Google’s John Mueller answered a question about Discover traffic that disappeared. Mueller offered several reasons why Discover traffic might dry up and then cautioned against building a business around Discover traffic.
What Is Google Discover?
Google Discover is a content feed that is based on a user’s web and Google search activity, if the Google Web & App Activity is turned on. Google Discover shows a personalized list of content that users are interested in.
If users are trending toward searching how to make certain kind of recipes then sites about those recipes are going to begin trending for users in their Discover feed.
But in general, because so many people search for different things, no one website will tend to dominate in Google Discover because the feed is personalized.
That is what contributes to the somewhat random nature of Google Discover traffic.
Google’s John Mueller lists other reasons why Google Discover can’t be relied on for consistent traffic.
Website Experiences Collapse in Google Discover Traffic
The person asking the question explained that the website is a Brazilian news site that has consistently enjoyed steady Google Discover traffic. He wants to understand why the traffic would suddenly dry up to a trickle.
The person explained their situation:
“We’re going through a huge drop in the delivery of our content through Google Discover.
…Google Discover is our main acquisition channel. But in the last ten days the delivery of our content through Discover has dropped to practically zero.
Our normal audience was kind of a thousand active users in real time. And now it’s about ninety or a hundred active users.
And we didn’t change anything technical or editorial. And our Search Console did not report any problem.”
The person asking the question went on to explain that their Core Web Vitals performance and CrUX reports are all at the top levels and their site is served with AMP.
He expressed confusion about why Discovery traffic would dry up when everything remains the same and nothing had changed.
Google Traffic Is Not Consistent
The person asked:
“What do you think could be happening with us?”
John Mueller began his answer by affirming that Google Discover Traffic is in general not a consistent source of traffic.
John Mueller answered:
“I think it’s always tricky with Discover because it’s… at least what I hear from people, it’s very binary in that either you get like a lot of traffic or you don’t get a lot of traffic from Discover.
And that also means that any changes there tend to be very visible.
So my main recommendation is not to rely on Google Discover for traffic, but rather to see it as an additional traffic source and not as the main one.”
Why Does Google Discover Traffic Disappear?
John Mueller next shifted to discussing general issues that might affect Google Discover traffic.
“When it comes to Discover there are a few things that kind of play in there… you mentioned some of the technical things that I think are good practices.
One of the things that also plays in there is, for example, the core updates also play a role.”
Core Update Can Affect Google Discover Traffic
Interestingly, Mueller said that the core update could affect Google Discover traffic. He didn’t say what specifically within a core update might affect the traffic, but one can speculate that it might be related to improvements to algorithms related to understanding content. It could be many other things.
Mueller continued his answer:
“We recently had a core update, maybe from a timing point of view that matches what you saw there.
So that’s something where if you do see an effect from the core update, then I would double check the blog post that we have about core updates with the large number of tips and ideas that you could focus on.”
Google Discover Content Guidelines
Mueller next cited Google’s Discover content guidelines as something that influences what kinds of content will receive Google Discover traffic.
Mueller explained the guidelines influenced traffic:
“The other thing is with Discover in particular, we have a set of content guidelines that we try to stick to in an algorithmic way.
And depending on the website itself, it might be something where some of these content guidelines, your website is kind of borderline.
So for example… I don’t know the content guidelines all by heart but I think there is something about like clickbait-y titles or clickbait-y content in general or kind of adult oriented content, for example.
And it might be that your website is kind of borderline there with regards to how we evaluate your website in that regard.
And then it can also happen that our algorithms say oh, well, a large part of this website is just clickbait or one or the other categories that we list in the content guidelines.
And then we will be a lot more conservative with regards to how we show the website in Discover.
So… without knowing your website, that’s the direction I would head.
On the one hand, the core updates, think about that.
On the other hand the content guidelines that we have.
And then finally I would still make sure that you don’t rely on Discover for your business overall because it can change fairly quickly.
And it’s something where often there are not pure technical reasons behind those changes.”
Google Discover Is An Unreliable Source Of Traffic
The big takeaway is that Google Discover is a highly unreliable source of traffic. So it’s definitely not something to build a business on.
Nevertheless, John Mueller mentioned guidelines to be aware of in order to improve your chances of receiving Google Discover traffic and avoid getting kicked out of Discover.