It has now been almost two months since users started reporting strange behaviour with their Google Discover feeds. In that time, several publishers – including high profile names in the tech space – have reported dramatic drops in their traffic from the feed.
Some have recovered, but many others remain in Discover purgatory. Users, meanwhile, continue to report that their feed just is not what it used to be.
The very nature of Google Discover means that there are ebbs and flows. We have been tracking behaviours since long before this nonsense started – and intended to publish it once we had somewhat more sufficient data, but went ahead and published a more anecdotal version when old content started showing up in Google Discover without the ‘In Case You Missed It’ label back in March.
We thought it could not get any worse. And yet, it has. There have been issues, sometimes extended, with Google Discover before. But never with so many users for such an extended period of time.
Even famous authors are not immune to Google Discover’s disregard for user preferences. Over on Twitter, Neil Gaiman himself (ba dum tish), recently shared his frustration about Google Discover pestering him with sport, which he is absolutely not interested in- unless it’s Aardvark Lacrosse on Ice, obviously.
All the while, Google seems rather ambivalent about the whole thing with threads on the official support forums hanging in limbo. They have, however, updated their content policy for Google Discover not just once, but twice, in April.
One of those changes was a tweak to a paragraph about the user experience – you know, the terrible one everyone has been reporting?
The paragraph read:
To deliver a good user experience, Discover seeks to present content that’s suitable for interest-based feeds, such as articles and videos, as well as filter out content that’s not desired or that might confuse readers. For example, Discover might not recommend job applications, petitions, forms, code repositories, or satirical content without any context.
Nice little caveat there with the “might not recommend” job applications part. But here we are, just over two weeks after that tweak was highlighted and there have already been reports of a code repository appearing in somebody’s feed.
Today, we were blessed with a list of vacancies with the provincial government on not one, but two devices – including one that’s using a generic profile not linked to my personal one.
A blip when it is not quite straight forward whether something is a job advert is understandable, but it literally says vacancies in the title.
Considering how devastating the Discover decimation has been for this site, it is hard not to sound bitter about these anomalies. It’d be easier to take, however, if the feed was delivering an improved user experience overall. That is not the case.
Not too long after the vacancies card appeared, my personal feed went back to being a blank void, feeding my terrible sense of self-worth which is tied almost exclusively to whether or not I am perceived as interesting.