Google’s John Mueller answered an Office-hours hangout question about the reasons why Google Discover traffic might all of a sudden stop. His answered covered ways to diagnose on-page issues and content policy violations unique to Google Discover.
Google Discover is a source of traffic to websites that is different from search-related traffic from Google. For users it’s a highly personalized feed of articles that match user interests.
If a user searches for content about baking then Google’s algorithms will begin to surface related content through the Google Discover feature.
For users who are interested in entertainment content Google Discover shows content from entertainment websites.
The key to understanding Google Discover is understanding that the traffic sent by Discover is dependent on how well a website’s content matches user interest in a topic.
So it’s important to clearly communicate what a web page is about from within the title tag and headings so that Google can understand what the page is about and match it to users interested in that specific kind of content.
“We noticed a big problem with Google Discover on our website. In two days traffic had dropped by some 70%.
It has dropped to a certain level and has been stable on that level for some time.
We’re wondering if we did something wrong or was it an update or something.
Can you clarify as to what exactly happened since it’s such a drastic drop.”
John Mueller Explains Google Discover Traffic
John Mueller first clarified that he could not comment specifically about the persons website since he didn’t know it and thus his answer would be more general.
Mueller commented on Google Discover traffic:
“I anecdotally get reports from a lot of people that Discover traffic is very… either on or off in the sense that there’s very little kind of room in between if our algorithms determine we’re not going to show much content from this website in Discover at the moment.
Then basically all of that traffic disappears.
And in the other way it’s the same thing where if we do show something from your website in Discover then suddenly you have that big rush of traffic again.”
John Mueller Explaining Google Discover Traffic
The person asking the question followed up by stating that the website had previously received stable Discover traffic for a period of four straight months prior to all of a sudden virtually collapsing within the space of two days.
He wanted to know if there might be a technical error causing Google Discover to stop sending traffic.
Why Google Discover Stops Sending Traffic
Mueller explains about diagnosing for technical issues then moves on to discussing Discover content policies.
John Mueller answered:
“If it’s a technical issue then you would see that in web search as well and you would see crawl issues showing up.
I don’t have full insight into exactly what happens in Discover but usually the issues that I see people talking about are on the one hand quality issues where maybe the quality of the website is not so good and with regards to the individual policies that we have for discover.
So in particular for Discover we have some policies that are different from Web Search and recommendations that are a bit different with regards to I think like adult content, click-baity content, things like that.
That’s all mentioned in the help center page that we have for Discover.
And sometimes I suspect… uh… like I imagine a lot of websites have a little bit of a mix of all of these kind of things and I suspect sometimes our algorithms just find a little bit too much and then they say, oh like we have to be careful now with this website.
So… without knowing your website and without knowing the details of what exactly Discover is picking up there that’s kind of the direction I would head there.”
John Mueller next advised the person asking the question to seek out articles written by SEOs about what kinds of content performs well with Discover to gain more insights.
Mueller continued his answer:
“From our point of view, Discover is something where we try to show a stream of information to people and because of that we tend to not have a lot of detailed information on what exactly you need to provide there to perform really well.
So sometimes it makes sense to look at what other people have figured out.”
Several Reasons for Loss of Discover Traffic
Google’s John Mueller suggested two possible reasons for a loss of Google Discover traffic.
- Website Quality Problem
- Google Discover Content Policy Violations
Website Quality Problems
Website quality issues can be a great deal of things but it may be, similar to what Mueller suggested, that if there’s no change in regular search rankings that a site quality issue might not be the cause.
Google Discover Content Policy
Publishers should become acquainted with Discover Content Policy Violations in order to avoid negatively affecting Google Discover traffic, as there are a number of topics that are forbidden.
In addition to violence, explicit or hateful content, there are other categories of content violations to look out for.
- Ads can’t exceed content
- Affiliate relationships must be clearly stated
- Misleading titles that promise one thing and don’t deliver in the content itself
- Transparency in relations to author bylines, publication, publisher, contact information, and publication dates
Other important content violations to be aware of is the prohibition on click bait titles that mislead, content designed to outrage and push emotional buttons and what Google describes as “morbid curiosity” among other things.
The main takeaway about Google Discover content is that it’s not necessarily dependable to the relative degree that ranked content in search is.
Google Discover traffic is based on user interests. For example, if user interest in your content is seasonal, like travel, then that traffic might begin to dry up in the fall after vacation season is over.
Google’s Official Discover Policy Violation Page
Google Discover Documentation
Why Google Discover Traffic Dries Up
Watch at 47:05 Minute Mark