Are you ready for Google Discover?
Google’s answer to social media feeds just got a major makeover, and it could have an impact on how people search.
In this article, I’ll go over the in’s and out’s of Google Discover and how brands can optimize their content for the feed.
The Origins: Google Feed
In simplest terms, Discover is Google’s take on a social media feed.
In fact, until a few months ago, Discover was actually called Google Feed.
Google launched its Feed feature back in December 2016 as a collection of cards meant to help users stay updated on the stories that mattered most to them.
So, think of it as a social media feed, except instead of following users, you’re following interests: music, entertainment, sports, marketing, animals, etc.
The Feed helped fulfill one of Google’s biggest goals: to help users search easily, even if they don’t know exactly what it is they’re searching for.
See, the Feed marked a big departure for Google.
Traditionally, Google and its SERPS act on a search query basis: a user enters in a query, and Google returns the most relevant results.
Google Feed, on the other hand, was built to give you information before you even search for it. As Google put it, the Feed would make it “easier than ever to discover, explore and stay connected to what matters to you—even when you don’t have a query in mind.”
The real question, of course, was whether or not users wanted a social media-like function from Google.
The answer? Over 800 million people used the feed.
I’d say that’s a pretty big yes.
So it doesn’t come as much surprise that Google’s investing more into this feature, rebranding it Google Discover.
What is Google Discover, and How is it Different?
Google unveiled its intent to rebrand and revamp the feature formerly known as Google Feed in September this year as part of its three-tiered shift in how it approaches search.
One of those shifts is this: “the shift from queries to providing a queryless way to get information. We can surface relevant information related to your interests, even when you don’t have a specific query in mind.”
Enter Google Discover.
Though it functions similarly to the Google Feed, Discover comes with some significant updates.
But first, it’s important to note that the way Google surfaces content will remain largely the same. Meaning, it’s based on your personal search history and a dose of Google AI.
If you haven’t indicated specific interests, Google will pull them for you based on your search history.
So (no surprise here), when I launch my Google app, my feed is full of digital marketing and SEO news.
Over time, as you continue to interact with Discover, Google will continue to learn your habits and serve more relevant content.
Now, for the differences:
First and most obvious, the name.
Google decided to rebrand the feature as Google Discover feed because it felt the new name better reflects its mission to uncover fresh and interesting contents that matter most to its users.
New Look – Topic Headers and Discover Icon
Next, Google redesigned the feed to make it more visually appealing – and more relevant.
One notable new addition is that of topic headers and the Discover icon. They’re intended to explain why you’re seeing a particular card, and, if you want more content like it, you can click on the header to see more related stories.
Once you click on the header (and the adjacent Discover icon), you’ll also have the option to Follow the interest to receive consistent updates in your Discover page.
Fun fact: Google says you’ll also soon start seeing these Discover icons in Search, meaning you can tap and follow a topic straight from the SERPs.
Google’s also adding in new kinds of content to its Discover page.
Previously, most of the content surfaced in Google Feed was news-related or trending. Now, the feed features a mix of content based on each user. Google will be incorporating evergreen content into the mix (content that isn’t new on the web, but is new to you.)
As an example, Google says “when you’re planning your next trip, Discover might show an article with the best places to eat or sights to see. Suddenly, a travel article published three months ago is timely for you.”
And it gets even cooler.
Because Google is Google (and has the luxury of your search history and AI on its hands), it can surface content based on your level of experience with a certain subject.
So, if you just picked up a guitar and are firmly in the beginner category, Google will show you content relevant to your experience level – no advanced riffs or songs.
On the other hand, if you know your way around an instrument, you’ll only see the advanced stuff.
Another crowd-pleaser update is the level of control you have over what you see.
In the bottom right of each card, you’ll find a Control icon. When tapped on, it lets you indicate whether you want to see more or less of a particular kind of content.
Discover on the Homepage
Until now, Discover was only available on Google’s mobile app.
But in its announcement, Google also revealed that Discover will be coming to all google.com mobile browsers, making it easier than ever for users to interact with their feeds.
Do note that Google Discover on desktop is not yet available, and Google has not released any plans to do so.
How to Optimize For Google Discover
SEO won’t be for the same for Discover as it is for your everyday search results.
Remember, there are no actual search queries here, meaning you can’t rely on search phrases and keywords to drive traffic and high rankings.
And though we don’t know for sure how Google will select content for Discover, we can speculate that one prevalent search theme will remain the same: relevant content that matches user intent.
So while the emphasis on keyword optimization won’t be as heavy, many of the same SEO principles will still apply.
Here are a few to keep in mind.
Create Quality Content
No change here: quality content is key to success – no matter where you want your content to show up.
Take Some Cues From Your Social Strategy
Because Google Discover is meant to mimic a social feed, it makes sense that you would optimize for it in a similar way.
