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Is your business optimized for Google Discover? This guide is for you!

February 17, 2022 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Would you turn down an opportunity to acquire new customers without breaking the bank?
  • Google Discover currently supports 800M users in exploration and is a great way to attract new audiences
  • Joe Dawson covers the “why” and “how” in this comprehensive Google Discover optimization guide

Even though spending on SEO plays such a major role in the online business sphere, most web admins spend their lives attempting to crack Google’s organic page ranking algorithms. As SEOs may or may not lose sleep over the latest updates, Google Discovery is surely a dreamy-eyed way to win more audiences.

What is Google Discover?

Discover is the brainchild that replaced Google Feed in 2018 and helps around  800M monthly active users with content exploration. Discover aims to push hand-selected news and articles directly to user feeds without the need for searching. Google builds a profile of users and supplies them with content considered relevant to individual interests.

Nothing is anonymous online, and we all leave digital trails of our fundamental interests. Just as your website offers opportunities to glean first-party data, so does Google. With the average person estimated to make at least three to four searches per day, that’s plenty of information to harvest.

Google Discover - a quick look

Source: Google Search Central

Google plays their cards close to their chest about how they build consumer profiles. Experts believe that the following are factored into the creation of these blueprints:

  • Search history unique to Google
  • Browser history of websites visited
  • Activity on any installed apps
  • Location, assuming this information has not been barred in settings

That’s certainly enough material to understand what a user may be interested in. Much like social media targeted advertising, Google knows what your audience wants to see and will do all it can to meet such desires through Discovery. It’s your responsibility to optimize your Discovery presence and ensure that your content is chosen to be pushed.

Why optimize Google Discover?

Discover attracts a loyal, returning audience to your website. It allows users to follow a particular brand or business, ensuring their content will always appear on their smartphone. Naturally, you need to earn this loyalty. The usual caveats apply here. Work to attract your target audience by speaking their language, delivering content that shows your brand can be relied upon.

Deliver content that shows people can rely on your brand - Google Discover optimization guide

Source: Marketing Charts

Perhaps more pertinently, Discover knows what users want to hear about – and delivers this in spades. Imagine that a user’s five most visited websites are for their local NFL team, a health food store in their town, a website specializing in tips for joggers, a website that sells running shoes, and a food blog packed with recipes. This suggests that the user in question enjoys sports and fitness. This individual’s Google Discovery feed will reflect this lifestyle.

Somebody with more sedentary hobbies may receive articles on the latest comings and goings on Netflix or technology and gadget news. If you optimize your content for Discover, it could be your website and articles that are pushed onto a smartphone. As Discover has an enviable CTR, this is not an opportunity to pass up.

How to optimize your website for Google Discover

Now that we’ve established that Discover fast-track site traffic, and by extension, conversions – how do you achieve this optimization? This fifteen-point checklist covers hints and tips to enhance your success rate.

1. Comply with Google’s policies

First thing’s first. Do not forget that Discover is a Google property, which means abiding by the search engine’s usual rules and regulations. In essence, that means continuing to follow organic SEO and page ranking practices.

As much as keeping on top of Google’s regular algorithm updates can sometimes feel like a full-time job, it remains necessary. To optimize the potential of Discover, your website must maintain standard white hat SEO protocols. If your dedication to improving page ranking and quality score slips, your content is less likely to be selected by Discover.

2. Create a Google My Business account

Here’s another quick and simple hack to help produce tangible results. Google always wants to provide users with the finest and most relevant connections. If you’re using Discover for ecommerce, the big G will consider a GMB account as a seal of quality. You’re likelier to be selected by Discover if you have an active profile – especially one that boasts organic, positive reviews.

3. Ensure mobile compatibility

When investigating different web design possibilities, highly prioritize mobile compatibility. This sounds like a no-brainer as Discovery is a mobile-centric tool, but you may be surprised at how many fall at this hurdle. Use Google’s Mobile Usability Report to check how your site is doing.

If you build your website through WordPress, consider taking advantage of the Web Stories plug-in. This is made for use on Google – after all, Web Stories even have their own segment on the search engine’s home page – and will often pique the curiosity of Discovery.

4. Feature larger images to create compelling UX and boost CTRs

You can even feature your card images in a large format by using the robots meta tag max-image-preview setting. This is a great way to gain more screen space and win audience attention that will drive CTR. According to Google, this increased a food blog’s CTR by 79 percent and drove a weekly magazine’s clicks by 332 percent across six months.

