By Kaitie Frank
13 Feb 2024

How Long Will It Take To Recover From the Helpful Content Update? Google Explains.


SEOs are still feeling the effects of September 2023’s Helpful Content Update. In an X thread on February 8, Morgan Overholt posted:

“My new thing when being pitched paid HCU recovery services: Show me one single website that was hit and has since recovered. Not recovered from a core update or a previous HCU but specifically the Sept cliff dive. I can’t keep spending money and getting nothing in return. And so far no dice. If their services work, they should have a case study.”

Many SEOs replied to her post, agreeing that they haven’t seen a recovery since the September update. Here are some screenshots of these replies:

Google Search Liason Danny Sullivan was brought into the conversation after Overholt claimed the liaison gave her a two-week recovery timeline. Here’s what Sullivan had to say:

“I don't recall giving a specific timeframe like that. It would be unusual for me to do so, because it's not what we say in our documentation. It's not something I've also said in posts when people ask about this. Apologies if I misspoke or perhaps confused this with something else.”

He went on to explain that the Helpful Content documentation states,

“A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better, if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this system may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content hasn't returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply."

Sullivan clarifies in another post:

“The classifier is always running. If it sees a site has reduced unhelpful content, the site might start performing better at any time. IE: maybe someone made a change to reduce this several months ago. The classifier is checking checking checking and basically says, "Oh, I kind of think this has been a long term change" as the assessment shifts. It's not like you have to wait until the next time the classifier itself might get updated. We do update it from time to time to make it better, but sites that improve could see change independently of that.”

So when can SEOs see a difference in their website rankings?

There is no one answer. Some may take two weeks, while others may take longer. According to Sullivan and the documentation, it seems the key is to maintain creating helpful content for the long-term. Once the classifier understands that producing helpful content is part of your long-term strategy, you may then start to see an upward trend in rankings. 

It’s also important to note that the classifier works site-wide and in tandem with other signals used in Google Search to automatically identify content that has little value to searchers. This means that all content, not just blog articles, must be considered helpful in order to perform well in this update. 

All in all, Google advises you to continue creating helpful content. Google does state that they will continue to refine how the classifier detects helpful content, so for now, SEOs just need to stay the course. 

Kaitie Frank

Kaitie is a copywriter and content writer for Page One Power who specializes in SEO-optimized content. She has written for various niches and prides herself in knowing random tidbits of information. In addition to putting words to paper, she indulges in physical fitness and telling her cat why he is, in fact, a good boy.