website-optimization

The Complete Guide to Ranking in the Google Discover Feed

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“If you build it, they will come” is a timeless mantra for anyone who’s ever felt a passion for sharing and enjoying a competitive spectacle.

It always helps to have some real organic buzz drawing audiences into your digital field of dreams. Especially when it happens online. Nobody knows this better than digital publishers who cover competitive events like esports tournaments. They don’t always have the easiest time conveying the excitement and drama of what they’re covering through the usual digital outreach channels.

You know it’s the stories, the players, the rivalries, and all those thrilling details that make your coverage worth following. But when you’re competing online for fleeting nanoseconds of your audience’s attention? Tthere’s not much time for a deep dive into building hype. This goes for any blogger who makes their money from web traffic — you’ve got the content that justifies your existence; you just need to get people to see what they’re missing.

Sure, you can leverage SEO and launch some pay-per-click ad campaigns. But that’s not cheap and not necessarily the best way to make organic inroads with your ideal audience.

There’s a better way to get discovered and drive traffic to your blog: by taking advantage of the underappreciated Google Discover Feed.

What is Google Discover?

Launched in 2018, Google Discover (formerly known as Google Feed) is a content-recommending feature that shows up on Google’s apps and mobile devices, like Chrome browsers and Pixel phones. If you spend a lot of time on desktop or Apple devices, you might not see it very often — but it’s well-integrated into Google’s ecosystem.

Google Discover publishes an AI-powered feed of visually-oriented “stories” based on the user’s search history, browser, location, and activity. News, articles, blog posts, and other content from all around the web can get curated into a Google Discover story. Users can also customize the topics they want to see. 

The Discover feed can be found in a few locations, most commonly at the top of Search pages and if you swipe right on the homepage of an Android or Chrome device.

Like the social feeds it’s emulating, Google Discover provides entertaining off-ramps to breaking news, viral content, and all the daily diversions we’ve come to expect from the web. Audiences can feel safe clicking on Discover stories because they know that it isn’t a paid ad sending them to who knows where — it’s content vetted by the Google algorithm.

How is Discover Different from Search and News?

So why work the Google Discover angle when it’s not as widely distributed as Google Search results or Google News listings? The simple answer is that these channels were built for completely different purposes, and they don’t source their content in the same ways.

Google Search works by taking a user query and returning the best possible information in response. It uses sophisticated methodologies to generate the most relevant results for each search term, but it takes the user literally. The search terms used dictate what users see. If you want to target Google Search users as an advertiser, you need to invest in some pretty specific keyword buys.

On the other hand, Google News mines users’ search history for topics it thinks they might be interested in. Then it finds recently-published news stories and articles from around the web that match those interests. It’s a great resource, but it’s not designed with web marketers in mind.

What makes Google Discover different is that any content that Google has indexed can show up there. As long as it meets Discover’s content policy. No tags or behind-the-scenes coding are required. According to Google, content gets showcased in Google Discover when it’s outstanding, engaging, and interesting; but not if it’s clickbait, overly titillating, or outrageous.

Threading Google Discover’s content needle might sound tricky, especially compared to just buying up some Google AdWords. Let’s break down the reasons why ranking up in Google Discover might be worth a little extra effort.

Why Should You Get Your Content in the Discover Feed?

So here you are, an up-and-coming site with a riveting esports tournament to promote. If the audience knew what was at stake, they’d be there for it. What happens if Google Discover picks up your best blog post about the tournament?

For one thing, you’re going to see a traffic spike from viewers who spent time engaging with your content. Some publishers are reporting that Google Discover now accounts for more of their traffic than Google Search.

It’s easy to see how your content is performing by accessing the Google Search Console and looking up the “Discover” reporting tool. While you can’t compare your performance to other sites seeking to leverage Discover, you will be able to view data such as your total clicks, impressions, and click-through-rate.

The main benefit of Google Discover is getting free, immediate, high-quality traffic that you’ll be able to monitor. By comparing the performance of different pieces of content, you’ll be able to determine what works best for showing up on the feed, whether it’s a breaking announcement or evergreen knowledge. Any blogger or publisher seeking to increase their traffic has a lot to gain from mastering Google Discover’s ways.

