The Elephant in the Newsroom Every Publisher Seems to be Ignoring

Last updated on Dec 22, 2022

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The Elephant in the Newsroom Every Publisher Seems to be Ignoring

There is no publisher or content writer in the world which does not know about Google Discover. Here’s a quick history on it.

In the earlier avatar, it was called Google Feed. These were the AI curated lifestyle articles, weather updates and other important configurable cards which people saw on their (-1) screen on Android smartphones and on the homepage of the Google Chrome browser. 

Google Feed was not intended to be an alternative to Google Search nor was it designed to drive traffic to publishers, the underlying idea was to help users discover the right content without them asking for it explicitly.

In 2018, it was rebranded from Google Feed to 'Google Discover', made major changes to the UI, created better user controls and also announced the future launch of Google Discover on the homepage.

Google Feed relies on automated systems to find a good match for the user’s interests. It was also designed to adapt to newly published content and the evolving interests of the user.

Read More: What is Google Discover? And What Publishers Need To Know

Impact of Google Discover

Ever since the rebranding and redesign, Google Discover has shown phenomenal growth, while the exact number of users interacting with Google Discover every month is unknown, we estimate it to be upwards of 1.5BN per month. The 2018 rebranding article claimed "more than 800 million people use the feed each month", since then it will be safe to assume that this would have doubled in the past 4 years. We also do not have stats on repeat usage but looking at available data, it will be safe to assume that every unique users interacts with Google Discover at least 4-5 times a month

Now this is massive. Google has (rather unintentionally) created an ecosystem which is now the largest traffic contributor to news and media publishers. Here are some interesting stats 

  • Contribution to publisher traffic - 10% to 80%, depending on language and size of the publisher. For regional publishers, it is very high while for english publishers it is in the range of 10-30%
  • CTR - 1% to 20%, Wide ranging and dependent on several factors, covered further in the article. Even at 1%, the audience that clicks through is higher than any other medium a publisher may choose to distribute content. 
  • New user ratio - 40% to 80%, Google Discover is the channel for publishers to source new users from and is the largest contributor to the new user bucket. While direct and Google Search drive repeat usage, Google Discover distributes content to a wider variety of first-time users for the publisher. 

Publisher Response to Google Discover

Given the above scenario, you would think that publishers are investing time and energy to understand this channel, learn about the nuances of optimizing it and investing in ramping it up. Absolutely none of this is happening. In fact most publishers have not even bothered to open the dashboard to check the source of the traffic. 

Publishers are making the same mistakes they did with Facebook traffic. Facebook in its heyday would contribute 30-35% PVs (pageviews), now the share has come down to low single digit. Publishers didn’t maximize the opportunity back then, nor do they truly understand the reason behind traffic dipping from Facebook.

What should Publishers be Doing For Google Discover?

Wake up! It is the right time to start optimizing for Google Discover. 

We know that Google Discover content distribution works basis these 4 signals

  • Location - Big boost for localized news content
  • Interest shown/activities across Google surfaces/environment by the device/individual on that device
  • Content being read by that device/individual on that device including the language
  • Trending content for the day/specific point in time

We also know that publishers get ranked based on their authority for an entity. This is not different from ‘topical authority’ for SEO. For publishers it is important to 

  • To know which content entities they enjoy high authority. It is easy to assume that for stock market news, moneycontrol would have significantly higher authority compared to any general news portal. The way to track this is to monitor the impressions each and every content piece is generating, higher impression would indicate good content authority
  • CTR are driven by the quality of headlines and images. High resolution image with a minimum 1200 pixel width is mandatory. Headlines though not clickbaity but should drive higher CTRs. High CTR content gets preference in distribution
  • There are certain areas/niche wherein a publisher does well. For e.g: TOI might be doing well for news stories or content around Big Boss whereas some other publications may do better on Salman Khan news. Knowing your niche and owning the space by publishing more content regularly would ensure high visibility every time.
  • The best way to understand the strength areas is tracking the Impression data on a daily basis across entities.

That brings us to question What are the Important metrics to track?

  • Impression of the entities for which you have high authority
  • Overall traffic
  • CTR
  • Category wise impression, within category what entities does well

What Publisher Still Don't Know

  • There are tools which provide the top stories for competition in general but not specific to Google Discover. There are no in depth tools available which can provide insights into publisher own data and also environment + competition tracking. 
  • There is no exact information available on what makes a content more successful (high distribution)
  • How long would this traffic source continue and what's in store in the near future

For now, publishers need to stop ignoring this very difficult beast and start investing their time on educating the internal teams to optimize for Google Discover. Just like there’s a team of SEO, it’s time to build one for Google Discover optimisation.

Also Read: How To Optimize For Google Discover? Know These 7 Simple Ways


Editor's Note: This article was co-authored by Neel Kothari, Sahil Sharma, and Tarek Abougabal.

Sahil Sharma is the Product Head at News18 Media & Investments Limited. He has over 10 years of product management experience spanning across product growth, product adoption, product engagement, and product retention.

Tarek Abougabal Heads sales for the MENA region at iZooto and is the co-founder of wtskora.

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Neel Kothari
Neel Kothari
Founder at iZooto. Passionate about publisher success.

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