Google Discover optimization guide - use large images to drive CTR
Google Discover optimization guide – use large images to drive CTR

Source: Google Search Central

5. Find a unique niche and demonstrate your knowledge

Like when bidding for a plum PPC spot, popular keywords can create an extremely competitive environment in Discovery. Unless you’re among the major players in your industry, you risk being muscled out by more prominent names. For example, if you’re writing about sports, ESPN is always likelier to be selected to discuss the playoffs and significant incidents in a game.

That doesn’t mean that Discover is pointless, you’ll just need to think outside the box. Come up with a topic that could be less commonplace within your niches, such as a particular player, team, or set of stats. Discuss these at length, appealing to the regulations of the E-A-T algorithm, and the results will come.

6. Consider your target audience

Discover is designed to match the ideal content with the perfect audience. That needs to be considered when creating blog posts and similar copy. Take the time to build a picture of your target audience and use analytics to ensure you are appealing to them.

Based on the results, you may need to adjust your approach. For example, emotive language may attract one type of reader but deter users likelier to convert. Equally, you may find that you need to use less prose and more images to draw users you really want.

7. Master your headlines carefully

Over 14 percent of all Google text searches include a question. Embrace this in your headlines. If you pose a question, you’re likelier to be selected by Discovery and attract an audience’s attention.

All the same, never lose sight of Google’s quest for relevance. That means not trying to pull a bait and switch. A blog headlined “how to hire an app developer” needs to discuss the trials and tribulations of this very process. An article that says, “don’t bother – here is a DIY mobile app design guide to save money,” will not be embraced by Discovery.

8. Ensure your content is of the highest quality

We’ve just established that Google Discover has limited patience for clickbait, but you may be able to slip some of this material through the net.

You’ll quickly lose their trust and struggle to attract followers. The same applies to content that has not gone through a quality check process and is littered with typos and errors. Quality matters, so do not try to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes. Another way to create compelling, relevant content for your audience is by checking your Google search traffic and keyword research. This will help you distinguish and craft top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content for key segments of the search journey and align it with the sales funnel.

9. Keep your finger on the pulse

News and current events are the bread and butter of Google Discover. On paper, Google will always look to deliver the latest and greatest news articles to users. Criticism has been leveled at Discover, claiming that it has been top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), but it still pays to remain relevant when attempting to appeal to algorithms.

Anecdotal evidence claims that Discover ranks some search terms that SEO does not, opening new opportunities. That does not mean that you should throw together a hot take on the latest Twitter controversy and wait for the clicks to roll in. If that flies in the face of your brand values, you’ll suffer in the longer term. Just avoid shying away from existing talking points that would add value to your audiences. Also, don’t hop on this bandwagon unless you have something valuable to say as a brand.

10. Encourage users to ‘heart’ you

If you have a captive audience outside of Discover, encourage them to follow you on this platform. Discover offers a heart icon that matches the purpose of a Facebook like, which is a direct way to show appreciation for the material.

If somebody follows an article from your site in their areas of interest, it will be noted on their Google profile. They are then likely to receive more content on the same subject from your brand – as are other, unrelated users that Google considers to have similar interests.

11. Increase your brand awareness

As an extension of the point above, users are prone to discover – and follow – your Discover profile if they are aware of your brand. Use your marketing campaigns to raise your Google Discover profile, steering people toward following you on here.

12. Regularly create and post new content

Discover is often looking for the newest insights and articles to share with users. As a result, a freshly published blog is much likelier to be selected than something penned weeks, months, or years previously – assuming it meets the quality standards we previously mentioned. Evergreen content occasionally gets picked up, but not as often.

Just be aware that articles selected by Discover tend to have a shorter shelf life than something penned with organic SEO in mind. You can still look to appeal to both markets. Discover can be just as helpful for an inbound marketing strategy. Just do not expect your blog to remain on the platform longer than three or four days.

13. Include images and videos in your content

Regardless of whether a picture is truly worth a thousand words, there is no denying that Discover looks to curate variety in its content. Websites that included images and video in their blog posts saw a much greater uptake in selection by Discover than those that relied on pure prose.

Quality matters just as much as quantity here. A quick video shot on your smartphone and shoehorned into your content will not cut the mustard. Discover looks for crisp, high-definition image quality in moving and static pictures alike, so always opt for the greatest resolution you can that retains mobile friendliness.

14. Interact on social media

Discover loves social engagement. As with organic SEO, Discover is likely to select and push content that attracts comments and shares on social media. This creates a chicken and egg scenario. Will your content go viral on social media because it was picked up by Discover, or did Discover push the content because it was gaining social media traction?

