Helpful Content Recovery Program

Categories: Update Recovery
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About Course

Was your site hit by the Helpful Content Update in the fall of 2023? In this course I will provide a step-by-step guide on how I prepared one of my websites that had been struggling for a couple of years for the update and saw a massive boost in rankings while other niche sites were crashing and burning. There was no link building, I didn’t start using Pinterest (who was the time?!), and there were no changes to my hosting, theme, or page speed. The only thing that changed was I rewrote the content on my whole site – all of it.

HCU in 2023 was actually a re-release of the first attempt about a year prior in 2022. There was ultimately too many issues to work out in a short amount of time so the 2022 version was rolled back a short while later. However, Google had sunk a fair amount of resources into it, so my partner and I figured that they would make the corrections and re-release it at a later date.

We dug into the research and started looking at what sites and pages had been promoted/demoted during the first go-round, and sure enough patterns started to emerge. We buckled down and spent several months updating a site that had previously been a top earner for us (monetized through affiliate links) but that had really been lagging in the rankings for a couple of years and whose income had dried up to less than $100 a month. For context, it had been bringing in around $21,000 per month at its peak. Altogether, it took us about 6 months to completely overhaul the content, either rewriting pages from scratch or pruning them if they weren’t worth updating.

We saw small improvements initially, but nothing that really brought in more than a couple of extra dollars per day. We finished updating the site at the end of September 2023. In mid-October 2023 there was a core update and we started to see some better rankings and some more traffic – hooray! But it was November 2023 that we really started to see the fruits of our labour.

I think the graph below really shows the difference. I zoomed it out to 2 years so that you can see that traffic had been quite low for a long time. What’s really interesting (and goes directly against what a lot of other folks say) is that we added no new content & no new backlinks. The purple line is domain rating, which is largely calculated by backlinks, you can see it actually went down. We also didn’t do any social media, email marketing, and we ran zero paid ads (the flat green line at the very bottom). Literally the only thing we did was rewrite all of our existing content by hand – no AI. There was a lot, it took a long time, but two months after finishing it paid off.

A graph showing the results of the work I'd done on my website. Most lines are flat, but the line indicating traffic from organic search starts going up in October 2023, with a much bigger increase in November 2023.

I can’t promise overnight results, or even results at all. Google could radically change the way the algorithm works tomorrow, and I don’t have a crystal ball. However I will show you what worked for myself and my partner, and as of right now has continued to propel our site upwards in ranking (still haven’t built any backlinks, either!), our research & content writing strategies, and I will do my best to answer questions.

I have seen so many folks completely and utterly discouraged after the update in the fall, so I wanted to offer some help. Rather than a done-for-your service, I thought I could reach more people by offering a course.

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What Will You Learn?

  • How to research what sites in your niche were promoted & demoted during the HCU
  • How to use current best practices as well as what you find during the research stage to write content that will perform well post-HCU (yes, you can outrank big sites!)
  • Common mistakes and pitfalls - outdated tactics that don't work anymore, in other words

Course Content

Researching What Was Promoted/Demoted
Before we get to work on updating our pages, it's always helpful to take a look and see what sites/pages were promoted during HCU, which ones were unaffected, etc because there are lessons to be learned there about what Google is deeming 'helpful', at least for now. This can help inform how you might rewrite your content to rank better.

  • Researching Historical Ranking Data

How to Structure Content Post-HCU
Of course a lot of what you should include in your content comes down to your niche and the search you are trying to rank well for. However there are some general guidelines that I think apply to any page that we'll cover in this video.

Technical/Backend Details for SEO
This lesson covers some of the 'behind-the-scenes' stuff you can do to help give your content a boost, as well as things to avoid that are a soft demotion. If your content is strong enough, Google will often overlook these things, but they could make the difference between ranking #3 and ranking #1 for a search.

Meta Information (Titles & Descriptions)
A shorter lesson on what you should include in your Meta Title and Meta Description to do well in search as of February 2024.

Common Misconceptions
These are things that I see talked about frequently in SEO groups online that I think are overinflated in terms of importance and just not a good use of time (and a couple are actually dangerous).

Google Search Console
Some information on how to read through the 404 Errors and crawled but not indexed posts/pages and determine which ones are worth addressing and which ones you can safely ignore.

Over-The-Shoulder Post Update Walk-Through
A walk through how I would approach updating a post that lost rankings during the fall updates with a specific, real-world example.

March/April 2024 Google Algorithm Update
A video covering what the March/April 2024 algorithm update was about. Looking for a TL;DR: it was a strengthening/further baking in of the fall 2023 HCU update changes. Sites that were promoted saw another bump, and sites that had been demoted saw further decreases.

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