Recover From Helpful Content Updates

An image of a phoenix bird with an arrow pointing up showing HCU Recovery is possible

It seems like it’s getting harder and harder to ensure that our websites function per the multiple changes to Google’s algorithm updates. The September Helpful Content Update (HCU) is not the latest review but it is worth mentioning. Recovering from Google HCU is not easy, but it is possible.

Explanation of Google Helpful Content Update

First of all, I want to explain what the Google Helpful Content Update (HCU) is. According to Google Search Central,

“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content created for people in search results.”

That is a long way to say that Google Search ranks valuable and original content in Internet search results. Your goal should be to make your visitor’s visit to your website as pleasant and satisfying as possible. The HCU is meant to reward content that accomplishes this. In short, if your visitors don’t receive the information they expect to receive, then your Google ranking will suffer.

When did Google implement Helpful Content Update?

That’s a good question. The very first one was created in mid-2022. However, the one getting the most attention is the one Google finished rolling out in September last year.

Why did Google implement HCU?

The September HCU is not a manual process. It is all done with a machine-learning model. It is effective globally through all languages. Google uses it to evaluate search ranking. While previous helpful content updates examined your content page by page, this HCU analyzes your entire website.

Google Search, again, rewards helpful content, so if you are creating valuable content, then Google Search says you should be fine. Give up writing for search engines. That is not the way to go. If your content is not helpful, then you need to take steps to fix that.

Practical things you can do to recover from HCU.

1. Write HELPFUL Content – One of the first things you can do to improve your website and recover from the Google HCU is to write high-quality content. You can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help you suggest what to write. This would include doing research for you and providing you with an outline. But you are responsible for having eye-catching material that satisfies your visitors. Put some Emotional Intelligence (EI) into your content. Include stories.

2. Update your content – If you have old content on your website that you wrote years ago that is no longer valid, consider rewriting it. You might even want to delete sections that don’t provide any value to your content. Is it pertinent? No? Please get rid of it. Some experts suggest you shorten your long-form content to be about 20%-30% shorter.

Let me give you an example. The first article I wrote for my main website was in 2008. There were no visual graphics, the content was under 300 characters, and it did not have any search engine optimization (SEO) elements. It doesn’t matter that SEO didn’t exist at that time. According to today’s standards, that post stinks. I will probably be deleting it. It does nothing to give a reader a pleasant experience.

Necessary SEO elements

Speaking of SEO elements, Is there anything you can do? You tell me. Should you give up like a whipped dog with its tail between its legs? I say not. There are still ways you can incorporate SEO.

3. Do a keyword analysis – Chances are that not all of your keywords took a hit after the helpful content update. It’s very likely that some of them are performing the same or even better.

A person holding a tablet with the text keywords.

4. Remember E-E-A-T SEO Techniques – You can refer to my Complete E-E-A-T SEO Techniques for SMBs to get an overview of how to help boost your Google Rankings. E-E-A-T is short for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

More ways to recover from Google’s HCU updates

As we continue on with our article, we’ll look at three more tactics you can use.

5. Increase your usage of Social Media – Sending social signals can improve the ranking of your article because Google will see that your article is getting views, likes, and comments. It doesn’t seem to matter which social media platform you use.

6. Remove Embedded YouTube Videos – I’ve seen differing opinions on this step, so do your research. Carl Broadbent, an expert entrepreneur in the digital marketing industry, suggests not including embedded YouTube videos. However, instead of using videos, Carl suggests using visuals from Canva Pro. For example, you can create animations to provide steps to a process.

On the other hand, I have seen some success in using them. People love videos. I filter the date to the last month or within the previous year and then choose the filter for 4-20 minutes. This seems to weed out the Shorts. If I am lucky, I will have a video between 4:01 and 6:00 minutes long. That way, it keeps your visitors on your website longer. In addition, I use Venngage for infographics.

7. Use Google Trends – Have you tried Google Trends yet? Google Trends tells us what people are searching for, in real time. Be introduced to what matters most to people and what’s trending across Google Search, Google News, and YouTube practically in real time. Including content about current trends shows Google that you care about the latest trends globally, nationwide, or even locally within your state and industry.

8. User Intent – Be mindful of why visitors visit your website. What are they searching for? Does your content meet customer expectations? I would recommend doing an in-depth analysis to answer these questions.

Wrapping Up

I never told you that recovering from Google’s Helpful Content Update will be easy. But it is doable. Yes, it will take time and effort, but you can do it. HCUs (yes, Google didn’t stop with the September update) require a strategic and adaptable approach.

In our article, we looked at what the HCU is, when and why Google instituted it, and how you can improve to recover from the downfall many website owners have experienced.

Google took steps in the September update to emphasize the importance of creating original, valuable content tailored to human interests rather than solely focusing on search engine algorithms. To effectively recover from or adjust to the HCU, website owners should prioritize writing helpful and emotionally engaging content.

This is done by regularly updating and refining existing material and conducting thorough keyword analysis to ensure relevance. Additionally, leveraging social media, understanding and applying E-E-A-T SEO techniques, and thoughtfully considering multimedia elements like videos and infographics can enhance content visibility and appeal.

Utilizing tools like Google Trends and focusing on user intent is critical for staying current and meeting customer expectations. Ultimately, the key to success in the post-HCU era is to focus on creating content that is helpful to humans – not search engines.

Pam Lokker is a certified B2B SEO content writer, Web3 writer, Overall Editor, and Proofreader. She writes and polishes press releases, blog posts, articles, and web content.

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