How to Win at Google Discover: The Ultimate Guide to new SEO traffic source

Introduction to Google Discover

For seasoned SEO professionals and digital marketers, Google Discover represents an untapped frontier teeming with potential. Launched in 2018, Discover has swiftly evolved from a novel feature to a crucial element in the digital marketing arsenal, offering a queryless content discovery experience that is both intuitive and personalized. This innovation by Google automatically curates a feed of articles, videos, and other content tailored to the individual preferences of logged-in Google users, appearing directly under the search bar on mobile devices, within the Google app, and on via the Chrome app on mobile.

Understanding Google Discover

What sets Google Discover apart for SEO experts is its predictive, user-centric approach to content delivery. Unlike traditional search queries, Discover proactively presents content based on a user’s past interactions, search history, and content engagement. This requires a nuanced understanding of user behavior and content optimization strategies that transcend conventional SEO techniques.

How Google Discover looks on mobile

As of now, Discover is primarily accessible to mobile device users. However, Google seems to be experimenting with a desktop variant for a select group of users. Should this desktop version be widely introduced, it could herald a major shift within the SEO landscape, potentially altering the distribution of organic traffic across Google in profound ways.

How Discover is different than SEO

Google Discover redefines the approach to content visibility. It’s not just about ranking for keywords anymore; it’s about aligning with the user’s interests and providing value that sparks engagement. This platform can surface content that may not traditionally perform well in search rankings, catering to a niche audience or focusing on timely topics. The key lies in understanding the intricacies of Discover’s content recommendations, which can include a wide array of topics from trending news to evergreen articles, all tailored to the user’s personal interests.

To truly leverage Google Discover, SEO experts must delve into the type of content that thrives on this platform. Visual appeal, engaging headlines, and the relevance of content play significant roles in capturing user attention. Moreover, staying abreast of current trends and tailoring content to meet these interests can significantly increase visibility on Discover. Real-world examples, such as how news outlets or topical blogs have seen spikes in traffic through timely and visually appealing articles, underscore the potential of Discover for driving significant engagement.

Maximizing Visibility and Engagement on Google Discover

For SEO practitioners, the challenge and opportunity lie in crafting content strategies that resonate with Discover’s dynamic nature. This means producing content that not only appeals to a site’s existing audience but also has the potential to attract new followers through Discover’s personalized content feeds. Incorporating high-quality images, crafting compelling headlines, and focusing on content that adds real value can set the stage for success on this platform.

Furthermore, understanding the metrics that matter is crucial. Google Search Console offers a dedicated Discover report, providing insights into how content performs on Discover, including impressions, click-through rates, and more. Analyzing this data can help SEO experts refine their strategies, focusing on what works and adapting to the ever-changing preferences of their audience.

Navigating the Volatile Nature of Discover Traffic

It’s important to note the volatile nature of traffic from Google Discover. The platform is known for its unpredictable fluctuations, with articles sometimes receiving thousands of clicks one day and none the next. This unpredictability requires a flexible and resilient content strategy. SEO professionals should view Discover traffic as a bonus, not the sole focus of their digital marketing efforts. By diversifying content and staying adaptable to changes in user interests and Google’s algorithms, sites can better weather the ups and downs of Discover visibility.

Navigating Google Search Console for Discover Insights

Google Search Console houses a treasure trove of data under its Performance reports, including a section dedicated to Discover. This special tab, located on the left sidebar, is your gateway to understanding how your content performs on Discover. It showcases the visibility of your articles, tracking clicks and impressions that come directly from Discover.

However, this goldmine of information only becomes visible if your site has had the fortune of attracting Discover clicks within the selected timeframe. If the Discover tab seems to be playing a game of hide and seek, it’s likely because your content hasn’t yet danced in the Discover spotlight during that period.

