4 Initial Insights from the New Google Search Console Discover Report
Google Discover, previously known as the Google Feed (the “smart feed that changes with you”), has for some time been an overlooked driver of impressions and clicks for web content. The content feed, originally introduced in December 2016, is topic-driven and personalized based on search history and the Knowledge Graph’s Topic Layer. It’s built into the user interface of Google’s Pixel phones, and is now a core part of the Google app and mobile web experience.
Until now, we’ve not been able to isolate Discover performance in Search Console. But good news! Google Search Console is currently rolling out a “Discover” performance report that gives us clicks, impressions and CTR for content that’s surfaced in the Discover feed.
We have a few clients that have routinely been featured in Google Discover, and we’re now able to see the total traffic impact of this visibility. Here a few key takeaways and insights from the data we’re seeing trickle in:
1) Google Discover traffic comes in waves
Across the handful of Discover performance reports that we’ve reviewed to date, there is one common trend: clicks and impressions come in peaks and valleys. A few examples:
This is not particularly surprising when you think about how this content is served to users. Google wants to keep the feeds fresh, and is pulling in a mix of both newly published articles and particularly relevant/popular evergreen content. These types of spikes are reminiscent of performance within the Google News index (i.e. the typical news life cycle), but Discover does appear to throw older articles into a sort of “topical rotation” as well. Earlier this month, one of our clients had a strong one-day spike in Discover impressions/clicks from an article written in 2017:
As we get more data in and can track performance against optimization, it will be interesting to see what kind of tactics could increase the likelihood of Discover pulling older evergreen content into this rotation.
2. Google Discover content has higher average click-through rates than traditional search
It’s a bit of a small sample size, but across the handful of GSC properties with Discover performance, we’re seeing an average CTR hovering between 7-15%, much higher than we see in traditional search.
This signals high user engagement within Discover, and provides an interesting lens into 1) the efficacy of Google’s personalization (delivering right content to the right person at the right time = higher CTR) and 2) the nature of user behavior in the absence of traditional “search intent”. There’s certainly lower stakes and less commitment in a “content browsing” experience compared to a search engine results page, where users have specific tasks they’re attempting to accomplish in a quick, frictionless manner.
Put in another way: traditional search users are trying to save time; Discover users are killing time. There’s just less “risk” to clicking through in this paradigm.
3. Click-through rates give us a much clearer picture on whether our titles and featured images resonate with readers
As far as I know, this is the first time marketers have the ability to see click-through rates for content outside of the increased noise/complexity of search queries. Traditional search CTR is always in the context of a query or group of queries, and is heavily influenced by the presence of advertisements, universal search features, and competing (often derivative) results. In this paradigm, CTR is more reflective of the search environment of a given query than the performance of the page title or content itself.
In the Discover performance report, we have a much cleaner view of whether your content titles and featured images are compelling users to click-through. While we’d still need to take into account the environmental factors that lead to increased CTRs that I described above, the real value here is in the comparison of CTRs:
Here we have a handful of articles, and some interesting high and low outliers in CTR. Over time, we can analyze these outliers to understand what elements in article titles or images appear to compel (or repel) users to click through.
4. Google Discover leverages personalization rather than search queries, and should be seen as a very engaged, qualified audience
Discover impressions come from a highly engaged audience that has indicated (primarily through their personal search history) a preference for the topics you are writing about. Tracking Discover visibility and CTRs over time gives us a very useful lens on how well are content resonates with its target readers.
Discover can also be seen as a high-funnel brand awareness play. If you routinely show up in a reader’s feed over time, your brand is gaining trust and authority within a particular topic –and this is incredibly valuable when considering 1) the need for strong brand recall as that reader moves down funnel over time and 2) how Google’s search algorithms have their ears to the ground on topical depth.
Hey, we’re always happy when we have more data to work with — but in some subtle ways this Discover report could be a game-changer on our ability to understand content quality and brand amplification. If used thoughtfully (and for the right businesses), Discover performance data could be a compelling new KPI to track over time.
Are you seeing this new Discover report? Let us know your experience in the comments below!
And if you’d like some help leveraging the insights from Google’s new report, or any other performance metrics, to inform and drive your digital strategy, reach out! We’re always happy to help.