In truth, the order of events matters little. Discover can sit neatly alongside the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to bolster awareness of your content and amass an army of new followers. As always, this creates a snowball effect – the more followers you gain, the more strangers will have your content pushed to their appliances.

15. Track your analytics – and improve where necessary

Finally, as with your SEO performance, you should always keep an eye on your Google Discover traffic analytics. You’ll find this in your Search Console. Do not be alarmed if your Discover traffic looks low. It takes a couple of days for these visits to hit the report so things may change in time.

Discover may not be essential if you are still attracting attention through other means. But no website should ever turn down an opportunity to boost website traffic! So if your numbers are tracking lower than anticipated, revisit points one through fourteen and implement what you can to improve performance.


Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

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The post Is your business optimized for Google Discover? This guide is for you! appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Four ways to use your website data to discover missed sales opportunities

March 23, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Analyzing and understanding website data helps enhance potential sales and conversions
  • Google Analytics records the exit rate of specific website pages, helping you pinpoint exactly where users abandon your sales filter
  • Google Tag Manager can help identify if users are leaving forms uncompleted, leaving you tantalizingly close to conversion without sticking the landing
  • Recording and analyzing common user search terms on a website will reveal if consumers are seeking services they are willing to pay for but you do not provide
  • Search analysis tools will shine a light on any underutilized and under-monetized website pages, helping you make the most of your PPC budget

In the age of online marketing and data intelligence, every click matters. Traffic is a great metric for the potential success of your business, after all. Alas, traffic means little without conversions. A brick-and-mortar store that sees plenty of footfall but fails to make sufficient sales will be considered a failed business model. The online world is no different. Without conversions, a website is just an expensive – and ultimately unsuccessful – advertising campaign.

A conversion is the completion of any pre-determined action on a website. This could be downloading free content in exchange for joining a mailing list or interacting with the site through social media or a contact form. The gold standard of conversions will always be sales, though. If your product or service is not turning a profit, something needs to change.

By studying and understanding website data, you can pinpoint missed opportunities for sales on your site. Utilizing tools and software, you’ll understand what visitors are looking for and why they bounce without converting.

Data to review

Here are four core KPIs that should be studied to understand why visitors leave your site without making a conversion. By mastering and understanding this data, you can make any necessary adjustments to your website and marketing strategy – potentially reaping financial rewards.

1. Google Analytics exit pages

The exit page of a website, which is tracked on Google Analytics, is the last interaction a user has with your website before terminating a session. Google Analytics records exit pages as a percentage, referring to this as an exit rate.

In an ideal world, the most popular exit page on any website will be the thank you page after completing a conversion. At this stage, the user has concluded their business to the satisfaction of all parties.

If you notice a high exit rate on a different page, it merits investigation. Something about this page is deterring visitors from converting. Ergo, this exit page is potentially responsible for missed sales.

Be aware that an exit rate is not the same as a bounce rate. Bounce rate relates to users that leave a site without any interaction. Exit pages are recorded when users begin the journey toward conversion but fail to complete the process.

By understanding which pages on your website have the highest exit rate, you can improve your sales. Take a look at this page and consider why users are not completing a conversion. Potential explanations include:

  • An unclear or weak call to action
  • A lengthy sales funnel with too many steps
  • Insufficient information about your product or service, failing to convince the user to convert – or too much data, confusing a user and causing them to lose interest
  • Lack of preferred payment options (that is, ewallets – not everybody likes to use their credit card online)

Tweak this exit page to improve user experience and convince users to conclude a conversion. This is easier if one page of your website, in particular, has a high exit rate. If exit pages are equally spread throughout your site, it may be worth considering a complete overhaul and refresh of the content.

2. Google Tag Manager

The internet has brought a lot of good to the world, but enhancing patience is not among these benefits. With so much competition out there, users are unlikely to tolerate any kind of interface issues when attempting to complete a conversion. You can use Google Tag Manager to identify these issues.

Form completion is arguably the best use of GTM. If you study the analytics of a form and find that it is frequently being abandoned before completion, something is amiss. You had the user on the end of your hook – they would not have started to fill in the form otherwise. Unfortunately, something made them change their mind and you missed out on a sale.