Why Your Content Might Be Missing Out

Not seeing your content on Discover can be puzzling, but there are several common culprits behind this mystery:

  • Domain Age and Authority: It’s possible that your domain is relatively new and has not yet established authority. Typically, it takes a minimum of 6 months to begin seeing Google discovery traffic
  • Technical Ineligibility: There are boxes to tick to ensure your content is even considered for Discover. We’ll discuss this shorty
  • Content Mismatch: If your content isn’t resonating with the Discover algorithm, it’s like throwing a party and forgetting to send out the invites. Discover seeks content that sparks interest and engagement.
  • Guideline Violations: Google has set forth specific content guidelines for News & Discover. Straying from these guidelines can result in your content being sidelined.
  • Quality Issues: Google’s core and algorithm updates are notorious for reshuffling the digital deck. If your site suffers from quality issues, Discover traffic might dwindle as a result.
  • NSFW Content: Discover aims to maintain a family-friendly environment. Content that wouldn’t make it past a SafeSearch filter is less likely to appear on Discover, a policy Google reiterated in May 2023.

Turning Insights into Action

Understanding why your content may not be appearing in Discover is the first step. The next is to take actionable steps to align your content with Discover’s preferences. This means ensuring your content is technically optimized, aligned with user interests, and adheres to Google’s guidelines. Regularly monitoring your GSC Discover tab can provide insights into what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to refine your strategy over time.

Actionable tips for driving traffic from Google Discover

1.      Ensure technical eligibility for Discover

The journey to Google Discover prominence begins with ensuring your site and content meet Google’s eligibility criteria. Unlike traditional search submissions, Discover pulls content indexed by Google Search, provided it adheres to specific guidelines:

  1. Image Optimization: Images play a pivotal role in attracting Discover traffic. Google advises using high-quality, compelling images, . Large images need to be at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview: large setting or by using AMP. Ensure your featured images meet this standard and Avoid using a site logo as your image. The 1200+ px image can be pulled from a featured image on the page or an image referenced in an image OG meta tag or structured data. Those guidlines does not have to apply to all images on the page.

An example of eye-catching, custom imagery on an image thumbnail in Google Discover

To preview how an article might look in Google Discover,  check out Snippets Preview – a Chrome extension that provides instant previews and allows creators to quickly visualize and adjust how their content appears on Google Discover, ensuring it meets the platform’s visual and technical standards for better visibility and engagement.

b.      Content requirements

Google Discover seeks to present users with content that’s not just visually appealing but also engaging, relevant, and timely. This means stale or outdated content is less likely to appear. However, relevance can sometimes override freshness. For instance, a page highly relevant to a user’s interests, tailored based on the user’s location and preferred language settings.

An example of content in my Discover feed, which makes sense given that I’m traveling to Japan Tokyo soon-themed content

c.       Google Publisher Center

Leverage the Google Publisher Center to inform Google about your publication’s specifics, such as content categories and target audience. While not a direct submission portal for Discover, this platform allows you to highlight the main sections of your site, ensuring Google picks up on your latest, most relevant content. Remember, this is more of a hint to Google than a guarantee, but it’s a crucial step in making your content more Discoverable.

d.      The follow feature

Google’s Follow Feature presents a unique opportunity to build a direct connection with your audience. Encouraging users to follow your publication can significantly increase your visibility in their Discover feeds. Additionally, Google has been experimenting with allowing users to follow specific interests, offering another avenue to boost your content’s reach among your target audience. Follow Google’s Follow feature guidance instructions.

2. Understand user affinities & entities

Diving into the world of Google Discover offers a unique opportunity to connect with your audience by tapping into their specific interests and the entities (people, places, and things) they care about. Imagine a scenario where Google becomes a personal assistant, curating content that aligns perfectly with individual preferences. This isn’t just hypothetical; it’s exactly how Google Discover operates, tailoring feeds based on user affinities and the myriad of entities they interact with daily.

Leveraging this personalized aspect of Google Discover can significantly boost your site’s visibility and traffic. Here’s a streamlined approach tailored for SEO professionals looking to harness the power of user affinities and entities:

Data Analysis: Start by extracting your site’s top-performing content on Google Discover over the last 16 months, ideally using Google Search Console’s API. This data serves as a goldmine for understanding which topics or entities resonate most with your audience.

Identify Key Drivers: Next, delve into analyzing these top performers to pinpoint the entities or topics that have been traffic magnets. Employ tools like Diffbot for Natural Language Processing, coupled with data visualization techniques, to unravel these insights. For instance, we once crafted a visualization for a client that clearly delineated which categories were the powerhouses behind their Discover and SEO success.

