How to create content that ranks high after HCU

The recent Google Core Update 2024 and its predecessor, the Helpful Content Update (HCU), have caused a number of losses for some website owners. Many have been left wondering about how to recover from their losses or even rank high on Google again, months after the updates started rolling in.

While some websites have lost traffic, visibility and sales, a number of other websites have not been affected by either of these updates. And there are so many questions being asked in the SEO community, on the way forward for the affected websites.

As an SEO expert, whose being following up with the recent Google core update right from when it started in 2024, based on client request, I’ll be discussing one aspect of fixing this issue which revolves around content quality.

So in this guide, I’ll be sharing with you, the key steps you can take to rank high on Google search after Google HCU update, in the following paragraphs.

The first step to create content that ranks high organically, after the Helpful Content Update is to know your audience clearly.

This is very crucial because you need to know who’s using your content before you can actually create content that is helpful for them.

Before creating your next piece of content, start with finding out, who are this people that you’re targeting with your content? What are the things that matter to them?

There are many ways to go about identifying your audience. You can start with identifying the goal of your website or content creation effort. After that, go ahead and find out the kind of audience that will fit in with this goal.

To get some heads up, you can check out other similar websites in your niche, industry etc. and you can also research further by using some SEO research tools like Google Keywords Planner, Moz Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest etc. to find out the interests of your target audience, using their search key words.

Being able to clearly identify your audience will give you an idea on how to get started with creating pieces of content that will be helpful and beneficial to them, which is one of the primary objectives of the helpful content update.

Now that you know your audience, the next step you want to take to create content that ranks high organically after HCU is to start prioritizing human users instead of the search engine.

I know search engine optimization is cliché. You’re expected to prioritize optimizing your content if you plan to see a decent visibility with your content but, with the recent HCU and Google Core Update, you’re now expected to prioritize humans over SEO.

To get started with this, you want to reduce your over reliance on optimization. Begin to focus on creating value for your user instead.

SEO in Nigeria after HCU
One key steps to improve visibility is to create human first content over SEO focused content | Photos by Pexels

Now, based on Google’s own definition, Human first content is content created primarily to help human users of your website instead of trying to get the search engine to give you higher rankings.

This can be interpreted in so many different ways but one thing is important to keep in mind, is that people first content is content created to meet the needs of your target audience.

This implies that while creating this content, you have to put the needs of your target audience in mind.

So, instead of creating any piece of content just to attract website traffic, you want to identify your audience and their content needs and then go ahead to create a well-researched and practical content that is actually useful to them.

Valuable content is a piece of content that serves the needs of your audience satisfactorily.

To create content that ranks high on search engines after helpful content update, your content does not only have to be people focused, it also has to be value driven.

So, beyond creating a piece of content, you have to add a unique value to your user either by way of informing, entertaining, or educating them.

So, if you’re writing for me as a beginner for example on “how to create HCU compliant content for beginners”, for your content to be valuable to me, I have to understand it and be able to use the ideas you share to meet my needs for reading the content in the first place.

Anything less than this then the content isn’t actually valuable. And I’ll most likely bounce off to the next link on the SERP.

Furthermore, for a piece of content to be considered valuable, it has to be entertaining, educational, inspiring and or convincing. These are some of the key factors a user will be looking out for, to consider your content valuable.

And when they do consider it so, you get to notice an increase in engagement, shares etc.

One of the overall goals of the helpful content update and the recent core updates is to credibility in Google search ranking and visibility.

The search engine wants to show more content from websites with the right expertise, because it believes that with the right expertise and subject matter experience, such content will be more credible.

To demonstrate the importance of this, Google uses EEAT an acronym for Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness as one of its key ranking signals.

Although you may not necessarily have to demonstrate your expertise depending in your niche, as a creator planning to create content that ranks high after HCU, you want to pay attention it doesn’t hurt to showcase your expertise and experience in the pieces of content you create, in any way you can.

In some specific niches, demonstrating your expertise and experience may include taking steps to share your personal insights, describe your real live examples or share relatable anecdotes.

Showcasing authoritativeness and trustworthiness can also include using author bio that describes your credibility as an authority on the subject matter, getting backlinks and providing credible evidence to back up your assertions etc.

Like I mentioned earlier, demonstrating your EEAT completely might not be entirely possible in some niches but, you can take some steps to do as much as you can. The goal is to come up as a credible source that deserves visibility.

Before now, search engine optimization was always all about optimizing your content with the right keywords, using the search terms as many times as possible and hoping you get the visibility based on those search terms.

With the onset of the helpful content update, a lot of things have changed. Now, using too many keywords do not just get you lower visibility, it can be considered unhelpful to your users because over optimizing implies you’re targeting to get more visibility over producing value for your users.

While over optimizing might have been a successful SEO trick in the past, to create content that ranks high after HCU update, you want to avoid overusing target keywords.

Instead of that, focus on understanding and using search intent to create a better visibility for your content.

Instead of using just key words, understanding a user’s search intent will give you an idea on what the user is trying to get by using the particular search query. And with this sorted, you’ll be able to find ways to provide this, using your content.

With the onset of AI generative technology, a number of content creators have keyed into the idea of using AI tools to create and share content with their audiences.

While these tools are quite helpful without doubts, Google consider their content lacking in Expertise, Experience and Authoritativeness.

HCU Update and SEO
Create a valuable content that meets the needs of your target audience | Photos by Pexels

Remember, one of the core goals of Google’s recent update is to reduce spammy and often AI generated content in the search engine results page.

As a creator trying to create content that ranks on Google after HCU, avoid relying or overtly using AI creation tools to create your content. Instead, you can work on using them to assist in the content creation process.

For example, you can use AI tools to create content ideas, outlines etc. instead of using it to create the entire content itself. Doing this allows you to add extra value to the content you create.

Many creators in some niches like news, entertainment etc. are okay copying and pasting content directly from other websites.

While this practice has been ongoing for a very long time, with the recent updates, such content are increasingly getting less visibility as they are considered to be spammy and not useful to users.

To create content that ranks high in search engines, even if you must publish a news item similar to what is on another website, you don’t want to copy and post that content directly.

As much as possible, try to add your own voice to that content by editing, optimizing and republishing it in a way that adds value and your own uniqueness to that piece of content.

Final Words

There are a number of ways to create content that still gets visibility even after the HCU update but using these strategies shared above will get you started on this journey.

In addition to what you just learned above, if your website has already been penalized by the recent Google update, you want to go ahead and rejig your existing content to meet with Google content guidelines.

Update and add more value to content that were formerly useless. And then go ahead to delete and redirect other pieces of content that are no longer useful for your website.

With these strategies, you’ll get to bounce back and regain visibility for your website traffic. And of course, you can also reach out to our team where you have difficulties implementing these strategies and we’ll be happy to help.

Now, it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on SEO after Google’s 2024 core update? Drop your comments below.

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    Victor Winners

    Victor Winners

    A Nigerian trained Law graduate and British LL.M candidate, using his widespread experience in tech, law and innovation, to evolve cutting edge and growth driven solutions for brands and businesses in Africa and beyond.As a Law-trained tech expert, Victor brings in over 7 years experience working in the Digital Marketing, SEO, Web Development, Online Publishing, Social Media and Legaltech sectors, to create result driven content and innovative solutions to brands and businesses.Named as one of the top 50 Web Design Influencers Globally, Victor Winners started one of Africa's most widely read blogs on Digital Marketing and Strategy.With this platform, he has impacted the lives of over 2 million readers spanning more than 135 countries in 8+ years

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