The September 2023 Google Useful Content material Replace – Did Google’s Announcement in April About Web page Expertise Foreshadow What We’re Seeing With The Present HCU(X)? – ewebgod

September 2023 Helpful Content Update.jpg

Primarily based on what I’m seeing with websites closely impacted by the HCU, and what Google defined in its April documentation replace, the mix of unhelpful content material and poor UX might be a particularly problematic mixture for web site homeowners.

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Replace: 10/2/23:
Included a section about Google’s newest weblog put up on which covers methods to successfully run adverts with out impacting efficiency, the consumer expertise, and so on.


On September 14, 2023 Google rolled out the September useful content material replace. This was the third useful content material replace, and it has been the most important of the three HCUs up to now. I’ve over 500 domains documented up to now which were hammered by the replace, and my listing continues to develop every day.

Listed here are some examples of the acute drops primarily based on the September HCU. These are medieval Panda-like drops:

Example of a site dropping heavily based on the 2023 September helpful content update
Another example of a site's search visibility dropping heavily based on the 2023 September helpful content update
Semrush graph showing a site heavily impacted by the September 2023 helpful content update.

I’d write a put up protecting extra concerning the replace as soon as the mud settles, however I wished to cowl a selected idea I had primarily based on analyzing many websites impacted by the replace. First, after going by means of these websites, most simply don’t have nice content material… I’m seeing AI-generated content material, programmatic content material used to churn out many unhelpful pages, websites that cowl each conceivable variation of a subject with out offering really insightful or worthwhile info, and extra. Additionally, I’ve analyzed websites which have dropped closely throughout a variety of classes, together with lyrics, calculations, journey, translations, downloads, gaming, and plenty of extra.

Clearly the system is concentrating on unhelpful content material, however that’s not the one factor I’m seeing. Another websites I analyzed have positively caught my consideration. I’m not saying they’ve the most effective content material on this planet, however they don’t appear to have the worst content material both… For instance, there are websites that acquired crushed within the recipes, how-to, and critiques verticals that don’t fall into the identical class of unhelpful content material as what I defined earlier.

And a standard thread on many websites impacted, together with ones with content material that might not be horrible, is a horrible consumer expertise. In different phrases, the advert state of affairs is extreme on most of the websites, customers are being bombarded with adverts all around the web page, auto-playing video follows you as you scroll down the web page, and you then is likely to be hit with popups as properly.

That is precisely the kind of aggressive, disruptive, and even typically misleading, promoting state of affairs I’ve spoken about for years. And once I say years, I imply from medieval Panda days again in 2011. I noticed that on many websites I used to be serving to get better from Panda. And now right here we’re, with what seems to be like Panda on steroids. I’ve at all times stated, “hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned” and I really feel like that is likely to be the motto for the most recent HCU.

First, right here’s a slide from one in every of my displays about broad core updates the place I cowl aggressive adverts:

Glenn Gabe's slide about aggressive and disruptive ads causing problems during broad core updates.

After which simply one in every of many tweets I’ve shared about aggressive adverts and core updates (this one hyperlinks to a video from John Mueller explaining extra about taking a step again and reviewing the location total):

And I even lined this on a podcast with Dre final Friday when protecting what I’ve seen up to now (at 55:10 within the video):

The HCU evolves to the HCU(X)?
With the original HCU in August of 2022, the websites that acquired hit had been probably the most egregious from a content material high quality standpoint. However Google’s Danny Sullivan defined on the time that Google was severe concerning the useful content material system and that they’d proceed to enhance it, and the system would evolve over time.

And evolve it did… the September 2023 useful content material replace has been probably the most highly effective of the HCUs up to now (by a mile). Once more, I’ve tons of of domains documented which were crushed by the replace, I’ve additionally had many web site homeowners attain out to me for assist, and I’ve heard from many throughout verticals concerning the excessive volatility that the HCU is inflicting throughout websites. It’s a beast.

So what modified?

First, Google defined the HCU has an improved classifier, and that’s clearly apparent. The sheer variety of websites getting impacted is infinitely bigger than earlier HCUs. Second, and that is the center of my put up in the present day, Google updated its documentation in April of 2023 about page experience, and particularly included that info in its documentation about creating helpful content.

Sure, this may need been the warning about what the September HCU was going to focus on. With that replace to the documentation, Google took the emphasis away from core internet vitals and wished web site homeowners to give attention to the consumer expertise total. You’ll be able to clearly see within the questions that Google covers a wider vary of REAL consumer expertise points, versus a core internet important rating that is likely to be a number of milliseconds off.

For instance, Google covers an extreme quantity of adverts that distract or intrude with the principle content material, intrusive interstitials, how simply can guests navigate to, or find, the principle content material of the web page, can customers simply distinguish the principle content material from different content material in your web page, and extra.