Use the GTM debugging mode to ensure that a technical hitch was not to blame. If this is the case, it’s time to look inward. Some of the common reasons for users to abandon forms before completion include:

  • The form is just too long and cumbersome! Slow and steady may win a race, but it bores the life out of online consumers
  • Unnecessary questions. If you’re not selling age-restricted products or services, don’t ask for a user’s date of birth. Unless it’s relevant to the product, do not ask for clarification of gender or race
  • Pop-up advertising. Unfortunately, you may be standing trial for the sins of other sites here – previous experiences elsewhere may tarnish a user’s view of all online forms
  • Lack of assurance about the safety and security of any data that will be provided. Make it clear that you are not in the business is selling personal information to other businesses
  • Lack of mobile device compatibility. Over half of all web traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets. Ensure your form is not fiddly and persnickety to complete on such a device

Using Google Tag Manager to understand your website data and fix missed conversion opportunities

Source: Google Tag Manager

Using GTM to gain insights into why forms remain uncompleted can be an easy fix, and potentially turn half-completed questionnaires into successful conversions. Don’t miss out on a possible sale for something as prosaic as a needlessly complicated sign-up process.

3. Search records

As we touched upon previously, consumers want to feel understood by a business. The modern visitor to a website will ideally not wish to search to find what they’re looking for. Visitors want to find everything they need before their eyes and to see that your product or service will resolve a particular pain point.

If users are making use of the search function, configure the site to record search terms. This provides the perfect opportunity to study what your potential customers are seeking – and presumably not finding – on your site. If they located what they were looking for, they would likely have completed a conversion.

Understanding what users are searching for means that you can improve and enhance your offering to apply these missing services. Alternatively, it may just reveal that your copy needs a little updating. Check whether users are using terminology that does not match up with keywords used on your site. This is an easy fix with a content refresh and reduces the frustration of being so near but yet so far from a conversion.

This will also have a welcome side-effect of potentially bolstering your SERP standing. Google is moving toward a model of enhanced search equity, which makes your use of copy all the more important. It will be very welcome for a website’s page ranking – and conversion potential – to stand or fall on quality and relevance of content, as opposed to restrictive technical obstacles.

4. Traffic value

To paraphrase George Orwell, “all website traffic is equal, but some traffic is more equal than others.” Some pages on your website will inevitably demonstrate greater potential for sales and conversions. Investing in a search analysis tool can aid you in identifying these pages so you can focus your financial outlay on them. Google Trends can also be an invaluable ally here.

Your website will likely utilize at least one cost-per-conversion model, such as Google Ads. You may be using several, with Facebook Ads (which includes Instagram Ads) and even Microsoft Advertising providing plentiful leads to conversions. While PPC business models are constantly evolving, some tactics are evergreen.

Perhaps the most critical of these is identifying which pages on your site have potential that is not being maximized. By undertaking SEO analysis, you will gain a greater understanding of what users are looking for online. In learning this, you may realize that you are placing too much of a marketing budget on one page when judicious use of keywords on another may yield greater results.

For example, it’s always tempting to place all of your financial muscle on a completion page. We have discussed already how users are looking for a brief and practical conversion funnel. Do not overlook the potential to educate and entertain before pushing for conversion, though. If you embrace – and more importantly, perfect content marketing, you will convince users to click through to a conversion page after learning more about your offering. This enhances your traffic stats, potentially building brand loyalty in the process.

What next?

Now that you are aware of these metrics, use them to calculate your conversions. That’s easily done – just divide the number of conversions by the number of visitors, then multiply the total by 100. How does that number look to you?

If you feel that your conversion rate is lacking in any of these metrics, there are steps that you can take to improve it. These include:

  • Simplifying any forms and streamlining your sales filter
  • Improve and simplify the copy on pages with a high exit rate
  • Considering adding a pop-up with a renewed CTA – or even the promise of a discount or freebie – when a user tries to close a common exit page
  • Review your search records and ensure your offering matches consumer needs and expectations
  • Keep up to date with search trends and ensure you are monetizing the right pages on your website

Follow these steps and you’ll potentially see your conversions soar. Few things are more frustrating than missing out on a sale that came enticingly close. These minor improvements will not take much work but could make a real difference to your bottom line.

FAQ

What is a website conversion?

Any website will contain a range of actions for visitors to complete. This could be signing up for a newsletter mailing list, sharing a post on personal social media channels, making a query through a contact form, or ideally making a purchase. If a visitor to your website completes this action, it is considered a conversion. The number of people that do so compared to your traffic quantity is referred to as a conversion rate.

What is a good conversion rate for a website?

This depends on a range of factors, including your industry and your anticipated return on investment. A website that operates on a cost-per-conversion model, such as Google Ads, needs a higher conversion rate to turn a substantial profit. The average conversion rate on this platform is circa three percent. What matters most is that you are seeing a return on your investment – and that your conversion rate continues to grow, not shrink.

