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As Google Discover becomes less relevant for users, some publishers report traffic drops

Google Discover exists to the left of most Android homescreens, the dedicated Search app, and Chrome’s New Tab page. It’s meant to show articles, videos, and – increasingly – stories that are relevant to your interests. Publishers have been seeing significant drops in traffic from Google Discover, with many associating them with changes that have also impacted the quality of what appears. 

Last week, some users complained how Discover is increasingly showing old news. Instead of seeing articles from the last few hours, stories from the past three to five days, if not longer, are appearing. The last big update to Discover in 2018 saw Google start surfacing “evergreen” stories related to your interests that might have been published several months or years ago, but are new to you. What’s happening now appears to be different from that, with users no longer able to use Discover to stay up to date.

I got to a point where I didn’t get any stories for a month. So I had to uncheck many of the things that were not of interest just to populate it again


But it has started serving me articles that couldn’t be [farther] from my interests! I mean, stuff I’ve never even searched for [or] read an article about before.

Commenter krakout

Meanwhile, another common complaint is how the content that appears today is not from their favorite or usually visited sites. Rather, people report seeing content that is only broadly related to their interests.

In all, certain users are seeing less relevant content in their Discover feeds that is both old, and not from their favorite sites or closely aligned with known interests.

This in turn is impacting site performance. Today, Android Police founder Artem Russakovskii posted a screenshot (left below) of the Google Search Console where publishers can keep track of “Performance on Discover.” It shows a significant drop in traffic mid-February. While the first few weeks of 2021 include big click spikes, the rest of the graph does not feature any significant jumps in views. Meanwhile, this past week included the sharpest decline all year.

SEO consultant Glenn Gabe similarly shared (right above) a screenshot from an unnamed site showing stark traffic drops and lack of spikes since the start of March. Google looks to have made an algorithm change around then and another at the end of the month.

It’s unclear what the point of the changes to Discover are as Google has not issued any new guidance on Discover. These publishers today echo that what is appearing in Discover is “get[ting] worse, not better.” It somewhat contradicts Google’s long-stated goals how Discover and more broadly Search rewards quality content.

Various other large publishers, including many in the technology space, have chimed in to make the same point:

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Avatar for Abner Li Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: