With Discover, you can get updates for your interests, like your favorite sports team or news site, without searching for them. – Google Search help

As a small business owner myself, I am right there with you. We are always looking for ways to stand out and reach your local audience. We create content, put it out there, and hope it lands with the right people – those whom we can help, inspire and influence. That’s where Google Discover can help. 

Tips for content optimization for Google Discover

If you’ve landed on this page, you’re interested in learning how Google’s Discover feature can help your small business. Having invested time in creating your top-quality, informative blog posts, is Google Discover a short-cut to your business reaching more people with no extra effort? 

Small business owner's guide to getting found on Google Discover
Google Discover – a way to spread your message and reach new customers?

Launched in 2018, and with 800 million users (and those figures being from 2018), Google Discover is simply too big to ignore in 2020. Incredibly, some websites such as Vogue international editions, actually drove more traffic from Discover than organic search over a month that was analyzed. (Source: Digiday) In some territories, it accounted for more than 75% of the traffic. 

According to Google, the Discover is part of a larger initiative to change the way we search. From answers to journeys, queries to queryless and from text-based to visual. 

Google’s algorithm works constantly to give us more of what we really want or need to know. 

We see billions of queries every day, and 15 percent of queries are ones we’ve never seen before. Given this scale, the only way to provide Search effectively is through an algorithmic approach

Google, Improving Search for the next 20 years

What is Google Discover?

Google Discover is a new take on an old idea – showing Google users content that interests them without them searching for it. It’s a form of queryless search, using AI to show users quality content that compliments their interests and browsing history. After a couple of iterations known as Google Now and Google Feed, Google Discover was born. 

This is what Google Discover looks like:

You’ve probably seen it when opening Google in a browser or using the Google app, without really thinking much of it. And yes, it is worth mentioning that this feed is only available on mobile devices at the current time. 

The idea is simple. Using machine learning and user search history, the feed suggests articles curated from around the web that are likely to be of interest to that user. No two users will have the same Discover feed – the beauty of the feed is the mixture of hyper-tailored suggestions and general interest news. 

The customization that Google Discover performs is flavored by: 

  • App activity 
  • Browser history 
  • Search activity 
  • Location 
  • What the user sets as their own topics of interest

Discover’s suggestions even match up with a user’s proficiency in a given subject. For example, if I’m learning guitar, Google Discover will show me beginner-level material. Pretty neat, right?

Google Discover for marketers and small biz

Let’s cut to the chase – I have had success with Google Discover. And I’m curious how my minor accomplishment can help others in a similar position. 

I run a small business in the San Francisco Bay Area offering wedding photography services to my local market. For the past few months, I’ve seen a small number of my articles shown to users on Google Discover. My interest is officially piqued. 

READ MORE  How to set up your Google My Business for photographers

And in this article, I will let you in on everything I’ve learned through first-hand experience as well as my own independent research on Google Discover.

Google Discover graphic - everything I’ve learned through first-hand experience as well as my own independent research on Google Discover.
Google Discover has a beautiful, visually-led interface that makes you want to click

Diving into my Google Discover feed

Let’s see how accurate my Google Discover suggestions are, just as an experiment. You might want to check yours too by opening up Google on your smartphone and scrolling down. This can help you get an insight into how you can optimize content to appear on Google users’ Discover feeds.

The results are in order of how they appeared on my Discover feed. Here’s what I found: 

Trump extends PPP deadline with $130B left in small business fund – Fox Business – 9 hours ago 

Topic: Small business 

Relevance: Highly relevant. This impacts my business directly. 

Have I visited the site before?: No 

Keyword Data Accuracy & Data Manipulation by SEO Tools [In-Depth Study] – Search Engine Journal – 4 days ago 

Topic: SEO

Relevance: Highly relevant. I just conducted extensive research on this topic for an article. 

Have I visited the site before?: Yes

Which photography style is best for my wedding? – Jeff and Michele Photo – 1 year ago (actually over 1.5 years ago)

Topic: Wedding photography

Relevance: Somewhat relevant. I write about this topic on my wedding photography business blog and visit similar sites. 

Have I visited the site before?: No 

A human-sized bat? It’s big, and photo is real, but… – For The Win / USA Today – 2 days ago

Topic: General interest

Relevance: Not relevant. Nothing in common with previously searched topics.

Have I visited the site before?: No 

Google Launches Beta of AMP-Powered Web Stories Plugin for WordPress – WP Tavern – 1 day ago

Topic: WordPress

Relevance: Highly relevant. I’ve just been researching the topic only a day or two ago.

Have I visited the site before?: Yes

Designer sues Nike and Michael Jordan for copycat logo – Creative Bloq – 1 day ago

Topic: Graphic Design

Relevance: Not relevant. I do sometimes look at graphic design trends or how-to, but no interest in news like this.  

