Google Uncover: How you can charge and improve site visitors

Google Discover is an automatically generated and highly personalized mobile feed based on your online activity. It shows information and news on the topics that interest you SEO or golf.

An example of the Google Discover feed.

It's more of a social network than a search engine, but your search activity and history are critical to providing a relevant and timely feed.

Millions of people see a personalized Google Discover feed on their mobile devices every day. Since its launch in 2018, it has become a solid source of traffic for many websites. This is especially true for news and media companies, many of which now have the bulk of their organic traffic from Discover.

Even our humble little one SEO The blog received nearly 150,000 clicks in the past six months:

2 Ahrefs blog discover performance

However, Google Discover is still a big unknown. And because this topic requires the collaboration of experts, we asked a few SEO Experts for their findings:

Kevin Indig – – VP from SEO & Content at G2
Suganthan Mohanadasan – Co-founder and technician SEO lead at Snippet Digital
Dan Taylor – Head of SEO research & Development at SALT.Agency
John Shehata – – VP of Audience Development Strategy at Condé Nast & Founder of NewzDash

But first…

How Google Discover generates your feed

A big one SEOyou need to know how search engines work. And we have to understand that at Discover too.

According to Google, they use the following data to generate the feed:

  • Your activity across all Google products (e.g. your search activity, YouTube videos viewed, and engagement in Discover results)
  • Location history
  • Location settings
  • Topics You Follow

Do you now see the similarity to social networks? The feed reflects your hobbies, current interests, and everything else in the world that is relevant to you. It's so personalized that it even takes into account your expertise and the importance of this topic to you.

For example, it's almost always about half of my feed SEO as this is the topic I interact with the most. As you can see, you can even follow the theme SEO::

3 topic to follow

Interestingly, you can check out how Google is categorizing the results on your feed. Suganthan referred me to this method discovered by Valentin Pletzer who figured out that you can access this information by clicking Send Feedback> System Logs> Card Category:

4 cards category

These are the card categories Valentin came across along with what he thinks is representative:

inserted picture 0 3

We thank Valentin Pletzer for providing this data and knowledge.

For example, we can see that Google News certainly adds to the Discover performance as it has its own. "NEWSPAPER HEADINGS"Category. If this is relevant to you, check out John's guide to Google News Optimization.

In general, if your content gets demanded and the right signals are sent to Google, you'll be using Discover clicks from people who are already interested. This is a huge advantage compared to social media, where posts tend to reach a "cold" audience.

How to control Google Discover traffic

First, don't spend too much time proactively trying to track Discover clicks unless you are far away with your clicks SEO Efforts. Most people will be better off prioritizing standard organic traffic. News sites are the exception, but you'll already know that if you work for one.

Optimizing for Google Discover is one SEO Subject that surpasses everything else in terms of uncertainty. The only data available is in your Google Search Console. You cannot analyze your competitors, so the scope of your research is very limited.

It's hard to predict how certain content will behave in Discover. I speak from my own experience in the B2B In the SaaS industry, the most common types of traffic increases when you publish are 3 to 5 days:

6 Discover traffic spikes

However, some evergreen content achieves constant traction:

7 evergreen content traction

And sometimes it can be a combination of both patterns:

8 spike and constant traction

However, some content may not even make it onto the feed after doing the right things. As with almost everything in SEOcannot guarantee that X will perform Y. It's about increasing the chances of a desirable outcome.

Fortunately, there are some official tips out there to increase the chances of your content getting into Discover, which I cover below along with our unique insights. First of all, please note that indexed content must adhere to the content guidelines in order to be viewed in Discover. Only then should you focus on the following areas to increase the chances of you being featured:

  1. Have a mobile friendly website
  2. Use unique, high quality images
  3. Align your content and metadata
  4. Publish content on popular topics
  5. Work on your E-A-T
  6. Focus on Entities
  7. Become a Knowledge Graph Entity
  8. Create buzz with your content distribution
  9. Update your content regularly
  10. Embed your YouTube videos in articles
  11. Try out web stories

1. Have a mobile-friendly website

Discover is a mobile-only feed. Hence, your website's mobile experience is of tremendous importance.

At the very least, you need a responsive, fast-loading website with limited or no ads, popups, or interstitials. Also, prepare for May 2021 when Core Web Vitals will become part of the ranking algorithm, as the cumulative layout shift is not a metric for page speed.

If you want to go a step further, consider using it AMP. John estimates that more than 60% of all Discover articles are executed AMP. Of course, this number is heavily skewed by news websites, and SEO Opinions on the implementation are mixed. However, the Discover trend is clear:

Discover 9 amps

2. Use unique, high quality images

Discover is another feed where the image gets the most attention. Therefore, you should use high quality images for all visual content on the page.

