Why You Shouldn’t Rely On Google Discover Traffic

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about detecting disappeared traffic. Mueller gave several reasons why traffic detection could run dry, and then cautioned against building a business around traffic detection traffic.

What is Google Discover?

Google Discover is a content feed based on a user’s Web Activity and Google Search, if Google Web & App Activity is turned on. Google Discover displays a personalized list of content that users are interested in.

If users are trending in search of how to make a certain type of recipe, sites about those recipes will start trending for users in their Discover feed.

But in general, since so many people are searching for different things, no single website will tend to dominate in Google Discover because the feed is personalized.

This is what contributes to the somewhat random nature of Google Discover traffic.

John Mueller of Google lists other reasons why Google Discover can’t be relied upon to get consistent traffic.

Website Experiments Collapse in Google Discover Traffic

The person who asked the question explained that the website is a Brazilian news site that consistently has consistent traffic on Google Discover. He wants to understand why traffic suddenly dries up to a trickle.

The person explained his position:

“We are experiencing a significant decrease in content delivery through Google Discover.

… Google Discover is our primary acquisition channel. But in the past 10 days, content delivery through Discover has dropped to practically zero.

Our average audience was kind of a thousand active users in real time. And now there are about ninety or one hundred active users.

We haven’t changed anything technical or editorial. Search Console reported no problem.

The person asking the question went on to explain that Core Web Vitals performance and CrUX reports are all at the top levels and their site is served using AMP.

He expressed bewilderment as to why traffic would dry up on Discovery when everything remained the same and nothing had changed.

Google traffic is inconsistent

the person asked:

“What do you think could happen to us?”

John Mueller begins his answer by emphasizing that Google Discover Traffic is not generally a static source of traffic.

John Mueller replied:

“I think it’s always been difficult with Discover because … at least from what I hear from people, it’s very binary in terms of either you get a lot of traffic or you don’t get a lot of traffic from Discover.

It 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 source of traffic rather than the main one.”

Why does Google detect that traffic has disappeared?

John Mueller then moved on to discuss general issues that could affect Google Discover traffic.


“When it comes to spotting, there are some things that play with there… You mentioned some technical things that I think are good practices.
One of the things that also plays there, for example, core updates also play a role.”

A major update can affect Google discovery traffic

Interestingly, Mueller said that the core update may affect Google Discover traffic. He didn’t say what specifically might be affecting traffic within the core update, 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 with his answer:

“We recently had a core update, probably from a timing standpoint that matches what you saw there.

So if I see an impact from the core update, I’ll check back in to the blog post we have about core updates with the plethora of tips and ideas you can focus on.”

Google Discovery Content Guidelines

Mueller then cited Google’s Discover content guidelines as something that affects what types of content will receive Google Discover traffic.

Mueller explained that the guidelines affected traffic:

“The other thing with Discover in particular, we have a set of content guidelines that we try to adhere to algorithmically.

And depending on the website itself, it might be something where some of these content guidelines, your website is kind of a boundary.

For example… I don’t know the content guidelines by heart but I think there is something like clickbait-y titles, clickbait-y content in general, or some kind of adult-oriented content, for example.

And your website may be kind of a boundary there in terms of how we rate your website in that regard.

And then our algorithms can also say, well, a large part of this website is just clickbait or one of the other categories or categories that we include in our content guidelines.

And then we’re going to be a little more conservative about how we show the website in Discover.

So…without knowing your website, that’s the direction I’m going.

On the one hand, core updates, think about it.

On the other hand, the content guidelines that we have.

And finally, I would still make sure that you don’t rely on Discover for your business in general because it can change fairly quickly.

And it’s something that often doesn’t have purely technical reasons behind these changes.”

Google Discover is an unreliable source of traffic

The catch is that Google Discover is a very unreliable source of traffic. So it is definitely not something to build a business on.

However, John Mueller mentioned guidelines that you should be aware of in order to improve your chances of receiving Google Discover traffic and avoid getting kicked out of Discover.


Read the Google Discovery Guidelines

How content appears in Discover

Read the Google Discovery Content Policies

Find out our content policies

John Mueller on how to improve Google’s chance of spotting your traffic

Watch John Mueller at the 45:35 minute mark:

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