How to increase the conversion rate on a website?

The most effective way to increase a conversion rate is to make the process as fast and simple as possible for consumers. Create a superior user experience by making it obvious what a visitor needs to do to convert, and by removing any unnecessary steps from the resulting filter. Every additional action you ask of a user gives them another opportunity to lose patience and walk away.

How to calculate a website conversion rate?

There is a simple formula for calculating the conversion rate of your website. Track your conversions over a set period, divide this by the number of visits to the website in this time, then multiple the total by 100. For example, a website that enjoys 700 conversions from 12,500 visitors over 30 days has a monthly conversion rate of 5.6%.

How to set up conversion rate tracking on your website?

Any website must track conversions to ensure optimum efficiency and return on investment. Major platforms like Facebook Ads and Google Ads have in-built tracking facilities. Learn how to utilize these tools and turn the data to your advantage.

Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK.

The post Four ways to use your website data to discover missed sales opportunities appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Discover is Facebook’s new effort to help people access websites for free — but with limits

May 6, 2020 No Comments

Facebook has a new connectivity app called Discover to help those who can’t afford to get online access information on the web.

The service, available through mobile web and Android app, allows users to visit any website in text format (no video, images, audio and other elements that eat up large amounts of data) and consume a few megabytes of internet data.

For Discover, which is part of the company’s Free Basics initiative, Facebook is working with mobile operators in Bitel, Claro, Entel, and Movistar. Discover is currently available in Peru, where it is in the initial testing phase.

In Peru, Discover is offering 10MB of free data to users each day. A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that the partner mobile operator determines the daily data allowance, and it anticipates operators in other countries where Discover would be tested to offer up to 20MB each day.

But nothing is set in stone. “We’ll be assessing how people are using Discover and the amount of daily data more during the trials and may work with our operator partners on adjustments going forward,” the spokesperson said, adding that mobile operators will also determine whether support for photos could be added to Discover.

Eliminating support for videos and images means that Discover users would be able to load dozens of websites in a day without running out of their data allowance.

Discover is the latest of a handful of internet connectivity efforts that Facebook has rolled out in recent years. The company maintains Internet.org, which offers unfettered access to dozens of websites in dozens of markets; and Express WiFi, which allows neighbourhood stores to sell small sachet of internet plans to users, in India. Facebook has partnered with more than 10,000 merchants and stores in the country to sell these data plans.

On the Internet .org website, the company also lists Connectivity Lab, another effort that is part of Free Basics initiative through which it is “exploring a variety of technologies, including high-altitude long-endurance planes, satellites and lasers” to bring more people online. At least one of those tests has been discontinued.

“During the coronavirus public health crisis, we believe it is particularly important to explore ways to help people stay connected and to increase access to health information and other resources on the internet. As part of our ongoing work to connect people to accurate health information, coronavirus health resources will be highlighted on the Discover homepage,” said Yoav Zeevi, a product manager at Facebook.

Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which has helped tens of millions of people access internet, has also received scrutiny for its approach and some unintended consequences. Internet.org was banned in India after the local authority in the world’s second largest internet market found that the program violated net neutrality principles.

Zeevi said the company has heard the feedback and responded by allowing people to browse all websites. “Our work on Discover has been informed by our broader efforts — including our participation in the Contract for the Web — to expand connectivity and access to the open web while continuing to protect privacy,” he said. Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract for the Web has welcomed the launch of Discover.

Critics have argued that programs such as Internet.org, which has been discontinued in some additional markets, have also fuelled violence in real life.

As Facebook expands its connectivity efforts, some other companies have scaled down their initiatives. Earlier this year, Google discontinued its free Wi-Fi program called Station that offered internet access in more than 400 railway stations in India, and was available at public places in handful of other markets.

In 2018, Wikimedia shut down Wikipedia Zero, a program that allowed more than 800 million people to access the online encyclopaedia in 72 countries for free.


Social – TechCrunch


Facebook Messenger ditches Discover, demotes chat bots

February 29, 2020 No Comments

Chat bots were central to Facebook Messenger’s strategy three years ago. Now they’re being hidden from view in the app along with games and businesses. Facebook Messenger is now removing the Discover tab as it focuses on speed and simplicity instead of broad utility like China’s WeChat.

The changes are part of a larger Messenger redesign that reorients the People tab around Stories as Facebook continues to try to dominate the ephemeral social media format it copied from Snapchat. The People tab now defaults to a full-screen sub-tab of friends’ Stories, and requires a tap over to the Active sub tab to see which friends are online now.

