Getting Found In The Stream With SEO For Google Discover





Blog Date

June 6, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Getting Found In The Stream With SEO For Google Discover

Getting Found In The Stream With SEO For Google Discover

The Peculiarities of the Google Discover Feed

I’m completely fascinated by Google’s Discover Feed. Besides the fact that it serves highly-relevant content, it also seems beyond the reach of being gamed. In a way, it almost seems beyond the reach of pure SEO (which makes it downright tantalizing to me).

It all made me want to understand what makes the feed tick. So I did what any sensible person would do. I spent the better part of two months running all sorts of queries in all sorts of different ways to see how it impacted my Discover Feed.

Let me explain what I did and how I did it, to both give you a better understanding of this analysis and point out its gaping limitations. For five days a week, and over the course of two months, I executed all sorts of user behavior aimed at influencing my Discover Feed. I ran queries on specific topics on mobile, searched for other topics on desktop… clicked on results… didn’t click on results… went directly to sites and clicked… went directly to sites and didn’t click anything, etc.

In other words, I wanted to see how Google reacted to my various behaviors. I wanted to see if one behavior influenced what showed in my Discover Feed more than other behaviors. To do this, I searched for things I would generally never search for, went to sites I would normally never visit, and limited my normal search behavior at times so as not to influence the feed.

For example, I hate celebrity news and gossip with a passion, so I went to every day (outside of the weekends) and scrolled through the site without clicking a thing. I then recorded if related material (i.e. celebrity nonsense) ended up in my Discover Feed the next day. I recorded all of my various “web behaviors” in the same way. I would execute a given behavior (e.g. search for things related to a specific topic on mobile, but without clicking any results) and record what happened in my Discover Feed as time went on.

The Behavior Data and Its Limitations

Here’s a breakdown of the various behaviors I executed along with the topics associated with each behavior:

Behavior Associated Topic
Search Mobile (click) Sewing
Search Desktop (no click) Fishing
Visit Site Desktop (click article) Cooking
Visit Site Mobile (no click) Japan News
Watch YouTube Videos Desktop Sewing
Watch YouTube Videos Mobile Lawn Care
Search Desktop (click) Dallas Cowboys
Search Mobile (click) Miami Marlins

Allow me to quickly elaborate on the behaviors above: All of this points to various limitations. Is it possible that Google sees a topic like entertainment news as more “Discover-worthy” than sewing? It is. Is it possible that going to a site like Fandango during a pandemic (when many theaters were closed) influenced Google’s decision to include or exclude things related to the topic matter dealt with by the site? It is.

What if I didn’t skip the weekends and executed the above every single day. Would that have made a difference? I don’t know. I’m not trying to portray any of the data I’ll present as being overly-conclusive. This is merely what I did, what I found, and what it all made me think.

The Impact of Behavior on Google Discover

Before I dive into the “data”, I want to point out that the heart of my observations isn’t found in the data itself, but in some of the things I noticed in my Discover Feed along the way. More than that, this data is far from conclusive or concrete, and in most ways speaks to my unique user-profile. That said, let’s have a look at the data, because there just may be some general takeaways.

As I mentioned, I wanted to see the impact of the various online behaviors on my Discover Feed. That is, how frequently did Google insert content related to the topics associated with each specific behavior into my feed? For all the times I went to how often was there content in my feed related to Japanese news? For all the times I searched for and watched YouTube videos on lawn care, how often did Google show me such content in Discover?

Here are some of the most intruding highlights reflected in the graph:

  • Watching YouTube videos (desktop) about sewing was only successful in getting Google to include the topic in its “Discover more” cards. I want to emphasize that when I say things like “YouTube mobile watches had no impact”, I don’t mean that as a general statement. Rather, such a statement is only aligned with the way I engaged with YouTube (one video watch per day). Clearly, and as is obvious, if you watch a large number of YouTube videos around one topic in a short time, Discover will pick this up.

  • I did, in fact, test this. I gave my kids free rein at various moments to take my phone and watch a large number of videos related to specific topics (surprisingly, they were happy to oblige and to watch vast amounts of YouTube). I have twin 9-year-old boys. One watched an obscene number of YouTube videos and executed an insane number of searches related to airplanes and flight simulators. I am still awaiting the day where my feed stops showing cards related to this topic. The other little fellow watched videos about the weather and animal behavior for a few hours straight (hey, it was during the height of quarantine). That same day, this is what I saw in my feed:

Discover Feed after kids' YouTube binge

You don’t need me to tell you that if Google thinks you’re going gaga over a specific topic, it will throw said topic into your Discover Feed posthaste.

