Google HCU Tips: Navigating Google’s Latest HCU and Core Algorithm Updates

Mar 19, 2024
Google HCU tips

Google HCU Tips: Navigating the Latest Algorithm Updates


It’s happening again.

Google’s recent updates are once again the talk of the town. 

The latest Helpful Content Update (HCU) and core algorithm update have begun to shake things up, setting new standards for content relevance and quality. Some websites have felt the impact in a nasty way. 

Hopefully, yours is not one of them.

We’re here to examine the changes and offer some meaningful tips to guard against potential problems and improve your website’s performance.

Google HCU Tips: Navigating the Latest Algorithm Updates

Understanding Google’s Latest Updates

There have been two significant changes in the Google playing field over the last few months.

Helpful Content Update (HCU): 

Google’s first HCU was released in August 2022 (limited to English – but with plans to include other languages in the future). 

Another substantial update was released in September 2023.  

Interestingly, Google has announced it will no longer advise changes to the HCU.

These updates aim to improve the quality of search results by (initially) prioritizing content that is original, helpful, and written by people for people, as opposed to content primarily created for ranking well in search engines?.

More recently, Google clarified its approach to AI-generated content in search results. They emphasize that the focus should be on the quality of content rather than the method of production. Google’s ranking systems aim to identify content that demonstrates expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). 

If you haven’t read Google’s recommendations – maybe you should.  Here’s the link: Creating Helpful Content

Imagine if you ran out to play a game of football without learning the rules…  how well is that likely to turn out? 

Don’t be tempted to play the SEO Content game without knowing what the coach and referee require!

Core Algorithm Update

The second part of the shakeup was just a few weeks ago when Google introduced another core algorithm update. 

This update continues Google’s effort to improve search results quality.  Google’s stated objectives are:

  • reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.
  • target scaled content abuse, site reputation abuse, and expired domain abuse

It is affecting websites across various topics and industries, so it’s important to keep an eye on your rankings.

In our own case, we haven’t seen any significant shift in rankings or traffic.

Google HCU tips

The Impact of Artificial intelligence (AI)

Since the first HCU release, we’ve seen AI embraced on a much wider basis. This has enabled the production of even more “rubbish content” at scale—particularly in the “affiliate marketing” niche. 

The key takeaway is that you can’t take simple shortcuts anymore.

It’s time to focus on creating content for people, not just search engines. If your content is helpful and user-centric, you might see a nice boost in your rankings!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t embrace AI in digital marketing. In fact, you’d be crazy to ignore it. But we have to use it intelligently and strategically to satisfy the needs of our visitors and Google. I’ve used ChatGPT to research aspects of this blog and test it against their “rules” to ensure I’ve addressed the core E-EAT  requirements.

Google HCU tips

Early Days: No Need to Panic

If these changes have affected you, the key thing to understand is that we’re just at the beginning of the core update.  

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. 

Google’s algorithms are complex, and it takes time to see the full effects. 

That said, this is a major push to clean up low-quality content, and there are reports of well-established sites being wholly deindexed. That’s sudden death if you’re reliant on organic traffic!  Additionally, there are reports that a good number of quality sites have also suffered substantial damage – so the new algorithm is not perfect.

Other than “sudden death”, if you notice changes in your website’s performance, take a deep breath, analyze it, and make some thoughtful notes.  Then take another look tomorrow – it could well just be turbulence related to the changes, and it may bounce back.  

The first few weeks of an update often result in traffic and SERP turmoil.  Don’t fall into the trap of making knee-jerk reactions until you’re confident of a permanent shift. Here’s an illustration from Semrush Sensor of the turbulence after the HCU update in September.

Semrush-SERP-volatiility 1

Here’s another snapshot showing the impact of the most recent updates. You can drill down to analyze by industry with filters at Semrush Sensor. Interestingly, News and Sports have been hit hardest, but Food and Drink, along with Arts and Entertainment, are not far behind.

Semrush SERP volatility Mar24

So, what do we do about it?

Building Topical and Domain Authority for Long-Term Stability

The best we can do is to learn and follow the guidelines.  Don’t poke the bear!