So take a page out of Facebook’s (new, updated-algorithm) book; mainly, focus on building a reputable brand with engaging content.
For example, one of Facebook’s latest algorithm updates prioritizes “high-quality news.” That means:
- News from publications that the community rates as trustworthy
- News that people find informative
- News that is relevant to people’s local community
For brands, that means the more trustworthy your content is rated, the more likely it is to be widely distributed.
When we talk about Google, trustworthiness is usually determined by a site’s authority: ultimately, that comes down to the strength of your content.
Another thing to keep in mind: clickbait headlines and tactics are being cracked down on social media, meaning they likely won’t do you any favors in Google Discover either.
Create User Engagement (And Focus on Relationships)
Another big one when it comes to social feeds is engagement.
The more engagement a post has (likes, comments, shares), the higher it will rank in users feeds.
The first step to engagement, of course, is to create great content (we already went over this one, but it’s important enough for a second mention).
Once you have that great content, promote anywhere and everywhere to get as much exposure and engagement as possible.
Post it to your social feeds, include it in your email marketing, link to it from elsewhere around your site, and ask your coworkers to promote it as well.
Don’t be afraid to ask for engagement, either. Create social posts with questions to get more comments and bold statements for more likes.
And remember, the more exposure your content gets, the more engagement it’s likely to receive.
Then, it’s more likely to get pushed into the Discover feed over one of your competitor’s pieces due to its high level of engagement which, in Google’s eyes, signals higher relevancy to that group of users.
The difference here is this: Unlike Facebook, Instagram, etc., Discover doesn’t choose content based on your friends likes or shares.
Instead, it relies only on what you’ve liked, shared, or interacted with most in the past.
This means that, yes, you want to create as much engagement as possible, but you also need a clear focus on building relationships with your users.
Encourage new and existing customers to stay engaged with your brand through personalized email campaigns, loyalty programs, etc.
Use Video and Images
Along with its new approach to search, Google also revealed it’s putting extra emphasis on images.
That’s especially true in the Discover feed, and Google points out that users will find more images and fresh visual content in the feed.
The redesign is all about being visually pleasing, so when creating content, a focus on finding relevant thumbnail images will have a major impact on whether or not your content is a contender for Discover.
This is also a good time to start ramping up your video strategy. Any articles or posts that can be translated into video and promoted accordingly absolutely should be.
Not only is it a great way to increase your chances of being picked up in the Discover feed, but it opens up new channels for you to optimize for and promote on (and if YouTube isn’t part of your strategy yet – now is the time.)
Create a Mix of Content
Pre-Discover, Google Feed was primarily made up of trending news stories: politics, sports recaps, pressing industry updates, etc.
That’s not going away. It makes sense, then, that your content strategy should put an emphasis on staying up-to-date on current industry news or highlights, and that doing so will give you a leg up in Discover.
We also know now that Google isn’t focusing exclusively on breaking news with the new incarnation of Discover; it will also be surfacing relevant evergreen content.
You know what that means.
It means that for your best shot at your content being picked up, you need a strategy that encompasses both evergreen articles and current trends.
Make it a point to vary the kinds of content you produce (as in, have a plan to put out one article that addresses a new technology or trend each week, etc.)
And, in the case of evergreen content, make sure you’re performing regular refreshes and updated to keep them current.
Make it Mobile Friendly
This one really goes without saying.
Because the Discover feed is showcased through mobile, it’s imperative that your website and content be mobile-friendly.
Simply put: if it isn’t, it won’t be pulled for the Discover feed.
If you’re unsure whether or not your site is optimized for mobile, plug your URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test website for a full report.
Google Discover FAQ:
1. Is there a Google Discover App?
Though not its own app, Google Discover appears on the Google app.
You will not need to download a separate app; rather, if you have the Google app on your mobile device you will have access to Discover. On mobile devices, the Discover feed will also display on Google’s homepage in your browser.
2. Is there a desktop version?
No. At this time, Discover on Google is not available on desktop.
Google has not yet released on any information on whether it plans to bring its Discover feed to desktop.
3. What is dark mode?
Google Discover dark mode is a setting that disables the all-white theme usually found on the feed. Doing so will save mobile battery and make it easier to read at night.
You can enable dark mode on Android phones, and Google has plans to release dark mode for all of its core apps.
Wrapping It Up
Though Google Feed may have flown slightly under the radar, I think it’s safe to say that won’t be the case with Discover.
As Google places more emphasis on its Discover feed (and makes it easier than ever for users to interact with), brands will have to start approaching their content optimization a little differently.
Again, Google hasn’t released any information on how it selects content for Discover – only that it’s based on a user’s indicated interests and search history.
For marketers, that means focusing on cultivating and maintaining relationships, promoting content and creating engagement.