Polski Obserwator, the leading Polish online newspaper outside of Poland, is at the heart of the Polish expat community. It has 30M monthly pageviews and features news in Polish on current affairs in Germany and in Europe. As Europe emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, it saw a drop in engagement, and the team realized that they needed to find new sources of traffic to make the publication thrive.
Like many publishers, Polski Obserwator was aware that Google Discover was an untapped resource but didn’t have a clear understanding of how to get better results on the platform. In 2022, they partnered with Marfeel and started using Marfeel Compass to improve SEO and turn their hunch about Google Discover into a bonafide strategy that took Discover traffic from 400k monthly uniques and 1M PVs to 4M monthly uniques and 14M PVs in one year.
Polkski Obserwator’s traffic on Google Discover June 30 – June 30.
On the path from 1M to an all-time high of 16M page views (in March of this year), the Polski Obserwator (PO) team used Marfeel to analyze two essential aspects of their Google Discover strategy:
Polski Obserwator understood that it needed to rule out all technical errors before it could even be considered for Google Discover. It used Marfeel’s Site Technology Module, which includes tools to monitor and fix Core Web Vitals and conduct Audits to assess, improve and monitor its website’s technical performance. These tools allowed Polksi Obserwater to implement fixes in real time and establish newsroom policies that would avoid them from occurring in the future.
Today, whenever they diverge from green-light Web Vitals, they focus attention and resources on quickly correcting the errors. According to managing editor Federica F. Gaida, “The impact on traffic is immediate. The day after [the fix is implemented], the Google Discover traffic increases.”
The Web Vitals tool made it possible to monitor website performance in real time and detect any critical issues that were negatively impacting SEO. The PO team was able to filter web vitals by country, page technology and more to see how performance changed according to region or device, and order pages by the number of views in order to prioritize fixes on the pages with the most traffic.
The tool makes it easy for developers to debug issues with real-time feedback. Before partnering with Marfeel, Polski Obserwator had tried using Google Search Console to monitor results, but the data took several weeks to update and had limited filtering capabilities. Gaida explained, “We used to check Google Search Console but the data shown there was cold. We found ourselves in a situation where past information was not relevant anymore. We needed to know how we were doing at that moment.”
The Audits tool allowed Polski Obserwator to detect issues of noncompliance in real time. They fixed the mistakes that had a serious impact on Discover and Search and established processes in the newsroom to avoid incurring them again.
For example, PO was seeing Marfeel return the error “Author not found” for various articles. This happens when the article metadata is not able to identify the author’s name. For reasons explained below, an article without an author name will have much less chance of circulating on Google Discover. The PO team got to work shoring up their metadata and put a process in place to make sure each and every article had a clearly identified author.
With their site running like a well-oiled machine, the only thing left to do was make sure they were producing the type of content that would be successful on Google Discover. This meant looking at what content Google was disposed to distribute via Discover, and once it was there, which Discover articles their readers liked most.
Google has gone through several iterations in an effort to explain to content creators what they are looking for in terms of what they are now calling the helpful content system. As owner Federica Gaida put it, establishing expertise was the thing that mattered most for Google Discover. “We needed to prove we had it. So we worked on it. A lot.”
The first step was to establish credibility by making sure content was clearly sourced: the authors had bios and the website had an About page. This was of particular importance because PO publishes YMYL (Your Money Your Life) content related to health and finances, for which Google is even more strict. They made sure to include the name of the author and section in every article. And of course, whenever they missed a spot, the Audits tool would alert them that content was missing key details that were essential for Search and/or Discover.
Next, the PO team used Marfeel’s Optimize view to find out which topics had historically performed best on Google Discover. These were topics for which their site had already managed to establish expertise and had a higher chance of distribution. Publishing more articles on those topics increased the number of stories likely to make it onto Discover. Marfeel uses Natural Language Processing to automatically extract topics from publisher content and sort them into over 90 topic categories including place, person, television series and other salient categories for Discover.
Polski Obserwator needed to know exactly what its readers valued in order to produce relevant content that Discover users would want to read. With Marfeel Compass, the team was able to monitor newly published articles’ performance on Discover in real time and see what was getting traction on the platform to further fine-tune their strategy.
Marfeel’s real-time Compass View filters out Discover traffic
In short order, PO detected some interesting patterns in regard to successful stories. They increased the amount of content related to Discover-friendly topics with eye-catching angles that had worked previously and spread the word around the newsroom to make sure everyone knew how to give stories the best chance at success on Google Discover.
Danuta Wojtaszczyk, digital editor at Polski Obserwator, told us, “Marfeel has proven very useful to tackle our growth objectives on Google Discover. When we have visibility on this traffic source we can tailor our content to our audiences and immediately get great results.”
With Marfeel Compass, Polski Obserwator's Discover traffic went from 400k monthly uniques and 1M PVs to 4M monthly uniques and 14M PVs, a 12x increase in page views from this traffic source. This increase in traffic allowed Polski Obserwator to expand its reach and increase its audience, positioning them as a leading source of Polish news outside of Poland.
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