Google loves websites that are authoritative in their niche. Here’s how you can build your topical and domain authority:

Technical SEO: 

Make sure your website is in tip-top shape, with fast loading times, mobile-friendliness, and secure connections (HTTPS). A smooth user experience is key to winning Google’s heart.

Content Quality and Relevance: 

Keep creating high-quality, relevant content that resonates with your audience. Engaging content attracts visitors and encourages other sites to link to you, boosting your authority.  Plus, keep it up to date.  And include “Who, How, and Why” information – check the bottom of this blog to see how we’re addressing it.

Quality Backlinks: 

A strong backlink profile from reputable websites has been like a vote of confidence in Google’s eyes for years.  However, the weight Google puts on this has diminished over the last two years and it is no longer in the top three (see Search Engine Journal). However, for now, it still shows that your website is trustworthy and authoritative in your field.  In my view, you should still have an active program to attract good backlinks, but you should steer clear of parasite linking strategies which Google has flagged as Spam Brain targets.

Google HCU tips

Leveraging AI for Content Creation and Optimization

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a game-changer in marketing research, content creation, and optimization. 

Despite rumors, the latest core update is not explicitly targeting AI-generated content. Many sites with purely human-created content have been affected too. AI is a tool, not a magic solution. 

Here’s how you can use AI strategically:

  • Keyword Research: AI-powered tools can help you find keywords and phrases that match your audience’s search intent.
  • Content Ideation: AI can spark content ideas based on trends, competitor analysis, and user behavior.
  • Content Structuring: Use AI to organize your content in a user-friendly and SEO-optimized way.
  • Quality Enhancement: AI can improve your content’s readability, grammar, and adherence to SEO best practices.

Some of our favorite AI tools include ChatGPT (which helped create this post!), SurferSEO, NeuronWriter, and RankMath

But remember, keeping a human touch in your content is essential for authenticity and connecting with your audience.

Diversifying Marketing Channels

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! 

Diversifying your marketing channels is a must.  It will substantially reduce the risk of relying solely on organic search. Explore referral traffic, social media marketing, paid advertising, email marketing, and influencer marketing.  Each of these requires different strategies and investment, but they will help you  to reach a wider audience and drive traffic to your site.  And it will reduce your exposure to shifts in the Google algorithm.

Google HCU tips

The Power of List Building and Direct Marketing

Probably the easiest and least expensive is direct email marketing.

Building a solid email list is a powerful way to communicate directly with your audience, independent of algorithm changes. 

Offer valuable incentives (a lead magnet) for signing up, segment your list for targeted engagement, and keep your subscribers interested with regular updates. 

You can learn more about using “Lead Magnets” to grow you list by visiting How to Supercharge Your Website with the Magic of a Lead Magnet.

Recommended Actions for Webmasters

In light of Google’s updates, here are some steps webmasters can take:

  • Conduct a Content Audit: Review your content to identify areas for improvement, focusing on quality, relevance, and value.
  • Improve User Experience: Ensure your site is easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and has fast loading times.
  • Monitor Performance: Keep an eye on your analytics to track changes and inform your SEO strategy.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest announcements from Google and the SEO community to stay ahead of the game.


Navigating Google’s latest updates requires a proactive and informed approach. 

By focusing on building content authority, diversifying your marketing channels, and leveraging AI, you can position your website for long-term success. 

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay patient, stay informed, and keep optimizing. 

Let’s conquer these updates together!

Google HCU tips


About the Author: Colin Ferguson 

Colin is the General Manager at Supsystic and has been at the helm since 2019. Having spent 40+ years in small businesses himself, he understands the trials and tribulations that go with the territory. He was a pioneer in adopting lead magnet strategies and digital marketing as early as 2000 and has been a strong advocate for small businesses adopting a digital presence.

Now, his passion for helping small and medium businesses harness the power of the internet continues – so much so that it’s brought him out of retirement and back into the game.  

In addition to captaining the Supsystic ship, Colin has various other online projects that help him stay on top of the latest developments. 


This article was lovingly written by a human (with a little help from AI).  Sources are referenced with links – and the balance is the observations and opinions of the author.


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