Trying to Recover from HCU & March 2024 Core Update (Part 2)

Almost two months ago, I decided to try a short experiment and see if we can talk about any sort of recovery post the HCU and March 2024 Google Core Update massacre. You can read my original plan here.

I took one of my websites – one that was heavily hit, dropping from around 12,500 Google Search clicks to just around 400 – and updated 45 articles (25 being the top performing ones prior to the update & 20 random ones) to see if there’s any recovery.

What I did

The task was relatively quick and easy: I went through all the articles, personally checked and rewrote anything that needed rewriting, making sure the information is correct, complete and up to date. Some articles were changed almost entirely, while others only saw minimal changes.

I hit save and republished all articles with a new date, but I did not submit them manually to the Google Search Console.

The Results

Overall, we can say that nothing changed. You can check out below my GSC screenshot, showing you the traffic prior to me starting to update the articles, up until today. No positive, although some individual articles did see a bit of a boost. But the traffic overall keeps dripping down, slowly but steadily, which is what I see all over the board.

Update results

These are the amazing results after updating one of my top performing articles:

one of the updated articles

And here is one that went up overall… but I wouldn’t call it a huge success (although it is, compared to most articles on the site):

article seems to go up after update

Out of my top 25 performing articles, after editing them, 5 saw a minor improvement in traffic, while the rest saw a constant, slow decline. It’s interesting to note that the traffic “boost” came at least a couple of weeks after the update, in most cases, but it was minimal.

Out of the set of 20 articles I randomly chose to update, which were not getting any or much traffic to start with, things looked mostly like this:

randomly chosen article

In most cases, it was no lasting effect, although generally, I saw at least some sort of a “spike” (a few organic visitors) after updating. It’s like Google received a positive signal, started boosting the post up the ranks, but quickly realized that there’s a penalty in place and reverted. It’s just a theory, as I didn’t have a rank tracker in place for these article to actually confirm it.

The Google Search Console does show a bit of movement after updating these articles (in most cases, a small increase in the number of impressions, sometimes even the average position)… but this doesn’t translate into extra clicks in most cases.

I am still getting a fair amount of traffic from Bing in this particular case, but it started to drop also – probably because I stopped adding content to this site.

Overall, I would consider this experiment a failure. It’s not the way to approach the situation and I don’t plan to invest much time in updating old articles – especially since this is a mammoth website with 3,000+ articles (all written by human writers over the course of several years).

Another parallel test

Apart from the editing and updating of the 45 old articles, I also wanted to see how new articles do. As a result, I published a handful of new articles on the site.

At the same time, I published a similar amount of articles on a brand new site in the same niche and another handful on one site that’s in the same niche (but which wasn’t affected by the HCU).

The results:

  • New site: 12 clicks from Google for 8 articles, according to the GSC. But not as bad as I thought it would be.
  • Affected site (the one in this case study): 2 clicks for 9 articles, according to GSC. Definitely some sort of penalty in place, preventing anything from ranking.
  • Unaffected site: 68 clicks for 8 articles, but most coming to one article (56 clicks). So pretty much on par with the new site.

This experiment clearly shows that a website affected by the HCU and/or March Google Core update won’t rank anymore, even if you publish fresh content. Surprisingly, the love Google shows to new sites seems to still be there, so what some voices are starting to recommend (launch a new blog) might work – until Google “fixes” this too.

But, so far, I would say that blogging is not dead. Just completely different, with many things making no sense right now.

Still, with a new blog, if you are planning to monetize it with Ads and no affiliate sales, it might take too long to reach acceptable levels of traffic – so the risk is pretty big for it to become a failure once Google’s crazy algo stamps it as unhelpful. But for most it’s probably a risk worth taking, since it’s obvious that pushing hard on a site that was already affected makes no sense right now.

Plans for the future

Looking at the stats of the new site, my plan is this: remove some articles from the affected site (find some that are not indexed) and publish them on the new site, without any redirects in place. Then see if these get picked up by Google, indexed and whether or not they will receive any traffic.

Over to you now. Any thoughts or comments? Is there anything you’re trying that seems to work in terms of recovering from the HCU or getting some Google traffic back to your website?

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