Have I visited the site before?: No

San Francisco supervisors approve call for statewide ‘millionaire’s tax’ – KRON4 – 3 days ago 

Topic: San Francisco 

Relevance: Somewhat relevant. Doesn’t impact me directly (ahem) but local politics is a general interest topic.

Have I visited the site before?: No 

Why Are Fireworks Going Off Every Night in California? – New York Times – 1 day ago 

Topic: California

Relevance: Somewhat relevant. It’s timely because it’s 4th of July at the time of writing. 

Have I visited the site before?:Yes 

How old is your dog in human years? Scientists develop better method than ‘multiply by 7’ – Phys.Org – 2 days ago 

Topic: Pets

Relevance: Not relevant. Google knows I’m a cat person. 

Have I visited the site before?: No 

A Psychological Model to Find Meaning in Life – Psychology Today – 1 day ago 

Topic: Psychology

Relevance: Not relevant. I haven’t searched for this topic before. Has a clickbait-title.

Have I visited the site before?: Yes 

Here are the best and worst U.S. states for retirement in 2020 – Yahoo Money – 2 days ago

Topic: Retirement planning

Relevance: Highly relevant. My husband and I often talk about retirement ideas (is it listening to us?), but the searching happens on his computer. 

Have I visited the site before?: No 

Anecdotal study of one users's Google Discover based on relevance

So what can we deduce here? 

Of the 11 results: 4 were highly relevant, 3 were somewhat relevant and 3 were not at all relevant. Even with the suggestions missed the mark, I can usually see why Google is showing those posts to me. Either the stories were general interest, or I had a passing knowledge in a topic that Google perceived as deeper than it actually is.

And how does this actually help us? Well, let’s look in detail at what you can actually do, referencing back to examples from my own Discover feed. 

How do you appear on Google Discover?

Content ranking is powered by the strength of the match between an article’s content and a user’s interests, so there aren’t any methods for boosting the ranking of your pages other than posting content that you think users will find interesting.

Google, Optimize your content for Discover

There is no way of submitting content for Google Discover, or applying for the chance of appearing on users’ feeds. Gone are our traditional SEO tactics like keyword research and query reports. Discover is different. It’s tailored to each specific user – and they are seeing your posts without typing anything in to find your content!

It’s kinda like SEO on steroids – the need to write unique, compelling, high-quality and engaging content is everything if you want a shot at appearing on Discover. That said, I can give you some pointers that may help.

1. Use high quality images

Publishers experience a 5% increase in clickthrough rate, a 3% increase in time spent on their pages, and a 3% increase in user satisfaction when Discover cards feature large images instead of thumbnail images.

Google, Optimize your content for Discover

2. Have a click-worthy title

All the posts shown in my feed had a title that was intriguing, engaging, and made you want to click through. Create a title that users can’t resist clicking on. Either by sparking curiosity, asking a question, presenting original research, or your unique take that challenges the consensus. We may not be serving up breaking news, but you can look closely at the formula used by headline writers to learn how to hook in a user’s attention.

3. Provide informative or entertaining content

A great title is important, but if the content doesn’t live up to the hype, Google will take note. Looking at my Discover feed as an example, everything I saw was information, entertainment or infotainment. Some had more of a serious news angle, others were light-hearted. The oldest article was published over 18 months ago, but mostly the posts were from the last 4 days.

4. Write for topics (as well as keywords)

If you’re already familiar with SEO, you’ll know all about keywords and how to optimize for them. Well, Discover is a little different, because people won’t be searching keywords to find your stuff.

READ MORE  The best FREE keyword research tools for small businesses in 2021

But they will have to have an interest in the topic you’re writing about! So dive into topics that are considered worthy of having a place on Discover. As you’ll already have these topics in your own Google Discover recommended list, that’s a good place to start. Here’s mine: 

Google Discover screenshot showing a user's feed featuring coding, photography and TV topics - use this as a content marketer
Google Discover phone screenshot displaying user's cards or topics of interest

5. Be mobile-friendly

Google Discover is solely for mobile users. It’s a no brainer that you need a responsive site that’s optimized for mobile with fast-loading pages and an overall great mobile experience. I’d suggest using AMP (a framework that speeds up pages and improves mobile performance by eliminating unnecessary bloat). Check out how your site performs with Google’s Mobile Usability report – Search Console Help

6. Create a good mix of content 

As you may have noticed, the articles on my Discover feed were a mixture of current affairs and evergreen content. When planning your blogging strategy, be sure to include both types. Response to hot topics may be picked up for reasons of timeliness and being ahead of the curve. 

Want to write about trending topics? Bookmark Google Trends and see what content is out there right now. But don’t forget evergreen content may be relevant for months or even years to the right users. Tap into your unique expertise. 

7. Follow Google News’ guidelines

It’s well worth remembering to cover the basics when you write your articles. That means following Google News guidelines (yes, even though you’re no news publisher!). This includes: 

  • Write original content 
  • Keep ads to a minimum
  • Write transparently 
  • Use a clear author name 
  • Include clearly visible publish dates 
  • Credit appropriate external sources 

Source: Hubspot, Google Discover: What It Is and What Marketers Need to Know

8. Use internal linking

You’ll want to make sure users can easily find other posts that may interest them once they’re on your site. This may be the first time users have ever been on your site – so keep them engaged, and keep the suggestions hyper-relevant. Not only is this good SEO practice, but the longer they click around, the greater the chance they may visit you again and see the value in your content. 

9. Turn random browsers into loyal fans

It’s possible your business name may come up as your target user’s ‘Interest’ if you play your cards right. On my Interests (Google App > More > Settings > Interests > Your Interests > scroll down, my own business is listed there. This is due to how long I spend on one of my own sites! Imagine what it can do if you have loyal users who regularly visit your site. Once Google learns their behavior, it’ll start showing your posts in their Discover feed. You can also play around with ‘Your Data in Search’ on the Google app.

Screenshot of your Interests on Google - how to view the data that Google uses to target users
Screenshot of how to tailor your Interests on Google and view and manage your interests
Screenshot of your data on search using Google app - view your data on the settings section

10. Embrace your uniqueness 

All things being equal, what can really make you stand out? Providing content that Google hasn’t seen before. Your perspective as a small business owner can help you immensely in this regard as you’re talking about your own real-world experience. The posts of mine that I’ve seen on Discover are 100% original content, rather than rehashing other people’s posts on the topic. 

BONUS: An unsubstantiated theory about Google Discover

This is something I first heard on Reddit – feel free to take with a large grain of salt. Here goes. 

Reddit screenshot showing a user's theory that to appear on Google Discover you must have over one million impressions on Google Search
The Reddit screenshot that got my wheels turning

Your site can only appear on Google Discover once you have crossed one million impressions in Google search results

Though this is purely anecdotal, when I saw my site stare showing me Discover traffic on Google Search Console, it was at exactly the time I crossed one million search impressions. Coincidence? Very probably.  But here’s my GSC performance for search results.

Google Search Console for an established wedding photography business showing just over one million search impressions and 15,000 clicks
Screenshot showing my total number of search impressions just crossing 1 million

But it would certainly stand to reason. Having that many impressions means you’ve already proved to Google that your site stands up against other sites. It means they’ve already done half the vetting for you, if that makes sense. As the SERPs have gotten more competitive, your site’s managed to hold its own. 

Therefore, it must be high quality, engaging, trustworthy…. all the things Google is looking to serve up in its Discover feed. 

Is only news shown on Discover? 

Nope! Though news is prominent, it isn’t the only kind of content that appears on Discover. Discover is actually a shift away from previous iterations focused almost exclusively on news, to now a mixture of evergreen content alongside news. 

This is borne out in my own feed with the oldest post being from over a year and a half ago – and a great example of evergreen content. 

That said, news sites that appear on Google Discover receive a whopping 99% of all clicks – a disproportionate number considering they account for less than half of all results in this study by Search Engine Journal. And that makes sense, as news is relevant to pretty much everyone, as opposed to niche topics like graphic design, vegan baking or playing guitar. 

Writing anything in your field of expertise that’s high quality, original and compelling will give you a chance to appear on Google Discover. You honestly don’t need to overthink it. It’s one of those things where the more you fixate on it, the less likely it is to happen. Keep your focus firmly on doing everything right by your readers, and Google will notice. 

Can you pay to be shown on Google Discover?

Yes! You can find out more about Discovery ads here. Though the ad isn’t specific to Google Discover, there are ways of paying for a position in the Discover feed that way. If you’re already familiar with Google Ads, this will be easy enough to get started with. 

However, in this article as you may have gathered, I’m talking about appearing organically in a more sustainable way (i.e. not paying for it). 

My own experiences getting on Google Discover as a small business

OK, real life case study! As I mentioned my wedding photography business has been featured on Discover. I’ve seen some of my own articles actually pop up on my own Discover feed! Whether that’s a feature or a bug, I’m not too sure. But I have been able to use that to see what other actual users see, which has been pretty cool. This is how it looked:

screenshot of my own personal blog post on Google Discover and how you can achieve this as a small business owner

I’m also sharing some screenshots from my Google Search Console. My first time ever appearing on Google Discover was Tuesday Jan 14 2020 – I got 1 impression. GSC does not tell me which article it was.

