HCU Recovery Plan

Today I want to talk about the Helpful Content Update and the recovery plan I’m putting into place.

One of our biggest sites got smashed (rightfully so) and I imagine some niche site owners on this list also got hit.

To help with this newsletter, I reached out to Alex Savvy who recently sold his mattress affiliate site to the behemoth https://sleepopolis.com/

Needless to say, he knows this game well.

Highly suggest you sign up for his newsletter: https://alexsavy.com/

First things first, start with a clean slate.

You’re going to call me crazy but we are “noindexing” between 50 - 70% of our content next week.

See, the Helpful Content Update classifier gives your entire website a grade.

It grades your pages individually and then finds the average to give your website an overall score.

Let’s assume you have the following:

  • 5 pages with a score of 1
  • 2 pages with a score of 8
  • 3 pages with a score of 4

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 8 + 8 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 33 score

33 score / 10 pages = 3.3 is your overall website score.

Think of it as finding the “mean” when you were back in math class.

Now, it’s far more complex than this but I find this to be the most helpful illustration of how the system works.

So, how do you get this score up?

1. Write more helpful content so that your helpful-to-unhelpful content ratio increase

a. You create 5 more pages with a score of 8

2. Decrease the amount of unhelpful content

a. You “noindex” those 5 pages mentioned above that only have a score of 1 and reindex them once you’ve brought them up to an 8

There are a number of reasons why I like scenario #2 more.

The first is because you need to train your writers to meet your new standards.

If you keep producing content, I highly doubt it’s going to be much better than it was initially.

Sure you can hound them like a dog, but getting them to go back and work on articles they’ve written previously and showing them first-hand how they could be

improved is much more effective and efficient.

On top of that, you can (hopefully) get quicker results.

It takes time to produce helpful content.

It doesn’t take any time to get rid of unhelpful content.

Takes me two seconds to toggle “noindex” inside WordPress.

The HCU A.I. classifier that Google uses is always running in the background so theoretically you don’t need to wait for another update to happen for your recovery.

If we take the above scenario again:

  • 5 pages with a score of 1
  • 2 pages with a score of 8
  • 3 pages with a score of 4

We will do this:

  • 5 pages with a score of 1 (noindex)
  • 2 pages with a score of 8 (keep)
  • 3 pages with a score of 4 (update)

This would immediately bring our score to 5.6 from the 3.3 initially

8 + 8 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 28 score

28 score / 5 pages

Side note - updating 4 pieces of content vs. 9 pieces of content is a lot more manageable. As I said above, creating helpful content takes time and you don’t want to rush

this process.


Let’s clarify here that I’m making an assumption.

I’m assuming that Google is not running its A.I. classifier on pages that you “noindex”.

I mean, why would they?

I believe that they are only running this classifier on pages that people are trying to get inside their index.

If you aren’t trying to do that, then they won’t waste the resources.

On top of that, I believe that the content on our website is still relevant and should eventually be reindexed.

It will be useful once we get a chance to update it.

But, we can’t update it all at once and I need results ASAP because well, money.

Let us not forget that deleting or trashing content would also cause a boatload of 404s and redirects.

We don’t have time to handle all that.

We know the content will be relevant in the future so let’s just remove it from the index for now in hopes of increasing our website score and then reindex when we get to



If you haven’t already, please read this article and/or watch the video lesson associated with it: https://on-page.ai/pages/helpful-content-update/

This is the best piece on the update so far and if you’re serious about recovery and producing helpful content in the future, this is a must.

For those who don’t want to read and just want bullet points, here’s what we’re doing:

1. Make sure all pages have:

a. Author (and link to author page and bio and make sure they are an expert and trustworthy. Mention your industry and any certifications)

b. Note from Savvy - "I have seen people adding previous work experience in the same niche for every author. It might be a good suggestion to sound like a real


c. Last Updated Date

d. Reviewed By (same criteria as the author page)

2. Find out the main question that the page is looking to answer

a. Get a quote and give the answer at the very top of the article

b. Literally the very first paragraph

3. Focus on Information Gain in every article

4. Encourage discussion and comments

a. Encourage people to bookmark our page and return

b. Note from Savvy - "I've noticed a correlation that websites with more comments under the posts tend to rank higher and were not hit at all by HCU or hit just a little

bit. So, encouraging people to leave a comment under your post (or leave the first 2-3 by yourself) might be beneficial."

5. Prune large pages to be more specific

6. Best running shoes now how several articles instead of one

a. Best running shoes for men

b. For women

c. For trails

d. etc

My last comment on this whole thing is to not half-ass the above list.

It’s a good checklist but remember what the root cause is of sites losing traffic, their content sucks.

Note from Savvy -

"I would add that doing all the things that make the content more useful might be the best approach, as no one knows which factor Google cares about the most:

1. Links to reputable websites
2. Unique images and videos
3. Audio version of the articles etc"

Don’t just grab random quotes that don’t actually help a user like this person:

Don’t put “Reviewed By XYZ Expert” unless they actually did review it.

People can tell.

That’s it this week!

I’ll leave you with one last comment that I said on LinkedIn before I go.