The changes could push users to spend more time visually communicating with friends and consuming content than exploring chat bots for shopping, connecting with businesses and playing games. That in turn could help Facebook earn more money from Messenger as it’s now showing Stories ads.

TechCrunch was tipped off to the redesign by social media director Jeff Higgins, who provided us with extensive screenshots of the update. These show the absence of Discover tab, the switch to just Chat and People tabs and the People sub-tabs for Stories and Active. We poked around some more and noticed the Instant Games and Transportation options missing from the chat composer’s utility tray. That formerly offered quick Uber and Lyft hailing. Messenger’s M Suggestions also no longer recommend the Transportation feature.

When we asked Messenger about the changes, a spokesperson confirmed that this redesign will soon start rolling out, removing Discover and splitting the People tab. Some users already have the update, and more will likely get it this week. They noted that Facebook had announced last August that it planned to eventually axe Discover, and that the added emphasis on Stories was motivated by users’ affinity for the ephemeral social media format. They also told us that Transportation was removed in late 2017, and Instant Games’ removal from the composer is part of the migration to Facebook Gaming announced last July.

A look at the old Messenger Discover tab that’s being removed

Chat bots, businesses and games are being hidden, but not completely banished from Messenger. They’ll still be accessible if users purposefully seek them through the Messenger search bar, Pages and ads on Facebook, buttons to start conversations on businesses’ websites, and m.me URL that create QR codes which open to business accounts in Messenger. The spokesperson diplomatically claimed that businesses are still an important part of Messenger.

But without promotion via Discover, businesses will have to rely on their owned or paid marketing channels to gain traction for their chat bots. That could discourage them from building on the Messenger platform.

The rise and fall of Facebook chat bots

The update feels like the end of a four-year era for Facebook. Back in 2016, it saw artificially intelligent chat bots as a way for businesses to scalably communicate with people, deliver customer service and push e-commerce. But when it launched the chat bot platform at its F8 conference that year, it arrived half-baked.

The typing-based semantic user interfaces were confusing, the AI necessary to make chat bots seem human (or at least reliably understand their human conversation partners hadn’t evolved yet) and several of the launch partner bots like Poncho The Weather Cat were laughably useless. The public soured on the idea of chat bots, and attempts to improve them felt insufficient.

Messenger launched Discover in 2017 in hopes that free promotion and visibility might convince developers to invest in building better chatbots. Yet by early 2018, even Facebook was backpedaling, shelving its plan to build out a full-service AI personal assistant called M that you could ask to do anything. Instead, it’d merely make AI suggestions of different Messenger features to use, like Stickers or reminders based on what you typed. Then it announced last year that it would move Instant Games out of Messenger and into Facebook’s dedicated Gaming tab.

There is still an opportunity to use chat bots for gathering initial info from people with sales or customer service inquiries. Everyone hates dealing with this stuff over the phone, waiting on hold and wading through touch-tone menus. Using asynchronous messaging makes communicating with businesses much more convenient. I’d bet Facebook will still be pushing this as an enterprise use case for Messenger. But this still usually requires a human in the loop at some point, and these are better structured as reactive utilities users search for than as experience proactively promoted by a Discover tab.

A laughably bad interaction with old Messenger chat bot Poncho The Weather Cat

Now with Discover disappearing, Messenger seems to be surrendering the fight to become a WeChat-style monolithic utility. In China, WeCat serves not just as a messaging app but as a way to make payments, hail a taxi, book flights, top up your mobile data, get a loan, find housing or shop at businesses via mini programs.

But while that centralized all-in-one style fit Chinese culture, Western markets have experienced more of an unbundling with different apps emerging to handle each of these use cases. Facebook’s constant privacy scandals and increasing anti-trust scrutiny also inhibited this approach with Messenger. Users and the U.S. government weren’t ready to trust Facebook to handle so much of our daily lives. Facebook Messenger also has to jockey with competition like iMessage and Snapchat that could undercut it if it gets too bloated.

So now Messenger is going in the opposite direction. It’s becoming more WhatsApp-like — simple, speedy and centered around peer-to-peer communication. Visual communication through Stories, with replies to them delivered as messages, feels like a natural extension of this focus while conveniently offering a path to monetization. If Messenger can be the best-in-class place to chat, unencumbered by promotion of chat bots and businesses, users might stay locked into the Facebook ecosystem.


Social – TechCrunch


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