How to Recover Lost Website Traffic and Impressions from Google HCU (Helpful Content Update)

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Released mid to late 2023, Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update’ (or ‘Google HCU’) has been a massive disruptor for many website and blog owners across the globe who have relied on Google’s search engine results to drive impressions and traffic to their business.

After several months of researching the HCU, topic and getting to see its impacts play out across thousands of search terms, I will provide some of my takes on what adjustments you can make to address this update and get your website or blog back on the rails.

What is Google HCU or Helpful Content Update?

Google’s Helpful Content Update is an algorithm update that focuses on promoting helpful and informative content in search results. This update aims to decrease the visibility of low-quality and unhelpful content, which can ultimately lead to a decrease in website impressions and traffic for those sites.

The update is designed to benefit users by providing them with more relevant and trustworthy information, but it can also hurt websites that contain a lot of affiliate links or prioritize volume of content for high search visibility for their traffic.

This update comes as part of Google’s ongoing efforts to improve the quality of search results and provide users with the best possible experience.

With the Helpful Content Update, Google is rewarding websites that create high-quality and helpful content, while penalizing those that produce low-quality or unhelpful content. This means that websites with valuable and informative content are more likely to see an increase in their search visibility, while those with low-quality content may experience a decrease in their rankings.

Ultimately, the goal with this Google HCU update is to provide users with the most helpful and relevant information when they search, while also incentivizing website owners to focus on creating valuable content for their audience.

Why was my site impacted by Google’s helpful content update?

The Google Helpful Content Update had a significant impact on website traffic and impressions for webmasters around the globe. Many websites saw a decrease in their traffic and impressions following the update, as Google prioritized content that was proved to be “valuable and helpful” to users. Websites that relied on clickbait, low-quality content, or excessive advertising saw a decrease in their visibility on search engine results pages.

This massive algorithm update forced website owners and marketers who rely on Google to re-evaluate their content strategy and focus on creating high-quality, helpful content that genuinely addresses the needs and questions of their target audience.


The update also highlighted the importance of user experience, as websites with well-organized, easy-to-navigate, and informative content saw an increase in their traffic and impressions.

In the end, the update reinforced Google’s commitment to providing users with the best possible search experience by rewarding websites that prioritized helpful and valuable content. While they’re still going to be pushing and pulling the HCU algorithm levers for years to come, the beginning is a tall tale sign Google was gearing up to make changes in the wake of AI’s recent permeability in content creation.

We’ll help you explore a few strategies and ways of thinking to avoid Google penalties and get your website back to the top of Google’s search results.

What can I do to recover from Google’s Helpful Content Update (HCU)?

Like many others, I was heavily impacted by Google’s HCU and saw a large dropoff in website traffic across many domains since these changes went into effect.

So what did I do? Start researching – and a lot of research I did.

We’ll eventually get into the meat and potatoes of why this Google algorithm update is so impactful. But first, there’s one significant change I’m going to make to how you should go about recovering from the significant drop in traffic and impressions on your website.

Let’s change ‘Helpful’ Content Update, to something like ‘Human’ Content Update. And why is that paradigm shift so important? Because it shows you exactly the way that Google is thinking moving forward.

“But Google doesn’t care if it’s human-generated content or AI content! You’re wrong!”

No – you’re right – Google and other search engines don’t seem to care about AI-generated content as much as we thought. But they do care about two things:

Is it helpful? And…

Is there a human behind it? (even if it’s AI-generated).

If you can start thinking in that mindset, you’ll be in good shape for the rest of this article and any actions you take as a result of what you read here.

Make Sure Your Content is Up-to-date


To ensure that your blog content is up to date, it’s important to regularly review and update existing posts. This can involve checking for outdated information, broken links, or any new developments in the topic you’re covering.

Set aside some time each week or month to go through your older posts and make any necessary updates. Additionally, make an effort to stay informed about new trends, research, and news related to your blog’s subject matter.  This can involve reading industry publications, following relevant social media accounts, or subscribing to newsletters and podcasts.

Reddit and Facebook Groups are phenomenal resources I’ve used to stay up with current trends.

Another way to keep your content up to date is to engage with your audience and ask for their input on what they would like to see more of on your blog. Pay attention to comments, messages, and feedback to see if there are any common themes or topics that your readers are interested in.

By regularly reviewing, staying informed, and engaging with your audience, you can make sure that your blog content remains current and relevant to your readers. One of my favorite Saturday activities of the past was checking and updating YouTube comments from my viewers – which I’ve started to do on a regular basis again, and it’s paid off.

Set Up Your E-A-T Signals


E-A-T signals, which stand for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, are important for establishing credibility and trust with your audience. These signals are particularly important for websites in health, finance, security, and other sensitive niches, as they directly impact the overall quality of the content and trustworthiness of the author.

