Helpful Content Update goes after niche sites

By: Rob Corbidge, 26 September 2023

 A bright light shines on a darkened cave with computer screens, commercial, detailed, high resolution

As Google's HCU progresses, most negative reporting is coming from niche site operators - should they just stick a forum on their sites to add the human factor?

Google's Helpful Content Update is continuing to make its deployment known with some confusing signals.

Further to reports that human created, human curated sites such as Quora and Reddit were seeing an uptick in search visibility, it's becoming clearer that so-called niche sites are feeling the downgrade pain, with many owners reporting plummeting traffic.

It's hard to feel gigantic waves of sympathy for this. The niche site game is quite a narrow one, in terms of structuring content around answering specific questions and valuing particular keywords. If someone is doing this, then they know they are gaming the system to a certain degree, even if the content is on par. 

There is also a aspect that many such niche operators specialise in researching topics and providing answers, without having any actual experience of what they are providing information on.

On the other side of that thought is the fact that they is what they had to do in order to capture any traffic from Google. Obviously here the difficultly is in getting Google mixed up with being the actual internet. Although with such market dominance, its hard to see around it. If you want search visibility, you have to play this game, as it were.

It's already been suggested that the cure for niche site search marginalisation, or the "niche-apocalypse" could be to add a forum to such sites and encourage some human interaction. Once Google sees that Marvin from Braga has sprayed his curtains with lemon juice to scare wasps away, and is registering his delight with the lemon-spurting advice given on the site, then it will elevate the ranking, right?

Others are more sceptical, even scathing, about such ideas.

So will we see the HCU surface "hidden gems" of human created helpful content buried away on forums and in comment threads as it progresses? Content produced without a view to monetisation, just helpful? Such a thing has been suggested recently by Google, as @lilyraynyc has pointed out on X. You can argue this is already happening with Reddit and Quora, although Quora has some  AI elements.

As ever with a search update, time will tell.