Success Amidst SEO Chaos: My Record-Breaking Traffic Day Despite Google’s HCU Blow

If you haven’t heard by now, Google released a “helpful” content update in September 2023 that reshaped the SEO landscape, ruthlessly sweeping through countless blogs and indiscriminately impacting both high-quality destinations and those of questionable value 😬.

How did our blog do?

While seasonal fluctuations certainly played a role in some of our traffic dips (something you look into, too), there were clear shifts in our rankings that we couldn’t overlook.

But here’s the twist: despite the turbulence brought on by the Helpful Content Update (HCU), our blog is experiencing a surge in traffic… thanks to Google Discover.

35,500 clicks from Google Discover during our first month of testing

Though we’re still casting awkward glances at Google for its (un)helpful content update, we’ve found an unexpected hero amidst these changes: Google Discover.

How We Had Our Highest Blog Traffic Day While Still Getting “Hit” By The Google HCU

Google Discover is a powerful tool that pushes content to users based on their interests and past interactions rather than relying solely on search queries.

Yet, navigating Google Discover remains a mystery for most. No one knows why the Google Discover fairies visit, but it’s always a treat when they do.

Along with unraveling the HCU, I’ve also spent considerable time testing to figure out what works for Google Discover. And so far, things have panned out pretty well for us.

We typically average around 5,000 sessions per day, but Google Discover has changed that!

Here are some things to consider when attempting to gain Google Discover traffic:

Step #1: Make Your Content Google Discover-Worthy

The key to making your content attractive to Google Discover lies in tapping into ‘trending’ topics. Discover favors content that aligns with what’s hot in the news, be it upcoming holidays, significant current events, or even topics as grave as war-related content.

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    For a travel blogger, this means strategically aligning your content with current trends and events in the travel world.

    Are there any emerging hot destinations? Perhaps a renowned travel festival is around the corner, or a specific location is making headlines for unique reasons. It’s not just about covering these topics but offering a fresh, engaging perspective that stands out.

    Check out some of our recent Google Discover wins below:

    If you’re anything like me, your SEO brain might immediately say, “But what about keywords????”

    In the case of Google Discover, these trending topics are your keywords. Forget what Keysearch says about search volume (all keyword research tools are inaccurate anyway) because if they’re “trending” topics, you know people are searching for information about this. You don’t need further “proof”.

    So, ditch the traditional keyword research process when writing your Google Discover posts.

    Extra tip: You don’t even need to write long posts for Google Discover; you just need a compelling and hot story. Another reason we love Google Discover!

    Step #2: Use Epic Pictures

    Another important step for catching Google Discover attention is by including beautiful pictures. Unfortunately, most pictures you snap with your phone won’t cut it (although some do!), so you’ll want to find images that really capture attention.

    Personally, I know my photos aren’t the greatest, so I opt for stock images of the destinations I’m covering in my Google Discover posts. These images are typically more polished, visually engaging, and beautiful.

    Additionally, you’ll want to make sure your images are at least 1200px wide. This is the recommended size directly from Google themselves.

    Step #3: Find A “Trigger”

    The most crucial step in harnessing the power of Google Discover is activating a ‘trigger.’

    What exactly is a ‘trigger’? It’s a signal to Google that your blog post is gaining traction and is valued by readers. Generally, this means your content needs to garner traffic and engagement from an external source before Google Discover takes notice and begins to amplify your reach.

    Once your post starts receiving external validation, Google Discover recognizes it as content worth promoting.

    So what kind of trigger are we talking about here? Here are our favorite Google Discover triggers:

    • Your email list (you should have an email list regardless – let’s not give Google ALL the power over your website.. That’s a big YIKES!)
    • Google Web Stories (if you don’t know what these are, check out my friend Chantelle’s course: Web Story Masterclass*)
    • A Facebook group (no, I’m not talking about blogging Facebook groups. Those don’t work. I’m referring to Facebook groups about your specific topic or niche)
    • Flipboard (follow us on Flipboard here, and we’ll follow you back! Just make sure to actually engage on the platform; otherwise, it won’t work for you)
    • Syndication (MSN is a big one for this – join us in Scale Your Travel Blog to learn more about syndicating your content)

    *This is an affiliate link – we only recommend products we’ve used and love ourselves.

    It’s vital that you do not skip the “trigger” step. While it is possible to gain Google Discover attention without a trigger, it’s not easy and you’ll wishing you knew the secret sauce to the madness.

    How To Learn More About Google Discover

    If you’re curious to learn the ins-and-outs of Google Discover, stay tuned; we’ll be launching a course on this in early January!

    OR consider joining us in Scale Your Travel Blog, our #1 travel blogging coaching program. Those who join us in Scale Your Travel Blog before January 10th will receive our Google Discover course for free!