Monitor and Engage: Keeping your finger on the pulse of current trends is crucial. Tools such as Sprout or Buzzsumo are invaluable for tracking the latest buzz around the topics and entities your audience gravitates towards. Consistently creating content around these trending topics can significantly amplify your presence in Discover feeds. Imagine, for a moment, your site is all about Disney. A quick Buzzsumo search can reveal what Disney-related content is capturing attention across social platforms at any given moment.

Embrace Google Personas: For an extra edge, consider crafting a Google persona that mirrors your target demographic’s interests, search history, and follows. This strategic move allows you to experience Discover as they would, offering invaluable insights into competitive positioning and content strategy.

3. Manual actions

Google has crafted a specific list of manual actions tailored for Google Discover and News, underscoring its commitment to delivering credible and valuable content. The Webspam team is vigilant, ready to enforce these guidelines should content veer into the realm of the problematic—be it through medical advice that flies in the face of established science, or content that is harassing, violent, or promotes terrorism. Familiarizing yourself with these manual actions is not just recommended; it’s essential for anyone looking to thrive in Google Discover.

One of the most frequent stumbling blocks I’ve encountered in Google Discover consulting is the issue of “misleading content.” This typically occurs when headlines promise what the article doesn’t deliver. Imagine a headline teasing the release date of a popular TV show without any official announcement to back it up—this is a classic example of misleading content that can trigger manual actions.

Receiving a manual action is a significant setback, with repercussions that can ripple beyond the immediate content in question, sometimes affecting your site’s presence in Discover at large. However, it’s not an irreversible fate. The key to recovery lies in taking swift, corrective action: offending content must be either removed or rectified. Following this, a reconsideration request should be submitted to Google.

Always keep a vigilant eye on the Manual Actions report in Search Console. It’s your first line of defense in identifying and addressing any issues before they escalate. Addressing manual actions promptly and effectively is crucial for maintaining your site’s health and ensuring its continued visibility in Google Discover.

4. Avoiding inappropriate content

Google has long maintained a stance against adult and inappropriate content in Discover, prioritizing a safe and family-friendly environment. Earlier this year, in pursuit of clarity, I reached out to Google, and their response was unequivocal: content filtered out by SafeSearch is unlikely to make an appearance in Discover. Further insights were provided in a recent video by Google, offering site owners tips on aligning content with SafeSearch parameters.

However, what remains less transparent is the definition of what exactly falls under the umbrella of ‘adult’ content and how even sporadic instances of such content can cast a shadow over the broader domain’s presence in Discover. Through extensive audits, we’ve repeatedly observed how the presence of adult, inappropriate, or offensive material can diminish a domain’s visibility in Discover.

The essential insight for SEO experts is this: content that delves into adult themes, violence, contentious political debates, grotesque imagery, or any material potentially unsuitable for a younger audience can significantly restrict your domain’s Discover visibility. This limitation extends beyond merely filtering out individual pieces of content; an accumulation of such material across your domain (which Google assesses at the hostname level) can curtail your site’s overall Discover presence.

The strategy for circumventing this obstacle is twofold. First, consider segregating Not Safe For Work (NSFW) content onto a distinct website or subdomain. This separation can help preserve the integrity of your main site’s Discover visibility. Alternatively, if your primary site is laden with content that might be flagged as adult or inappropriate, launching a separate subdomain dedicated to Discover-friendly content could be a viable strategy to attract traffic from Google Discover.

For those navigating the complexities of content strategy in the SEO realm, understanding and adapting to Google’s content guidelines is paramount. For additional insights into crafting Discover-compatible content, exploring resources such as Google’s Safe Search guidelines can provide invaluable guidance.

5. Getting the image right

Our journey through countless Discover audits has unveiled a fascinating insight: the images accompanying your content can significantly sway both click-through rates (CTR) and overall engagement. Take, for example, a featured image from a Grazia article that caught our eye. This image, showcasing the magnetic allure of familiar faces—be they athletes, celebrities, or public figures—nestled within a 2 or 3-panel layout that encapsulates the essence of the article, has repeatedly proven to be a formula for success in the Discover ecosystem.

The intrigue doesn’t stop at celebrity snapshots. Custom graphics, such as infographics or creative compositions that overlay text or symbols onto relevant imagery, have shown a remarkable ability to draw clicks and engage viewers. These visual storytellers can turn complex information into a captivating visual feast, enhancing the article’s appeal and comprehensibility.

