Audience Engagement Digital Publishing Top Stories
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“Tap into this chunk of search and reach new audiences”: Google Discover driving over 75% of traffic to Vogue’s international editions

Google Discover drove more traffic to Vogue’s international editions than Google Search in October, Vogue International’s Head of Audience Growth, Sarah Marshall told Digiday. 

The traffic spike was most pronounced in India and Mexico where the publisher got more than three-quarters of the traffic from Google Discover, compared to other Google properties.

Other countries where Vogue’s international editions have benefitted from Google Discover include France and the US. According to John Shehata, VP of Audience Development for Condé Nast, in the past few months Discover has accounted for upto 20% of the traffic in the US.

Even though Google Discover has been around for over a year, it recently caught the attention of the publishing industry: everyone wants to see how they can tap into this chunk of search and reach new audiences. The latest data (from 2018) says Google Discover has around 800M users, which means it could drive a fine amount of traffic to publishers and help them attain better visibility.

Mia Čomić, Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Content Insights AD

With Discover, Google is trying to do the same thing as many publishers—offer personalized content to users, to drive engagement and build loyalty. 

According to a Digiday survey of 200 publishing executives from earlier this year, as much as 70% of digital publishers were personalizing content for their audience. 

Source: Digiday

“It’s one step ahead”

Google has been in this space since 2016 when it launched Google Feed, a content recommendation engine. The service used machine learning and AI to serve content to readers. It was redesigned to emphasize its shift to predictive recommendation, and rebranded as Google Discover in September 2018.

Discover is unique because it’s one step ahead: it helps you come across the things you haven’t even started looking for.  

Karen Corby, Group Product Manager, Search at Google

Google Discover is available on mobile browsers, and via the Google search app, and offers personalized content recommendations. It uses AI to analyze a user’s search history and online behavior to display content. Users can choose the topics to follow and expect to see fresh, as well as evergreen content on the Discover feed. 

The service can predict an individual’s level of expertise in a topic to ensure that it serves useful content. So users can find the latest updates, as well as older content, if it’s relevant in their consumption journey, even if they have not specifically searched for it.

For example, someone planning a trip may be recommended articles about the best places to eat or sights to see, and they could have been published 6 months, or a year back. 

It can also be useful to people who have taken up a new hobby, or are going deeper into a topic of interest. According to Karen Corby, Group Product Manager, Search at Google, “Using the Topic Layer in the Knowledge Graph, Discover can predict your level of expertise on a topic and help you further develop those interests.

“If you’re learning to play guitar, for example, you might see beginner content about learning chords. If you’re already a skilled musician, you may see a video on more advanced techniques.”

Source: Google Blog

When it comes to news, Discover uses the same technology as Full Coverage in Google News to recommend a variety of perspectives to readers.

80% of Netflix shows watched based on recommendations

Carlos Alonso, Content Strategist and Author at State of Digital Publishing says, “Content recommendation engines are used by all kinds of online media companies and services, from Instagram to Netflix to Youtube, to keep users engaged and increase the time spent on their services (and their exposure to ads). 

“Netflix has said that 80% of shows watched between 2015-2017 came through their recommendation system, as opposed to people searching for a show. 70% of the time users spend on YouTube is because of their recommendation system, as opposed to people searching on YouTube.”

He adds, “See the pattern? In the past online media and services were passive providers: they showed us what they had and reacted only when we asked for more: we searched, navigated, explored. Now online media and services are taking a proactive approach at serving us content to keep us engaged. Discover represents another step in that trend.”

A content discovery tool would help Google keep users engaged in its ecosystem. For publishers, it represents an opportunity for their content to be exposed to a new audience. Right now many of them are cautious, as well as optimistic, as they look forward to see how this turns out in the long run. 

We all know the risks with algorithms. But I think this is here to stay.

Sarah Marshall, Head of Audience Growth, Vogue International

A representative from Vice called it a valuable and steady referral source. Another (unidentified) source from a publisher told Digiday that while the traffic gains were promising, they were difficult to predict.

Google is likely still experimenting with it and we can expect to see more changes. It added a Discover performance report in Google Search Console early this year. The report allows publishers with meaningful audiences on Discover to see how their content is performing.

Many see the prospect of long-term stability in Discover due to its ability to deliver loyal audiences and monetization opportunities through AMP.

“Despite the unpredictable nature of the traffic, publishers appear to be most excited about Discover because of its ability to build familiarity and habit among readers,” according to Max Willens, Platforms Reporter at Digiday.

“Google Discover could potentially turn into something that builds habits and loyalty,” he adds.