The Disparities Between Mobile and Desktop Behavior

My goal in all of this was not to see what is the quickest way to get Google to update the topics it shows in your Discover Feed. The point in my methodology was to see if there was one type of behavior that Google seemed to take more seriously than another vis-a-vis inserting new topics into my Discover Feed. To that, Google did react differently to my various behaviors.

That doesn’t mean I can make many conclusions based on the above data. For example, Google clearly saw my going to and clicking on an article each day as a strong signal that “cooking” deserves to be in my Discover Feed. At the same time, Google completely ignored that behavior on mobile. Each day I went to and scrolled through an article. Yet, not once did Google include anything even remotely related to Japanese news in my feed.

I suspect that the topic here was too far removed from overall search behavior. So while it was reasonable for Google to assume I wanted cooking-related material in my feed, the same did not hold true for topics related to Japan. I think this is the same reason why the topic associated with my visiting a site on desktop without clicking anything made it into my feed. The topic here was celebrity news, and I imagine that Google has profiled this topic as being one that is highly-relevant to Discover. So much so that Google tested including it in my feed at various points.

About a month into my little experiment I wondered what would happen if I started searching for and clicking on things that were segments of topics that already appeared in my feed. Specifically, on desktop I searched for things related to the Dallas Cowboys, clicking on a search result each time. Similarly, I did the same for the Miami Marlins baseball team on mobile. Over a 30-day period, I found 10 instances of content related to the Dallas Cowboys in my feed and 6 instances of content about the Miami Marlins.

Again, just as in the first set of data I presented, a disparity between mobile and desktop exists. Is this a general rule? Is this based on my particular profile? I don’t know. It’s just an interesting point that should be investigated further.

What Can You Do to Optimize for Google Discover?

What do I want you to take away, then? As part of my data analysis (if you’ll even call it that) I looked at how long it took for a behavior to result in Discover Feed inclusion. Surprisingly, the numbers were pretty consistent: Generally speaking, it took less than 10 behaviors for Google to think it should update the topics shown in my feed.

That’s really the point. Despite the normal things I search for and engage with both regularly and heavily (things like SEO, for example) Google took this “lighter” yet consistent behavior as a signal to update my feed. Google was very aware of what I was doing and acted on it pretty quickly all things considered. In the case of “food/cooking” content, Google took my behavior very seriously and consistently showed such content in my feed.

Forget which behavior on which device produced more cards in my feed. The fact that it varied at all is telling. It shows Google is looking at the type of engagement and where it happens in the context of your overall profile.

Personally, I think if you (yes, you, the person reading this) did this experiment, you would get different results. Maybe some of the trends might align, but I would imagine that would be it.

The most interesting facets of this little project of mine came from seeing what Google was and was not showing day-in and day-out. There was no “cartoon” content in my Discover Feed, even though my kids were consuming a heap of cartoons on YouTube using my Google account. Virtually none of the URLs I visited during my two-month experiment popped up in my Discover Feed! I visited the Food Network’s website some 40 times, each time clicking and reading an article or recipe. By the time I was nearing the end of my experiment Discover was showing me some sorts of food/cooking related content every day, but not once did Google show me a URL from the Food Network.

It all points to a certain lack of control. It all points to Google specifically not wanting to pigeon-hole the content it shows in Discover. You can’t create content specifically for Discover. There’s no such concept. There’s no such control. There is no set of standardized “ranking signals” that you can try to optimize for.

So how does one position themselves for inclusion into the Discover Feed? If you want your site to be included in Discover, you need to be incredibly relevant and authoritative on whatever it is your site deals with. That means investing time and resources into creating unique and substantial content. It means crafting an entire strategy around creating topical identity.

Discover, to me, is the poster child for the merging of pure content creation and SEO. It speaks to the idea of needing a more abstract understanding of what a sound content strategy is, in order to be effective in the “Google-verse.” The way Discover is constructed advocates for a broader approach based on a meta-analysis of how a site is perceived by Google and what can be done to create a stronger profile. It’s almost the perfect blend of content, marketing, and an understanding of how Google works (SEO).

If you want your site to have a chance at being included in the Google Discover feed, you need to focus on becoming a true authority in your niche. This means creating a comprehensive content strategy that establishes your website as the go-to resource for your target audience. It’s not about gaming the system or finding some hidden ranking signals – it’s about building something genuinely valuable that Google will want to surface to users.

So roll up your sleeves, put on your content marketing hat, and get to work on becoming the undisputed leader in your space. That’s the best way to position your site for inclusion in the coveted Google Discover feed. And if you need help along the way, be sure to check out the Manchester SEO agency – they’ve got the expertise to take your content and SEO strategy to new heights.

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