Snapchat Discover Signals Future SEO Changes

Last week, Snapchat rolled out its much expected “Discover” feature to its legions of young messaging app fans.

The new section within the app delivers bite-sized news stories from major news publications, helping these aging publishing behemoths reach a new generation of readers. But will this new content partnership alienate search engines, and bring big SEO headaches for content publishers down the road?

Discovering Snapchat Discover

For those of us over the age of 25, let me give you the rundown on Snapchat Discover.

Built on top of its disappearing photo application, Snapchat Discover lets users browse news stories in a way that’s completely native to the Snapchat experience, i.e. swiping through news stories at lightning speed.

If something catches your eye, you can swipe up to read or watch the story right within Snapchat. No links to external sites. No waiting for content to load from an external source. No formatting issues with publishers rehashing the same tired story onto a smaller screen. We’re talking fresh, exclusive content that specially designed for Snapchat, and fully lives inside the app.

A Deal With the Devil

Oddly enough, you know who can’t discover content within Snapchat Discover? Google.

As far as search engines are concerned, if your content doesn’t exist on the open Web, Google can’t see it, and can’t rank it.

Now that might not scare publishers of this magnitude, as the exposure and revenue share opportunities with Snapchat might be worth the lack of website traffic they would receive with Google. But this approach of creating exclusive content for individual apps that can’t be searched does create a multitude of problems for search engines, users, SEOs, and the content creators themselves.

  • Search engines can’t access content exclusive to these apps, which means they can’t deliver the best results to users.
  • Users have to download, register, and use multiple apps to get the content they want.
  • SEOs need to come up with entirely new methodologies for getting their content discovered within individual apps, which often lack decent internal search capabilities.
  • Content creators spend the resources developing new presences on multiple apps that they don’t control. These new channels can be shut off in a heartbeat, just like how Facebook decided to charge brands to talk to their followers.

As per usual, the only one that really benefits from these sort of exclusivity deals is the platform that invents them, and publishers begrudgingly play ball at the promise of a short-term revenue boost.

If the Snapchat Discover model proves successful, you can be sure other social networking apps are going to start demanding exclusive experiences and content as well. In fact, Facebook is already talking with publishers about such a partnership.

Publishers are, and rightfully should be, nervous about any partnership where they give up control of their content to be hosted on another platform. But the fear of irrelevance seems to be stronger than the risk of losing control over their content; thus we move one step closer to a world where the information you want is spread out over dozens of apps and websites with no easy way to search across them all.

What to Do

As an SEO or marketing professional, your first course of action is to download Snapchat and play with Snapchat Discover. I know you don’t WANT to, but it is important to have firsthand experience with how these platforms work early in the process.

How many of you refused to get a Facebook account years ago, because it was, “Just for college kids?” Now it’s become an important traffic generation platform. The same could very well happen to Snapchat.

Keep an eye on future Snapchat Discover developments, especially if and when they expand their partner list to include second-tier publications. Also watch this space for updates on Facebook vying for native content experiences, and Google’s release of a way for publishers to submit app-hosted content directly to Google. I’ve been predicting the latter for a while now, and this move by Snapchat just reinforces why such a tool is needed. This will fundamentally change how SEO is done, as it further reduces the need to maintain both a public Web page and an app.

After you play around with Snapchat Discover a bit, if you still can’t stand the thought of having the app on your phone you can delete your account, and make the app magically disappear.

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