However, the path to visual perfection is fraught with pitfalls. Images that are blurry, poorly focused, or simply mundane can significantly dampen interest, leading to disappointing CTRs. The challenge, then, is not just in selecting images that are visually appealing but in choosing those that resonate deeply with your audience, sparking curiosity and compelling action.

Embarking on this visual voyage requires a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of your audience. Begin by analyzing the imagery of your top-performing articles in Discover. Identify patterns and elements that consistently capture attention and drive engagement. Is it the human element, the color scheme, or perhaps the storytelling aspect of the image that weaves magic?

As SEO experts, harnessing the power of imagery in Google Discover is not just about enhancing visibility; it’s about creating a visual language that speaks directly to the heart of your audience, inviting them into a world crafted by your content.

6. Titles vs. headlines vs. OG titles

Understanding the nuances of headline optimization for Google Discover is a game-changer. Interestingly, Google’s approach to selecting headlines for Discover articles diverges from its traditional SEO practices, offering a fascinating playground for SEO professionals. This difference opens up strategic avenues for balancing Discover engagement with broader SEO goals, user experience considerations, and brand positioning.

Delving into the mechanics, Google has a buffet of options to choose from when it comes to displaying headlines in Discover—ranging from the H1 tag (often the article’s main headline), the Open Graph (OG) title, to occasionally the title tag, and even the headline specified in structured data. Google’s ultimate choice aims to optimize performance within the Discover environment, selecting the headline it predicts will resonate most with users.

To shed light on this process, an analysis of 80 articles featured in Google Discover revealed intriguing patterns: the OG title was showcased 75% of the time, the H1 tag 67%, and the title tag 28%. This pattern suggests a lean towards the OG title for Discover, offering a strategic lever for publishers to pull.

For SEO mavens looking to maximize Discover visibility while maintaining SEO integrity, this differentiation provides creative flexibility. The OG title field emerges as a prime candidate for crafting “Discover-friendly” headlines—those that captivate and engage, possibly veering from the more SEO-driven, keyword-optimized approaches typically reserved for the title tag. Meanwhile, the H1 tag presents an opportunity to bridge the gap, accommodating headlines that are both engaging for Discover readers and mindful of SEO best practices.

This dual-track strategy not only enhances Discover performance but also enriches the overall content strategy, ensuring that your headlines contribute positively across all fronts. For further exploration into crafting headlines that captivate, resources such as Copyblogger and Moz offer valuable insights into writing for engagement and SEO alike.

Google’s manual action guidelines. Crafting headlines that promise more than what’s delivered on the page can result in manual penalties and algorithmic downgrades in Discover visibility.

Once you’ve identified the headline formulas that resonate with your audience, it’s wise to lean into these successful structures for your future content. This focus can amplify your content’s performance and engagement in Discover over time.

7. Web stories & video

Web Stories emerge as a dynamic entry point into Google Discover, offering a fresh and visually engaging way to capture audience attention. Google is actively promoting Web Stories within Discover, signaling an opportunity for content creators due to the still-evolving selection pool.

For those new to the concept or looking for ways to dive in, Google provides comprehensive support to kickstart your Web Story creation journey. A valuable resource is the Google for Creators page, which guides you through crafting captivating stories. Although Web Stories may not be the biggest revenue generator due to limited ad support and varying user engagement levels, their potential for driving substantial Discover traffic is undeniable. They’re particularly effective for visually rich narratives or brands aiming to boost their top-of-the-funnel visibility.

Moreover, the impact of video content in Google Discover cannot be overstated. Google favors video content, offering another avenue for content creators to gain visibility. Uploading videos directly to YouTube maximizes your chances of being featured in Discover. Additionally, YouTube Short Videos have become a staple in Discover feeds, offering yet another format for creators to experiment with and engage their audience.

Incorporating Web Stories and video content into your digital strategy not only diversifies your content portfolio but also aligns with Google’s push towards more interactive and engaging content formats in Discover. Whether you’re aiming to broaden your reach, engage a wider audience, or simply explore new content formats, leveraging Web Stories and video content opens up new avenues for digital growth and visibility.