How to Get Ranked in the Google Discover Feed

Google being Google, there’s a lot of secret sauce that goes into the selection criteria and algorithms that populate the Google Discover feed. Rather than think about it as a system to be gamed? It’s best to focus on optimizing your site to produce the kind of relevant, interesting content that will naturally lend itself to what Google Discover is trying to offer. Here’s a few useful tips to get you “discovered”.

Create High-Quality, Valuable Content

When you claim to “discover” something, there’s an implication that it’s something exceptional, out of the ordinary. In other words, it had better not be just a warmed-over press release.

It’s easy to say “create terrific content”. But what that means in actual practice will always depend on your goals, audience, and source material.

The competition for eyeball time is tough out there, so you need to be thinking about: (1) what your audience wants; and (2) how to serve it to them in a way that’s better than what the next site is doing. Analyzing your engagement, your competition, and industry trends can point you in useful directions.

While timely, trending content always gets immediate notice. Remember that Google Discover doesn’t discriminate against old content. This means Discover can help draw attention to your evergreen posts full of useful information and resources.

Embrace Multimedia

The story feed format that Google Discover aims for originated on sites like Snapchat and Instagram. In deference to that tradition, you should expect Google to be preferential toward visual content., particularly video.

As audiences keep preferring video, marketers keep finding it their most important medium for reaching them. 63% of marketers call video engagement the most important metric. Video is dynamic and can leave an emotional impression — even if your viewer is watching it in a little box to the side with the sound off.

It’s not uncommon to see Google Discover featuring stories with embedded YouTube videos. So don’t hesitate to take advantage of some brand synergy when you can. Embedded videos may get clicks and views even if the user doesn’t view the entire story.

While video may be king, some stories are best told with still images. With that in mind, be sure you’re providing high-quality photos optimized for Google Discover. At a minimum, follow standard image SEO advice by having images at least 1200 pixels wide and enable the max-image-preview:large tag.

E-A-T Authority

E-A-T is one of the guidelines that Google’s human search raters use to determine the quality of their search results. It stands for “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.” E-A-T can factor heavily into the weighting of search results that deal with important subject matter.

Cultivating E-A-T is essential if you want Google to consider you a serious and reliable source. Your reputation, transparency, and accuracy of reporting can all play a role in enhancing the Google raters’ assessment of your site. Google specifically references E-A-T as a driver of Discover content.

Follow Google Content Policies

Before you can really optimize, you’ve got to make sure you aren’t tripping over yourself. That means staying within Google’s content policies and avoiding easy mistakes that might keep you out of the Discover feed.

The Google News content guidelines are an excellent place to start. You’ll find advice about issues you may face with sponsored, copyrighted, or objectionable content.

Optimize for Mobile and AMPs

Most online activities are happening on phones and mobile devices these days. This means that mobile-focused design has to be a core element of any optimization strategy. In the Google ecosystem, this means designing for Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).

Google Discover runs almost exclusively on mobile platforms, so AMP-compliant pages are at a definite advantage. Sites optimized for AMP will load faster and look better on mobile devices.

Another mobile-friendly thing you can do is prepackage your content as a Google Web Story. These presentations combine video, images, and text in the “story” format we’ve come to know from social media. When Google Web Stories meet AMP specifications and are correctly indexed, they are more likely to show up in the Google Discover feed.

Discover More Traffic

When traffic is your lifeblood, you want it flowing in from every direction. If you’re not leveraging Google Discover? You’re leaving a potentially significant resource on the table — one with advantages for competitive and event-based websites. If you’re eager to see whether your optimization efforts are paying off, remember you can always monitor how your content is performing on Discover in the Google Search Console.

As an affordable and accessible way to drive traffic from Google to your website, it’s wise to leverage Discover as part of your omnichannel approach. When you enlist Google’s help in getting your audience to discover the epic drama contained within your Common Ninja tournament brackets, you can feel confident knowing you reached out with the best content you have to offer.