To set up E-A-T signals on your blog, you should focus on demonstrating your expertise in the field through author bios, qualifications, and certifications.

It’s also important to showcase the authority of your content by obtaining backlinks from reputable sources and referencing credible studies and statistics. Building trust with your audience can be achieved by creating a transparent and honest website, providing clear contact information, and showcasing positive reviews and testimonials.

Additionally, optimizing your content for accuracy and relevancy can help improve E-A-T signals as well.  When writing content for your blog, always ensure that your topics are relevant and backed by credible sources. Avoid making unsubstantiated claims or providing inaccurate information, as this will negatively impact your E-A-T signals.

Focus on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, and you can establish a strong E-A-T foundation for your small business website or company blog.

I personally use All-In-One SEO and their suite of tools to help myself and clients quickly and easily update and maintain their E-A-T signals. Without a tool, simple tasks can take exponentially more time and there’s no guarantee that you’re following the specific guidelines Google is laying out. Without the help of a dedicated team of specialists, you may find yourself clawing back rankings with Google penalties that can tank your rankings.

Make Updates to Your Backlink Strategy

People who say backlinks don’t matter – run as far away from those individuals and agencies as possible.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in SEM Rush or other SEO tools, it’s clear as day the winners are those with the most high-quality backlinks (and content, among other things…). So with Google’s HCU, there’s never been a better time to take a look at your current back strategy and find ways to make some updates.

Start by conducting a thorough audit of your current backlinks to identify any low-quality or spammy links that could be negatively impacting your site’s SEO.

Then, focus on acquiring high-quality, relevant backlinks from reputable websites within your industry. This can be achieved through guest posting, influencer outreach, and creating shareable, valuable content that naturally attracts backlinks.

Additionally, diversify your anchor text to avoid appearing as if you’re trying to manipulate search engine rankings.

Keep an eye on your competitors’ backlink strategies and look for any new opportunities to gain backlinks from authoritative sources. Finally, regularly monitor the performance of your backlinks and make necessary adjustments to ensure they continue to contribute positively to your website’s SEO efforts.

Remove excessive affiliate links


There are a lot of reasons why you should remove excessive affiliate links. And Google’s recent HCU should throw any excuses for keeping spamming affiliate links and advertisements straight out the window.

Excessive affiliate links on your website can have a negative impact on user experience and ultimately hurt your credibility with your audience. When there are too many affiliate links, it can make the website look spammy and untrustworthy.

It can also slow down the loading time of your website, which can frustrate your visitors and lead them to leave your site.

Additionally, search engines may penalize your website for having an excessive amount of affiliate links, which can negatively affect your SEO efforts.

By removing excessive affiliate links, you can improve the overall user experience, build trust with your audience, and maintain a positive relationship with search engines for better visibility and rankings.

I don’t think this approach explains some of the strangeness we’ve seen with things like Reddit, and Yelp living at the top of results that it typically wouldn’t have been close to before, but it does speak to the direction that Google and other searches engines are taking as a way to adjust to a more AI integrated world that we live in – especially when it comes to content development.

Add Dynamic Content to Your Website and Blog Posts

One of the ways that Google is combating low-quality and spamming AI-generated content is by making users create more dynamic content on their blogs or websites. With AI making it so easy to create text on the go, text-only articles are going to struggle immensely in the SERPs.

At a minimum, content creators should be adding high-quality, original, and unique images to their blog posts while making sure their images also contain the correct SEO, like alt-tags, descriptions, captions, and more. Don’t forget to optimize the images – our favorite tool? The friendly fuzzy bear over at!

When speaking to dynamic content, new rich content formats such as recipes, how-to blogs, and other styles mean even more human-generated content (HCU!) that Google is requesting from content creators.


One of the lowest-hanging items to tackle with your blog posts is a Table of Contents. Not only does the Table of Contents help with Google’s HCU, but it also makes blog posts easier to navigate and more friendly to readers.

Along with a Table of Contents for your posts, don’t forget things like FAQs, and author bios as well (which you can handle when sorting out your E-A-T signals). This is snippet-rich metadata that Google uses in a variety of places and demands of their content creators. Without it, you’ll be missing out on millions of eyeballs across things like search results and connected IoT devices (think Google’s Nest Hub, Amazon Echo Show, etc.)

Adapting to Google’s Helpful Content Update is a must for bloggers and small business owners

If you’re looking for someone to help you recover lost website impressions and traffic from Google’s Helpful Content Update (HCU), Colin & Co. can help. Contact us so we can discuss your challenge, project goals, and timeline.

Whether it’s some changes to your content strategy, or a whole new strategy direction entirely, we’re here to help with digital marketing, SEO, and website design services. Visit Our Services page for more info and get in contact with us today.

author avatar
Colin Niemczura IT Consultant

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