A small business owner shares screenshots appearing on Google Discover and how I got 3k impressions
Screenshot showing my performance on Google Discover

Note: in the short while since writing this article and it going live, I checked my Google Discover traffic again. In the same timeframe (showing the past 6 months’ of data), I went from 2.92k impressions to, most recently, over 9,000 impressions with almost 400 clicks.

This is a sure-fire sign for me that now Google trusts my site enough, it will start trying me out on Google Discover – if my CTR doesn’t slip too much, that is…

But anyway, previous to the above edit. My best-performing day was Friday, Jun 19 2020 when I got 334 impressions and 21 clicks. So, was that within days of the article being published? No. 

Strangely, the article, according to the ‘Pages’ data below, was this one: The wedding tax – the REAL reason wedding vendors charge more. It was published on March 6 2020, months prior. 

What caused this spike? I can’t say with any certainty. Google also has very little to say on it – you don’t get any analytics that help you understand how you got on Discover! All I did was create great (even if I do say so), long-form (it was 4,300 words) original content myself that was extensively researched as well as personal.

The post I wrote had little to do with keywords I wanted to target. Sure, I did run an analysis on key phrases, but it wasn’t my ultimate driving force. 

Instead, this was a topic I am uniquely qualified to talk about. I had an opinion that it was important for me to share, as an educator in my industry. It was about putting right genuine misconceptions, speaking up for the wedding industry, and creating a resource that’s helpful for other vendors forced to self-justify. 

Another update – just prior to actually publishing this blog post, I noticed that my Google Discover has blown up again. This time, I can see that there are 5 different posts that have been responsible for the traffic spike. Check out my most recent screenshot:

A screenshot from Google Search Console of Zoe Larkin photography showing three spikes in traffic from Google Discover - analysis of how this happened

So, what can we deduce from the above? Well, to my mind it seems like Google is trying out content on my site periodically to show on Google Discover. Each time, the impressions go up. The clicks do, too. So this must be sending a signal to the algorithm that my content is being well-received by those who have expressed an interest in it.

The latest spike is by far the highest one yet. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues. What does this mean for you? Focus your energy on creating the unique, interesting and compelling content for your site continually and Google will do the hard work. The results will be exponential and continue to pay dividends, if this (admittedly anecdotal) case study is anything to go by!

Write to create value and connect with your audience - Google will take notice
Write to create value and connect with your audience – Google will take notice

Wrapping up 

There really are no hacks, there’s no program to apply to, no schema markups or anything like that. Get in tune with your buyers and industry peers. Poke around your own Google Discover feed, and see what makes you want to click. This is going to be more helpful than reading guides on it – you’ll get ideas as a Google Discover user that will help you enormously as a marketer or small business.

READ MORE  How to set up your Google My Business for photographers

With Discover, SEO strategies work alongside your strong editorial eye. Conventional SEO is still necessary to gain Google’s trust and ramp up your search impressions (whether the 1 million benchmark is true or not, the same concept applies). After all, they will not risk losing the trust of their users by suggesting subpar content. That makes Discover more of a long term goal than a quick win. Like all things SEO, patience is a virtue. 


Right after I published this article, I checked my Google Discover… and there it was!

Phone screenshot showing THIS article showing up on my own Google Discover feed - showing you how to get your articles to show up on Google Discover!

It really works because I got featured on (admittedly my own) Google Discover feed with my article about how to optimize for Google Discover. Must be doing something right. I’m stoked!

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Further reading

Discover new information and inspiration with Search, no query required

Google Discover – Search Console Help 

Webmaster Guidelines – Search Console Help 

Pin a graphic to your Pinterest board to bookmark this blog post! Follow @zoelarkinphoto on Pinterest!

10 actionable tips for optimizing your content for Google Discover! You may have noticed Google Discover when you open google.com in a web browser on your phone, or on the Google app. Your business appearing there is a great opportunity for more traffic, visibility, clicks and ultimately sales! I've actually done it myself, so in this post I'm sharing everything I learned + testing a few theories too about how to get your content on Google Discover! | #googlediscover #google | zoelarkin.com
How to appear on Google Discover – an untapped traffic source for small business owners | zoelarkin
Learn about optimizing your blog content as a small business owner! In this post I share 10 actionable tips that will help you appear on Google Discover where you can reach a new audience. Google Discover is a queryless feed that Google implemented in 2018, and the opportunities are limitless. As a small business owner I have seen success with the platform and want to show you how to optimize for this new way of being found. | #googlediscover #google | zoelarkin.com
Optimizing for Google Discover as a small business owner (with case study) | zoelarkin.com
Zoe Larkin
Zoe Larkin

I’m Zoe, a wedding photographer based in San Francisco! My style is candid, capturing authentic moments for my couples all over the Bay Area and Northern California. Creating content is my passion! Follow along the blog and Insta!

how to get found on Google Discover - the queryless search tailored to users

Optimizing for Google Discover as a small business owner (with case study)

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