More From Google On Helpful Content Update Recovery Time

Feb 19, 2024 - 7:41 am 210 by

Google Delay Sign Airport

A week ago we wrote about the timing it takes to recover from a Google helpful content update. Then on Friday, Danny Sullivan, Google's Search Liaison, added more clarity on the fastest time a site can possibly recover after being negatively impacted by the helpful content update.

In short, it still can take several months to recover from the helpful content update and truth is, we have not really seen a case of a site hit by the September 2023 helpful content update recover yet. Some say they have but I have yet to see a real case of this -let me know if I am wrong.

As a reminder, in Google's original communications around the helpful content update, Google told us that Google needs you to prove, over several months - yes - several months - that your content is actually helpful in the long run.

It doesn't want to be in a position where you drop from the HCU, you may a change the next day, you rank better again, so you put your content back the way it is. It wants you to have long term evidence of helpful content and that can take "several months."

So what did Google say on Friday that is new? I covered in my story from last week that that one content writer, Morgan Overholt, said that Sullivan said at an event that you can recover within 2 weeks. I heard the recording and Sullivan said it is possible to recover "within a couple of weeks." I thought Sullivan misspoke or misunderstood the question, so I called it out (heck, we all misspeak or misunderstand stuff all the time, we are human).

Sullivan replied on Friday on X saying, "Yes, it's totally *possible* (but not guaranteed) someone might see change from the helpful content system within a couple of weeks." But he added it is unlikely, he said, "I should have said it might take several weeks to several months or just several months."

Here is the full post:

Thank you. I appreciate the clarity here that I did not say two weeks.

I try to be as careful and precise with responses as I can, because what I say on behalf of Google Search carries a lot of weight. I (along with anyone at Google Search) really don't want people to misinterpret what we say.

That means I'm generally only going to give a specific number if I know that number matches to some of our documentation on how things work. Two weeks didn't make sense as something I'd say, because we don't have anything like that in the documentation here.

Yes, it's totally *possible* (but not guaranteed) someone might see change from the helpful content system within a couple of weeks. That's because, as the documentation says, it runs continuously and learns over time. If a site was flagged as having unhelpful content, and it made positive changes at some point, then the classifier might register this as a long-term change and shift at any time.

In terms of how people typically think about this, they see a change that seems related to the system. They wonder how long it might take for the system to register an improvement they made, if they immediately did that improvement. It's possible that after a couple of weeks, that could happen (where couple of weeks to me is more than two, though I know some might think that means exactly two. But I didn't mean it as two, otherwise I would have said two). "Couple of weeks" to me in the context of all this was meant several. And I'm pretty sure I didn't say it would happen in even that short of a period -- only that it was possible.

With that context, I should have said it might take several weeks to several months or just several months. Apologies for that. But also, I'm pretty sure I mentioned our documentation to all the attendees at that event I was at. Anyone who wants to understand the helpful content system, that's what the documentation is for.

Based on it being over 5 months since the September helpful content update was released and we have yet to see a recovery. Plus, based on Google's original communication around it taking time for you to earn Google's trust that your content is going to be helpful going forward... I don't think a couple of weeks makes much sense, as Sullivan explained.

Glenn Gabe added on X, "Danny explained that it's *possible* to see changes in "several weeks" IF you implemented big changes immediately after being impacted by the HCU. He also explains it could take several weeks to several *months*. And *months* is what the documentation explains, and what was communicated from the beginning."

But he added that he has not seen it happen. He wrote, "Also, I have hundreds of domains documented that were heavily impacted by the various HCUs, and I haven't see any recover in several weeks. It took months for the ones that did recover. So I guess it's possible, but not realistic IMO. Why? You have to first implement big changes from a content and possibly UX standpoint. That can take a while depending on how much content you have. So it's really months *from* when those changes are implemented."

Here are these posts:

Click through to these posts to see the full context.

In any event, do not expect to recover from a helpful content update (or honestly, any Google update) in a couple of weeks. These things normally take months of work...

Forum discussion at X.


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