook the impact of videos, which have a huge presence in Discover in line with Google’s goal of providing more visual ways of finding information.
In the Hamilton’s research, videos accounted for only 17% of the contents, but the analysis does not include data for Youtube, which hosts most of the videos that appear in Google Discover. This factor may be difficult to measure, but creating eye-catching videos and optimizing the Youtube channel could help increase our brand’s presence in Discover and also in traditional research, since 19% of desktop search results include video carousels and 92% of these videos come from Youtube.

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