Google recommends that your large images are at least 1200 pixels wide and enabled by the Max image preview: meta tag for large robots or using AMP. This should be your default regardless of Discover as this is the best practice for images SEO. Plugins like Yoast add this automatically.

You can also use the schema image property to provide more data to Google.

3. Align your content and metadata

Title tags and meta descriptions should summarize the content of the page and encourage users to click. Just make sure you don't use clickbait or other manipulation tactics here as Google specifically warns against them in the Discover guidelines.

One interesting thing we found out by mistake is that Google Discover takes Open Graph meta tags into account. We had a typo in one of our og: title tags and it went into the Discover feed even though the title tag was correct. An "L" was missing at the beginning:

10 discover the tags mentioned above

Discover usually shows a lot of breaking content on breaking events, which is why news websites dominate the feed.

But there is also a lot of evergreen content popping up. Our blog is proof of that. We don't write about trending topics, but we get tens of thousands of clicks from Discover every month.

11 Ahrefs blog discover traffic

Discover clicks on the Ahrefs blog over the past three months.

This is because Discover is a personalized feed and it shows content that's new to you, not just the web. For example, let's say you're about to start investing in the stock market, which requires some research. In your Discover feed, you are likely to come across articles on investing tips, stockbroker comparisons, and other beginner articles that may have been published months ago.

How do you target evergreen themes? It starts with keyword research. Just enter a few general topics into a popular keyword research tool like Keywords Explorer and search for popular topics.

12 Keyword Research

Just know that it is rare enough to write only on popular topics. Google says that if you want to show up on Discover, you should focus on good copywriting and providing unique insights.

5. Work on your E-A-T

Google says they get content from sites with many pages that demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

There are several ways to evaluate and support your E-A-T. The Discover guidelines state that you should do the following:

Provide clear data, bylines, information about authors, the publication, the publisher, company or network behind it, and contact information to improve visitor trust and visibility.

In addition, it can be useful to use structured data to connect the points.

Suganthan also suggests checking out Google's affinity categories and looking for any topics that you can become an authority on. This is because these target groups apparently with "VEIN"Interested card categories, as shown earlier from the logs.

The easiest way to find these is through the Affinity Categories report in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics> Audience> Interests> Affinity Categories

13 affinity categories

Affinity category report from the official GA Demo account.

In general, you should do whatever you can to position your brand as a thought leader in your industry.

6. Focus on entities

When I analyzed the Ahrefs blog's Discover performance, I managed to identify topics that were performing better than others. By doing SEO In the world, it is the entities and their connections that form certain themes.

When we got our contributors' insights, it was clear that entities play a significant role here as everyone was mentioning them in one way or another.

A knowledge diagram layer has been created to depict how user interests and expertise in a topic develop over time. This is known as the topic level and is based on analyzing all of the content associated with a given topic and all of its sub-topics, ultimately connecting all of the dots together.

It appears that some of the points can become Discover Interests without being a Knowledge Graph Entity. Example: Querying the "Meta Description" in the Knowledge Graph API returns no results, but shows an interest in Discover that you can follow:

14 Follow the topic

You can't deal with the topic level, so we need to focus on the parent entities. And that's more than enough.

Your goal should be to have authority over companies tied to your company. There are several ways you can do this when creating content:

Be consistent in your category

Most websites are about something in particular. It could be coffee, laptops, SEOor something else entirely. Whatever it is for you, try not to stray too far when creating content. If you post on iPhones one day and cooking tips the next, it won't send positive signals to your audience or Google. It just dilutes your "authority" in all categories.

The only exception to this rule is if you work for a huge media company that does it all.

Find the entities that work for your brand

I tried to find topics that work best by manually going through our Discover reports. However, this method only covers main entities and cannot be done on a large scale.

If you already have a lot of pages in Discover, you probably have access to developer resources as well. If so, you can do what John did: run your articles on the Google Natural Language Tool, combine the entities based on their importance, and analyze which ones caused the most Discover traffic for you.

This is an example of what entity analysis looks like:

15 google nlp api

You can test that NLP API yourself. Just scroll to the demo input window and paste some of your content there.

Use Google Images to find related entities and information

Dan has developed an easy-to-use way to see what other topics Google is linking to a topic. Go to Google Images, search for your main keyword and look at the related entity tags above:

16 Google Images entities

Alternatively, you can use a tool like Entity Explorer which appears to be retrieving data using the same method.