8. Article lifespan

The transient nature of content visibility in Google Discover poses a unique challenge for creators and SEO experts alike. Most articles enjoy a fleeting spotlight, often just a few days, before fading into the digital ether. However, by closely monitoring the duration your articles remain in Discover, you can uncover opportunities to extend their relevance and engagement.

Here are some strategic considerations to optimize the lifecycle of your content in Google Discover:

Refreshing Content with Meaningful Updates

  • Strategic Updates: Consider enriching your articles with fresh details or significant updates to breathe new life into them. Adding a new modified date can signal to Google that your content remains relevant.
  • Cautionary Note: Avoid merely changing publication or modification dates without substantive content changes. Google’s “Artificial Refreshening” manual action can penalize such practices.
  • Building on Success: If an article performs well, crafting a related follow-up piece can capitalize on its success. Ensure these articles are interlinked to provide a seamless journey for your audience.
  • Managing the Afterlife of High-Performing Content
    • Long-term Content Strategy: Evaluate how to handle previously successful content that no longer attracts Discover or SEO traffic.
    • Quality Over Quantity: Regularly producing content that thrives in Discover but lacks enduring value can dilute your site’s overall quality. Google’s Helpful Content System may penalize sites laden with thin, unengaging content. Strive for depth and usefulness in your content strategy to avoid these pitfalls.
  • Revitalizing Evergreen ContentReengagement Tactics: Explore opportunities to resurrect articles that have proven their worth in the past. Whether a month or a year old, these pieces can be updated or promoted anew to recapture Discover traffic.

9. Understanding the Impact of Google updates

Over the years, Google has emphasized that its core updates and ranking mechanisms, such as the Helpful Content System, can significantly influence your site’s performance in Google Discover. This connection was further highlighted in a recent update to their “Get on Discover” guidance, which explicitly states that Discover, being an extension of Search, may experience traffic fluctuations following algorithm updates. For websites that notice a dip in performance post-update, Google recommends revisiting guidelines on core updates and the Helpful Content System to understand potential impacts better.

These algorithm changes have led to dramatic shifts for numerous sites, with some experiencing a complete cessation of Discover traffic. It’s a stark reminder that Google’s site-wide quality assessments for Discover inclusion demand attention. Experiencing adverse effects from these updates signals a crucial juncture to reevaluate and enhance your site’s quality and compliance with Google’s standards.

Tackling the Challenges of Article Syndication

Article syndication, or the practice of sharing content across partner platforms like MSN, Yahoo, or AOL, introduces its own set of complexities regarding Discover visibility. Google’s historical difficulty in consistently identifying the original source of syndicated content means that the syndicated version might outrank the original in Discover and Google News, even when canonical tags suggest otherwise. For instance, a Yahoo News article that actually points back to the original Huffington Post piece via a canonical tag might still be deemed the “canonical” version by Google, thereby directing Discover traffic to Yahoo instead.

This scenario often results in the syndicating partner garnering the lion’s share of Discover traffic, despite canonical tags pointing to the original source. Google’s recent recommendation for partner sites to noindex syndicated articles aims to prioritize the original source in indexing and ranking. However, this solution isn’t always feasible, as it presents a potential loss for both the original and partner sites—not just in terms of traffic but also in shared revenue and the benefits of backlinks and social shares directed at the syndicated content.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for navigating the intricacies of article syndication, awareness of its potential impact on Discover traffic is essential. Publishers engaging in syndication must weigh these considerations carefully, as the practice could inadvertently affect their visibility and traffic from Discover.


Getting noticed on Google Discover is a big deal for any website looking to get more visitors. But, keep in mind, Google Discover keeps changing, trying out new looks and featuring different websites all the time.

If your website’s traffic from Discover goes up and down, don’t worry too much. Keep making your site better and get rid of anything that might be stopping you from doing well on Discover. It’s a good idea to really look into your website’s performance (or get some experts like us to help out!) to see what’s actually working for you.

Just because something worked for another site doesn’t mean it’ll work for yours. Every website is different, so finding out what your audience likes and doesn’t like is key to doing well on Discover.

In short, staying on top of changes and knowing what your visitors want is how you succeed on Google Discover. Whether you’re deep into SEO or just starting to see the potential of Discover for bringing more people to your site, keeping things fresh and paying attention to the details is how you’ll get ahead.

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