To win any game you first need to know the rules of the game. The next step is to work out how to take advantage of the rules so you give yourself the best chance of winning.
But sometimes you don’t know what the rules are or how to find out what they are.
In the digital world, the rules are given the rather cumbersome name of “algorithms”.
These rules are used by airlines to get you to pay higher prices and sell tickets. With Google, they are used to optimize search results and also grow their digital ad revenue. Social media platforms like Facebook use algorithms to serve content tailored to your interests to increase your engagement and ultimately generate more revenue from ads.
The downside is that often these rules are never revealed to the public and the upside is that if you can crack the code the results can lead to a firehouse of free traffic.
The article that went “viral”
After publishing a post titled “7 Different Ways to Make a $1,000+ a Month Online as a Writer” I noticed that traffic spiked and did so for the next 7+ days. The views currently sit at over 44,000.
The traffic didn’t come from search and it didn’t come from a big website that had linked or re-published it.
It appeared that Google’s algorithms had deemed the content “worthy” and approved it by giving it a green tick. As a result, it was featured on Google Discover, showing that Google’s algorithms gave it some “love.” More about that “Google Discover” soon.
So as it turns out, this piece of content had cracked both the Google code and the human code.
The digital codes and human codes
What appears to be viral is sometimes luck powered by a bit of science and sometimes the expertise and ability to be able to crack two codes: a digital code and a human code.
The Google code that I had cracked was based on the 3 principles of “E-A-T”, aka Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. These principles underlie all Google’s searches and content that it deems to be “worthy”.
This sounds very scientific and sensible. And it is. It is all about a great “search experience” that has been created around a complex set of search and content science.
Next we had to lift the hood and peer into the human code.
It’s worth looking at how Facebook gets mortal humans to click and drive attention and traffic.
Facebook algorithms use various techniques, including data analysis, machine learning and natural language processing, to understand and predict user behavior, including what types of content we are most likely to engage with.
But what are the human emotions that drive us? That “primal human code”?
Some of the emotions that can influence this engagement include:
In terms of neuroscience, concepts like attention allocation, decision-making, and reward processing in the brain can play a role in determining what a user clicks on. However, it is important to note that the exact methods used by Facebook’s algorithms are proprietary and not publicly disclosed.
Tapping those emotions starts with a great headline. Then we can continue with emotional images and videos.
What is Google Discover and how do you optimize it for your content?
Google Discover is a feature on Google that provides personalized content recommendations to users on the Google search page and Google app. It was launched in 2018.
How do you optimize your content for Google Discover?
It is also recommended that you optimize your content for mobile devices and include clear, high-quality images or videos to help your content stand out. Finally, it’s important to track your content’s performance and make data-driven updates to maximize engagement and drive customer purchases.
Your content can appear in Google Discover by following these general steps:
- Optimize for Search Engine Optimization (SEO): To appear in Google Discover, your content should be optimized for search engines. This includes using relevant keywords, creating high-quality and original content, and making sure your website is accessible and fast.
- Publish regularly: Google Discover prioritizes content that is fresh and updated regularly, so it’s important to publish new content on a consistent basis.
- Make your content shareable: Encourage users to share your content on social media and other platforms. The more engagement and shares your content receives, the more likely it is to appear in Google Discover.
- Use visual media: Google Discover includes articles, videos, and other types of visual media, so it’s important to include images, videos, and infographics in your content.
- Monitor your analytics: Keep an eye on your website’s traffic, engagement metrics, and audience demographics. Use this information to adjust your content strategy and improve your chances of appearing in Google Discover.
So be aware that Google does not provide a way for content creators to directly submit content for inclusion in Discover. The appearance of content in Discover is determined by Google’s algorithms based on factors such as relevance, freshness, and user engagement.
We got lucky to get the traffic but also we do adhere to the E-A-T principles and we also have built up a lot of SEO “Google authority” over the years from publishing a lot of content.
So play the game. Keep testing, work on writing the best headlines you can and have some fun. And you might be surprised when you start getting some free traffic.