Google Search

LocalU events are a rich source of insight and innovative strategies for local marketers and SEOs. Often, the tactics and tools discussed are lesser-known and present great opportunities for outpacing the competition and standing out in different ways in Search. One of those opportunities discussed at a recent LocalU event is Google Discover.

You may already use this feed-like set of search results as a consumer, but is your brand targeting placement in Discover as part of your local SEO strategy? In this post, we’ll dig into the finer points of Google Discover as a channel for local promotion. In particular, for multi-location and enterprise brands who are trying to get found at scale, in hundreds or thousands of regional markets. First, let’s get to know the opportunity at a higher level.

What is Google Discover?

Google Discover is part of the Google app on Android and iOS. As of October 2020, was used by more than 800 million people per month. It is essentially a feed of content curated by Google based on a user’s search history and interactions with the Discovery app. As it “learns” more about the user’s preferences, Discover tailors new results to that enhanced understanding. Users may be familiar with this format as it closely mirrors the format Instagram users see on their explore page.

Google Discover is a queryless search experience. Its official documentation in Google Search Central explains, “Instead of showing results in response to a query, Discover surfaces content primarily based on what Google’s automated systems believe to be a good match with a user’s interests.”

Google Discover Interface example

Google Discover Interface example

How does Google Discover work?

Discover uses the Topic Layer in Google’s Knowledge Graph to predict a searcher’s level of expertise on the topic at hand and curate content to help further develop their knowledge. It looks at the user’s recent activity, from shows and movies to recipes, books, and more.

“Discover is unique because it’s one step ahead: it helps you come across the things you haven’t even started looking for,” Karen Corby, Group Product Manager at Google Search, explained in a 2018 blog post.

Google mentions in its documentation that Discover tries to filter out content that is not desired or may confuse readers. The examples include job applications, petitions, forms, code repositories, or satirical content without any context.

Recommendations for you example

How Google Discover displays recent activity

What can Google Discover do for local brands?

In addition to the extra visibility and traffic Discover can provide, it gives local brands another way to connect to customers interested in products and services like theirs. Chrome Android users in the U.S. can choose to ‘Follow’ a website they see in Discover. Doing so lets them get that site’s latest updates in the ‘Following’ tab within Discover.

Linking your RSS or Atom feed in the <head> section of your hub and leaf pages helps Google understand which feed you’d like people to Follow. You’ll find step-by-step instructions with sample code to help do this here.

Of course, you must give site visitors additional ways to stay connected. Consider how the page featured in Discover appears to users and what additional steps it offers. Is it clear how and where visitors can:

  • Follow you on social channels.
  • Subscribe to your email list.
  • Easily call or get directions to the business location nearest them.
  • Search your products or services to see what’s available and in stock.
  • Convert to a booked appointment, online order or purchase, or in-store visit.

How does Google Discover complement the existing SEO strategy?

Discover is an excellent add-on to your existing SEO strategy. It offers another channel to rank existing and new content tailored to specific consumer needs, thereby allowing you to expand your local brand’s presence in search.

It does so in a way that will resonate with most users who use social media apps, such as Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. This gives Google Discover a more modern edge to traditional Google Search and Maps results.

Google Discover can help consumers learn more about events being held at nearby locations, the differentiating features of your products and services, your brand’s values and ethics, and more.

However, it’s important to note it should not be used as a substitute for organic SEO or Google Business Profile optimization and management. Google cautions that “Given the serendipitous nature of Discover, traffic from Discover is less predictable or dependable when compared to Search, and is considered supplemental to your Search traffic.” Instead, think of Google Discover as a supplemental tool to attract customers.

Tips for ranking local business content in Google Discover

It’s important to note that no schema markup or tag will tell Google you’d like a piece of content to be included in Discover results. Optimizing for Google Search is optimizing for Google Discover. Google also offers this advice:

“To increase the likelihood of your content appearing in Discover, we recommend the following:

  • Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.
  • Include compelling, high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover. Large images need to be at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP. Avoid using a site logo as your image.
  • Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.
  • Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.
  • Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”
High-quality Google Discover Image

Example of a high-quality Google Discover Image with a compelling headline

Remember, too, that Discover content is subject to the same content policies that apply across all Google products. Content that Google deems dangerous, deceptive, hateful or otherwise in contravention of its policies will not appear on Discover (or anywhere else in its index). When this happens, a manual action will be levied and appear in the brand’s Google Search Console account.

How to stay on top of your Google Discover strategy

Stay on top of your Google Discover strategy by regularly reviewing your brand’s Discover Performance Report. You’ll have to reach a minimum threshold of impressions to activate this report. Once it’s available, you’ll be able to see impressions, clicks, and click-through rates for content that has appeared in Discover over the last 16 months. An impression is counted when a Discover item was scrolled into view, either as a standard Discover item, or embedded in a carousel, and only one impression is counted per session. Learn more about this reporting and how to customize it for your brand’s needs here.

As with all local content, the key to appearing in more relevant search results is to be the best answer for any given query. That means regularly producing high-quality content that is original, helpful, specific, and engaging. Read Local Content Marketing Strategy for Enterprise and Multi-Location Brands to learn more.