Google recommendations previewIf Google approached you and said, “Hey! We know an easy, free way to encourage mobile users to visit more pages on your site,” how would you react? If you’re a publisher looking to generate better mobile traffic your response would most likely be, “Give me that code already!”

This was exactly Forbes’ response when Google contacted them about their content recommendation engine for mobile sites powered by Google+. Since 30% of Forbes’ traffic now comes from mobile, the publisher was more than happy to adopt a simple way to recommend relevant content to mobile users reading articles on their site.

High bounce rates have presented a major problem for mobile publishers trying to engage their audience. Publishers want users to click through to pages on their site after visiting their initial story but it’s been difficult to find a low-key way to present related articles. This is the problem Google is trying to solve.

To Forbes, integrating recommendations sourced by Google+ onto their mobile site is their way of taking advantage of the viral opportunities social media has to offer. “Social is the new portal,” said Forbes staff member Andrea Spiegel. “People used to park on big sites like AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. Those portals can still provide a firehose of traffic, but they now have company. Many people are much more likely to park on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit.”

How Does the Engine Work?

When users finish reading a story on your mobile site, Google recommends related articles based on four things:

  • Google+ activity, including +1’s, comments and shares
  • Content in the story
  • The story’s author
  • What Kim Kardashian’s been reading today (just kidding)

Content recommendations from circles

Does Google’s recommendations get in the way of users trying to read stories on your site? Not at all. Google wants to inspire deeper engagement with and loyalty toward your mobile site, not piss your readers off. The engine doesn’t suggest any articles until users finish reading a page, and even then recommendations are displayed in a clickable, unobtrusive widget at the bottom of the screen. You can decide how to signal that a user has finished with a page, such when a user scrolls up or passes a configurable CSS entity.

How to Install Content Recommendations

Letting Google’s content recommendations run on your site is as simple as updating one line of JavaScript code on your mobile site. To get the code, enable the Mobile Recommendations feature on your site’s Google+ page and click “Get setup code.”

Content recommendations dashboard

For Forbes, the first to test Google’s content recommendations, installing the widget was simple. “It was a quick process of enabling the Mobile Recommendations feature in Forbes’ Google+ Page dashboard and changing some JavaScript on the mobile pages,” said Roger Theriault, Forbes Director of Technical Product Management. “In our case we replaced the plusone.js code snippet we were already using for the +1 button with a new one provided by the Page settings.”

If you’ve seen Google’s content recommendations on your mobile device lately, let us know how it changed (or didn’t change) your engagement with mobile sites.