Google Explains Why Discover Traffic Might Change Over Time


Google updated its Discover documentation to include reasons why traffic from Discover can fluctuate up and down for web content.


Highlights

  • Google added a new section to its Discover documentation for why traffic may change over time for web content.
  • Three reasons were listed for why Discover traffic can fluctuate.
  • Steps can be taken to make content eligible for Discover, although it is not guaranteed to appear for users.

Google added a new section to the Google Discover documentation to explain why Discover traffic may fluctuate up and down for a website. Discover is a part of Google Search on mobile devices that shows people content related to their interests, based on their Web and App Activity. 

Three reasons for traffic fluctuation were listed:

  • Changing Interests: Discover is designed and always improving to show content aligned with what someone is interested in, which in part can be based on their search activity. If someone is no longer as interested in a particular topic—perhaps reflected by a decline in searching for it—their Discover feed might show other content they’re more interested in. In turn, this may cause changes in traffic for publishers.
  • Content Types: Discover has and continues to adjust the types of content that might appear on the feed to better align with what people are looking for. Discover regularly shows content including but not limited to sports, health, entertainment, and lifestyle content from across the open web.
  • Updates to Google Search: Periodically, we also make updates to Search designed to better provide people with links to helpful content. Because Discover is an extension of Search, updates can sometimes produce traffic changes. If you notice changes to your website’s performance after an update, the following pages may be useful to consider:

Google notes in the new section of the Discover documentation that “traffic from Google Discover is less predictable and serendipitous nature” and “you should consider traffic from Discover as supplemental to your keyword-driven search traffic.”

Getting Google Discover Traffic

Content is automatically eligible to appear in Google Discover if it is indexed by Google and meets Discover’s content policies. No special tags or structured data are required to be eligible for Discover and content that is eligible to appear in Discover is not a guarantee of appearing.

Google recommends the following best practices to increase the likelihood of content appearing in Discover:

  • Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.
  • Include compelling, high-quality, and large images in the content. Large images need to be at least 1200px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP.
  • Avoid using a site logo as your predominant image in the content.
  • Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.
  • Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.
  • Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.
  • Optimize your web pages for the Discover Follow feature by linking the RSS or Atom feed in the <head> section of the hub and leaf pages. (See example below.)
  • Don’t block your feed with your robots.txt file.
  • Make sure that your feed is up-to-date.
  • Make sure your feed includes the <title> element and per item <link> elements.
  • Use a brief but descriptive title for the RSS feed, just like you would for a web page, such as “Google Search Central Blog” and not “RSS Feed”.

Example RSS Code for Google Discover

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="https://example.com/rssfeed">

Monitoring Google Discover Performance

Google Discover traffic can be monitored for websites and web apps you have access to in Google Search Console through the Discover Performance Report. This report shows impressions, clicks, and click-through rates (CTR) for content that has appeared on Discover in the last 16 months, as long as the data reaches a minimum threshold of impressions.

Summary

Google updated its Discover documentation to include three reasons why traffic from Discover can fluctuate up and down for eligible web content. Those reasons include changing interests, content types, and updates to Google Search. Although there are ways to optimize web pages to be eligible for Google Discover, traffic from Discover is less predictable and serendipitous nature. As a result, Google recommends that acquiring Discover traffic should be supplemental to keyword-driven search traffic.

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