Last year more than ever Google has introduced significant changes in the way its search engine works, changes that are probably like to redefine on the long term the relationship of “partnership” established with companies and publishers.
One of the main Google evolutions we are witnessing, that in my opinion is still underestimated, is definitely Google Discover.
The Era of Queryless information (and Growing customization)
Discover is the name of a Google’s product launched in Sept. 2018 that basically provides, in Google’s app on IoS and Android and on Google.com’s mobile homepage, a feed of customized content based on user interests.
This without the user having to type a search query.
Discover is defined by Google itself as “a list of topics that users can scroll through their mobile devices … chosen based on their interactions with Google products or based on topics they choose to follow”.
A real revolution for SEO, in particular for editorial and informative sites that meet Google News inclusion criteria and whose content has more chances to be selected for the feed.
SEO professionals are trying to figure out how much Discover will affect Search in the near future – especially because it offers content that once would have been accessible in an “organic” way (through a SERP) with two distinct features that profoundly redefine the relationship both with publishers and users:
- access to information through a query less mode
- a growing personalization in the content proposal
Whose Google ally?
Once the pact was clear:
- I am providing you – Google – with original and fresh content
- You decide whether to index it or not. But if you do…
- In exchange for the content, in a sort of undeclared agreement, you help my brand to get in touch with new users by directing visitors to the pages of my site while they are searching something about my business
Today, unfortunately, the relationship between Google and the publisher is no longer so linear. Google is increasingly the point of arrival and not, as happened a few years ago, a simple moment of transition in the process of user interaction with a brand.
Moreover, as in the case of Discover, the possibility of the publisher’s intervention in optimizing content is reduced and, consequently, many companies begin to perceive Google as a competitor rather than as an ally.
But is this the only way to see it?
In reality, Discover is proving to be an important opportunity for SEO professionals, agencies and companies.
When your own content appears on the platform, important peaks of incoming traffic occur and if you understand how it works, it will not be difficult to understand why.
This can lead to several indirect benefits, as a general increase in the number of new users getting to the site, improvement of brand reputation and growth of brand awareness.
Taking advantage of Google Discover can be seen as a necessary step in the evolution of a young discipline (SEO) that is growing mature, and for which 2020 will probably be critical to rethink objectives and KPIs through which measuring success.
But.. how do you optimize for Discover?
First of all keep in mind that Google Discover includes relevant information for users, in form of news but also evergreen content.
Said this, there are a couple of specific things you can do in order to increase your chances to be included:
- Try to become an entity: this is by far the most important. In its path of understanding the interests of a user and how they evolve over time, Google refers heavily – among other signals – to the Knowledge Graph, to which it has specifically added a Topic Layer in order to facilitate the categorization of people’s interests for the Discover experience. Although it is not necessary, becoming an entity can exponentially increase the chances of getting into Discover precisely because it increases Google’s ability to understand when your content can be classified as an “interest”.
- Focus on mobile optimization: Being Discover a recommendation feed for mobile, having a mobile-optimised site is critical for being indexed.
- Produce content with your readers in mind: producing original and quality content answering audience informational needs represents, as always in SEO, a step of the utmost importance
- Use high-quality images: Discover represents a much more visual way to access content, and images play a strategic role in this case. It is advisable to use high quality images and Gary Illyes suggests filling a form if you don’t have AMP
- Leverage social sharing: Because of its “freshness” character, Discover tends to reward content belonging to the editorial sphere. In Google Search Console reports, it is not infrequent to see peaks in the impressions generated by pages on Google Discover, in a way very similar to what happens to the content produced in the News sector. As it happens for this type of content, social signals can give a decisive push for inclusion
Google Discover represents a decisive step by Google towards a query less experience, in accordance with its vision of the future of search based on 3 pillars:
- The shift from answers to journeys
- The shift from queries to providing a queryless way to get to information
- And the shift from text to a more visual way of finding information
Google Discover is an effective synthesis of all this and an obligatory step for those involved in SEO to reconsider long-term approach and objectives.
Another signal that 2020, for those who do SEO, looks like a year in which strategic flexibility will make the difference more than ever.