New bullets added to Google's documentation about page experience and the impact in Search.

Once more, I’m NOT saying UX alone goes to get a web site hammered. Google is utilizing machine studying with the HCU, which implies it’s sending many indicators to the machine studying system, which dictates weighting of these indicators, which finally dictates rankings. However the addition of this info within the useful content material documentation, and seeing these horrible UX conditions throughout many websites impacted, has me considering the 2 are linked.

Google additionally offered a specific FAQ in that weblog put up from April concerning the useful content material system. As you may see under, content material is the main focus, however UX does play a task:

FAQ about the roll of page experience in the helpful content update.

So, I consider the main focus of the HCU is eradicating unhelpful content material from the SERPs, however the consumer expertise performs a component. And the mix of lower-quality content material with a horrible UX is the kiss of dying with the HCU. I defined in my SMX Superior presentation a number of months in the past that the useful content material system was Google’s secret weapon for combating numerous varieties of low-quality content material, but it surely doesn’t look like content material is the one factor they’re algorithmically. For my part, UX crept its manner in once they added that documentation change in April. I simply don’t assume it hit house with many web site homeowners till this replace rolled out.

The helpful content update is Google's secret weapon in fighting various forms of low-quality content.

Bettering The Consumer Expertise – And I’m not referring to core internet vitals…
For web site homeowners closely impacted by the September 2023 useful content material replace, the main focus ought to clearly be on offering high-quality and insightful content material that may assist customers. However, I might ensure you don’t drive these customers insane whereas they’re making an attempt to eat your content material. And when you’re in a state of affairs the place you assume your content material is okay, however you continue to acquired hammered, then positively take a tough take a look at your UX, advert state of affairs, popups, and extra. I might not bombard customers with adverts, I might not set off popups like loopy, I wouldn’t observe customers down the web page with auto-playing video, and I might be sure that your principal content material might be simply and rapidly recognized by customers.

Too near your personal web site? Run a consumer research!
When you really feel you’re too near your personal web site, then run a consumer research. I wrote a put up about running user studies through the lens of broad core updates a number of years in the past and Google ended up linking to that put up from their very own article about broad core updates. You’ll be able to be taught a lot when goal third-party customers undergo your web site and consider their expertise by means of the lens of particular algorithm updates. You’ll be able to learn my put up for extra particulars about working a research.

The power of user studies for sites impacted by Google's broad core updates.

Replace: Google’s new weblog put up on about adverts and the consumer expertise.
On Friday (9/29/23), Google’s Markus Bordihn published a blog post on protecting methods to successfully load adverts with out impacting efficiency, the consumer expertise, and so on. I discovered that timing to be very fascinating contemplating the HCU simply rolled out and UX appeared to be a part of the equation (as lined all through my put up right here).

I extremely suggest studying the article from Markus as he covers methods to present adverts with out hammering the consumer expertise. There are some nice quotes within the put up that I feel many impacted by the September HCU ought to assessment intimately.

For instance, take this quote about the necessity to steadiness producing income with a strong consumer expertise (and never irritating customers):
“Take into account a web site that extensively locations adverts inside its content material, aiming to generate excessive income. Nevertheless, the overwhelming variety of adverts frustrates customers, resulting in a poor consumer expertise and excessive bounce charges. Regardless of the potential for substantial income from adverts, abandonment severely hampers the web site’s success.”

Or this quote about adverts working above the fold (which jogs my memory of their ‘Page layout’ algorithm which launched years in the past — AKA “Above the fold” algo):
“Whereas above the fold advert placements are worthwhile, it’s essential to not overload this prime house with too many adverts. Extreme adverts muddle the web page, disrupt content material readability, and detract from the consumer expertise. Attempt for a steadiness between monetization and sustaining a clear, user-friendly format.”

After which this quote about adverts under the fold and the way they shouldn’t compromise content material high quality or readability:
“The placements of adverts under the fold shouldn’t compromise content material high quality or readability. Sustaining a steadiness between adverts and content material to keep away from overwhelming customers and to make sure optimistic consumer expertise.”

Once more, that’s very fascinating timing for Google publishing that put up on When you have been impacted by the September 2023 useful content material replace, I extremely suggest reviewing it (after which sharing it with all members of your workforce).

Abstract: Coping with a giant September 2023 HCU hit.
Once more, I’d cowl extra about this replace in a future put up, however I wished to offer this details about UX after going by means of many websites impacted by the September HCU, or ought to I say HCU(X)? Additionally, only a reminder that with the useful content material replace, you sometimes can not get better rapidly. Google might want to see vital adjustments over the long-term to ensure that the HCU classifier to be dropped (which might be months). So you probably have seen heavy affect, then you will want to work laborious on enhancing each your content material and the consumer expertise. Good luck.


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