How to get more traffic from Google Discover

How to get more traffic from Google Discover

Google Discover can be one of the most lucrative forms of traffic for publishers. However, it’s hard to know how to get traffic from Discover and how to keep it coming in week after week.

There are plenty of guides online detailing what you need to do to make your website eligible for Google Discover. In fact, Google has its very own guide which is a good starting point and covers the basic necessities:

  • Page titles which capture the essence of the content, “but in a non-clickbait fashion”
  • Use high quality images, and ensure images are 1200px wide – especially your ‘Featured Image.’
  • Use the max-image-preview:large meta tag.
  • Provide timely, current content – things people are interested in right now.

However, while it’s clear what you need to do to be eligible for Google Discover – and most of this is technical stuff which is pretty easy to do – what isn’t clear is how you actually get your content to appear on there on a regular basis.

While I don’t profess to have the definitive answer, in my opinion it comes down to one thing – engagement.

Generate buzz on social media

The Discover algorithm is designed to show you compelling, engaging content that makes you want to click, then return to your Discover feed and keep clicking.

As such, Google doesn’t want to show you dull, irrelevant content when it could show you something better, perhaps from one of your competitors. So how does it know that your content is any good?

Although there’s nothing in Google’s documentation about social signals, they almost certainly use some kind of engagement data to work out what’s popular and what’s not.

Google Chrome, which as of February 2023 accounts for 66% of browser usage, has a feature called ‘Make searches and browsing better.’

Hidden away under the browser’s privacy settings, when enabled, “URLs that you visit are sent to Google to predict what sites you might visit next.”

It seems likely that Google is collecting visitor data from across the internet, working out which websites and pages are popular now, and using that to influence the pages which appear on users’ Google Discover feed.

So, by generating buzz around your new articles and pushing as much traffic to them as possible after they’re published, you’re more likely to get the attention of the Discover algorithm.

Of course, Google also has its own pretty popular search engine and news platform, so if you suddenly get a flurry of traffic from organic Google searches for a topical news story, you might find yourself shooting to the top of people’s Discover feeds pretty quickly.

We’ve seen the results of this ‘buzz’ or engagement in action on our sites. For each article we publish, we send a push notification to tens of thousands of subscribers. For big articles, we also send a newsletter and promote the content on our own Facebook page and large Facebook groups in the relevant niche.

For topical but niche news stories, we’ve also been the first to publish and have shot to #1 on Google’s organic search and Google News, resulting in thousands of organic pageviews in a very short timeframe.

Sometimes just minutes after publishing, our articles have appeared on Google Discover, and have been pushed to hundreds of thousands of users’ feeds. This is almost certainly triggered by the sudden influx of visitors we’ve generated from social, our newsletter and push notifications.

It’s always our most popular articles which make their way onto Discover – this makes sense; why would Google push content which isn’t performing as well to begin with, when it can push content it already knows is getting good engagement from other sources?

So, to achieve best and quick success on Google Discover, promote your content far and wide as soon as you publish.

Focus your efforts on building a newsletter list and increasing your push notification subscribers and Facebook followers, so you can get new content in front as many people as possible, and hope that Google will take note.

Ensure your site passes Core Web Vitals

As with everything else to do with Discover, Google doesn’t make it 100% clear whether a website or webpage needs to achieve Core Web Vitals to be eligible for Google Discover.

In fact, in January 2023, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller commented that, to the best of his knowledge, it doesn’t matter.

According to SEO Roundtable, John was asked whether a “site’s loading speed must be high to enter Google Discover” or whether URLs should “be fine in CWV” (Core Web Vitals), to which he responded: “We don’t have that connection documented anywhere,” and “I’d be surprised if CWV were a requirement for Discover.”

However, my own evidence suggests that hitting Core Web Vitals is, well, vital, to ensure success on Google Discover.

One of my own websites was previously getting nearly 400,000 pageviews and 3.6 million impressions a month from Google Discover, often surpassing the amount of traffic it was getting from organic Google search.

Yet after a technical mishap sent our Cumulative Layout Shift score into the red, this Discover traffic dropped off a cliff, plummeting to 0 for 15 days.

Google Discover traffic dropped to 0 for 15 days before bouncing back, coinciding with a drop in Core Web Vitals

As Google Search Console’s Core Web Vitals data comes from the averaged experience of real users, it takes around two weeks for the data to filter through.

Two weeks after we pushed live a change to the website’s header, which caused every page to jump down slightly upon page load, the site’s Cumulative Layout Shift went from green to red. At the same time, our significant stream of Google Discover traffic dropped from tens of thousands of clicks a day, to mere hundreds, and eventually to 0.

Even though we fixed the issue as soon as Search Console alerted us to the fact we were now failing their Core Web Vitals test, it took another two weeks for Google to validate the fix, as it was once again waiting on averaged user data to filter through.

Once our CLS was finally showing as green, the Google Discover traffic returned as quickly as it had vanished.

While the intricacies of the Google Discover algorithm will always remain a mystery, there are certainly things you can do to increase the likelihood of your fresh content appearing.

If you’ve got any tips or tricks we haven’t covered here, let me know in the comments section below.