Use this as inspiration for what to add to your current or upcoming content. Dan saw an increased Discover performance after adding related entities and information to his content. It also ranked for more keywords.

7. Become a Knowledge Graph Entity

People can only follow your brand in Discover if it's on the knowledge chart. You can check if this is the case by Googling your brand. If the search results contain a knowledge panel, it is in the Knowledge Graph:

17 knowledge panel

Knowledge Panel for Gibson Brands, Inc.

Interestingly, your content may not show up on their Discover feed even if someone is following your brand. Kevin and I both tested this. I've been following MailChimp on Discover for a few months and I still have no content in my feed.

How can a Knowledge Graph entity help improve your visibility in Discover?

The display in the Knowledge Graph is a sign that your online presence is strong enough for Google to put your brand in context. In other words, it understands what entities and interests are associated with your brand, and therefore can show your content to people who are interested in those things.

Recommended literature: Google Knowledge Graph Explains: How It Affects SEO

8. Create buzz with your content distribution

It makes sense that Discover wants to present content with high engagement. We can confirm that posts with more Discover clicks tend to have a comparatively high value CTR in discover.

Perhaps more surprising is that we've all found that there appears to be a high correlation between social media engagement and your Discover performance.

John even crunched the numbers. He found the correlation coefficient between Discover performance and Twitter engagement in the US is a whopping 0.91. This is a significantly high correlation, but as always, it doesn't mean causality. Creating buzz with your content will benefit you even if Google ignores it.

John adds that this “buzz factor” may be related to Discover's performance in certain countries. While Twitter has a significant role in the USit could be overshadowed by other platforms elsewhere. This means that you should distribute your content on locally popular channels.

At Ahrefs, we can see that this could actually play a huge role in getting Discover clicks. We localize our blog content in five additional languages. These articles are essentially the same as our English ones which perform well, but we only got a couple of Discover clicks on some Spanish posts.

The only difference? We're not yet focusing on properly distributing content in other languages.

Again, none of this is causal, but Suganthan also brought up an experiment on the social engagement signal. JR Oakes got people to bother with his tweet that contained a deliberately junk article and he made it onto the Discover feed:

Holy crap BAM! Thanks for all the retweets. Findings: Shitty machine-generated content + a bunch of Twitter shares = Google Discover card. https://t.co/sXtoylnX9z pic.twitter.com/pudHXdwcNO

– – JR Oakes (@jroakes) July 2, 2019

9. Update your content regularly

Just because your page isn't showing up in Discover right now doesn't mean it never will. Here is an article that we first published in 2017 that only got a Discover click after being rewritten and republished:

18 republish discover

Of course, we didn't just update the article to get Discover clicks. We updated it to try to improve its rankings and organic traffic through "regular" search results. The clicks from Discover were just a nice bonus.

Republishing content is one of our favorite growth tactics. According to Content Explorer, we've updated 60 pages in the past 12 months:

19 newly released Content Explorer

You can check how often a website republishes its content in Ahrefs' Content Explorer.

All of this is not just our experience. John and suganthan confirm that often refreshing evergreen contents work well for them too.

10. Embed your YouTube videos in articles

YouTube videos are commonly seen in Discover feeds:

20 discover youtube

If you embed them in your content, there is a chance the videos will show up in Discover itself and even surpass the content itself. And as Kevin points out, you don't even have to use schema markup.

We have some articles that only have a few hundred clicks, but their embedded videos have thousands. We cover some of our topics in both video and written form. Hence, reusing your content seems like a good tactic to drive Discover traffic.

21 video clicks

Remember, video clicks go to YouTube, not your website.

11. Try Web Stories

Formerly known as AMP These are Google's views on the stories we know from Instagram and other social networks.

Google recently announced that it would support web stories in the Discover feed. If this type of content is worth your time, give it a try. At the time of writing, it is in the English language only US.

Kevin confirmed that they tried to experiment with these web stories and that they were actually featured in Discover.

Final thoughts

You can use Google Discover traffic regardless of your business. It won't be a priority unless you have a news website, but the optimization tips are probably not something you wouldn't do in your day-to-day life SEO work anyway.

Applying these tips isn't just good for Discover. It's a by-product. You will generally lead better SEO, Distribution of content and diversification of traffic.

The great thing about Google Discover is that it can trigger clicks even when the primary keywords don't have a search request. The general theme should continue to reflect people's interests. However, this is another argument in favor of posting content that isn't primarily focused on increasing search traffic.

Do you have further insights or questions about Discover? Ping me on Twitter.

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