Google recently updated its documentation on Google Discover, clarifying why websites may experience significant fluctuations or losses in traffic from this important stream.
What is Google Discover?
Google Discover is a personalized feed of suggested content based on users' interests and search history. For example, if a user frequently searches for baking recipes, Discover may use related articles.
Unlike regular Google Search, there's no way to optimize for ranking in Discover directly. Google selects articles based on topic relevance, freshness, content types, and other unnamed factors.
3 Reasons Discover Traffic Changes Unexpectedly
Google's new documentation highlights three core reasons why Discover traffic surges and declines unpredictably:
1. Users' Interests and Focus Shift Over Time
If a user loses interest in a topic, Google will show less related content in Discover. For publishers seeing spikes of Discover traffic around trending topics, this traffic will likely decrease as interest wanes.
2. Google Favors Certain Content Types
Google pulls Discover highlights content like sports, health, entertainment and lifestyle from across the web. Changes in the mix of content types could impact sites relying on Discover.
3. Google Search Algorithm Updates Also Impact Discover
Since Discover pulls heavily from Google's core search algorithms, any major Google update can significantly shuffle Discover. Helpful content updates are one example that may reorder Discover.
Why Publishers Can't Rely on Discover Traffic Long-Term
The main takeaway from Google's documentation is that Discover should not be relied on as a stable, long-term traffic source. Interests rise and fall, Google shifts content type priorities, and algorithms update frequently.
For sites seeing growth from Discover, it's wise to diversify traffic sources. Write evergreen, useful content not just trending articles. And don't build business models around Discover without other reliable channels.
Discover traffic will likely ebb and flow over time. Publishers should focus on creating high-quality content rather than chasing the algorithm. Valuable websites with diverse promotion channels will best withstand Discover's changes.