Google's September 2023 core update shook many ecommerce and tech sites to their core. Traffic and rankings dropped sharply, leaving businesses scrambling to understand what happened.
This "helpful content update" aimed to promote pages with useful, original information tailored to human readers. Sites with thin, repetitive content created solely to rank likely saw major declines.
If your site was affected, all hope is not lost. With work, you can bounce back by better optimizing for helpful, engaging content.
Follow these best practices, and your site can recover by offering the valuable content users crave.
Why Ecommerce & Tech Sites Are Highly Impacted
Google has consistently said sites should focus on helping users, not gaming algorithms. However, the SEO advice many ecommerce sites follow still optimizes for keywords and conversions over real value. Common problems include:
Aggressive Ad Strategies Disrupt User Experience
Many sites cram excessive ads above the fold without considering site speed or mobile layouts. But page experience is a ranking factor, and intrusive ads degrade usability.
Auto-playing videos, pop-ups covering the screen, and excessive leaderboard banners create a poor user experience. Dial back ad density and limit disruptive formats to improve page experience.
Thin, Low-Value Content Created to Rank
Ecommerce sites often publish hundreds of product description pages with minimal unique text just to target specific keywords. But Google's quality raters will flag these pages as "low quality" with no real helpful information.
The same goes for category, guide, and blog content on subjects the site's creators have no expertise in just to rank. Provide real value, not just more pages targeting keywords.
Lack of Expertise and Data for Bold Claims
Many sites make bold marketing claims about being the "best" or "most secure" without evidence. But, helpful content comes from expertise and data.
Back claims with stats, expert sources, testing protocols, and other credible information. Don't just make claims - prove them.
Technical Issues Damage Page Experience
From site speed to mobile-friendliness to intrusive pop-ups, several technical factors hurt user experience. But page experience is now an ingredient in ranking, so sites must optimize these.
Conduct page speed audits and test site navigation on mobile. Identify and fix technical issues harming site usability.
Step 1: Conduct a Content Audit
If the helpful content update hit your site, the first step is auditing your content against Google's guidelines.
Analyze pages that lost visibility or now rank lower. Identify issues that degrade content quality or page experience using these best practices:
Review ad placement following Google's page experience criteria. Check for disruptive ads above the fold, especially on mobile.
Compare content quality to Google's evaluation questions. Is the content well-researched, credible, and tailored to users?
Check page speed and mobile friendliness using online auditing tools. Look for technical problems hurting site performance.
Verify your site is not using intrusive pop-ups that violate Google's interstitial guidelines.
Comparing affected pages against Google's standards will help reveal areas to improve.
Step 2: Improve Low-Value Pages
Now that you've identified issues through auditing, the next step is addressing low-quality or low-value pages dragging down site rankings and user experience.
For thin product pages, significantly expand unique text descriptions tailored to users. Add helpful information on product features, comparisons, use cases, and benefits.
For category and guide pages, ensure you have expertise in the topic before creating content. Add unique insights and actionable advice to provide real value to readers.
For blogs or articles, cut any thin pages with repetitive info just created for keywords. Focus on in-depth, well-researched posts that teach readers something new.
Creating content solely to rank keywords is the antithesis of what Google wants to see. Improve pages to offer beneficial info or cut them entirely.
Step 3: Optimize for User Experience
With an audit complete and content addressed, the next step is optimizing your site for the user experience over rankings alone. Follow these best practices:
Improve page speed by reducing server response times, enabling compression, using efficient caching, and optimizing images. Faster sites engage users better.
Check site navigation and menus on mobile devices. Ensure key links and calls-to-action are visible without excessive scrolling or burden for mobile users.
Add jump links and visible TOCs to help users quickly navigate long categories and blog posts to their desired sections.
Follow Google's pop-up guidelines and disable intrusive interstitials that degrade the page experience for visitors coming from search.
Technical optimizations like these improve site usability. Coupled with helpful content, you have a winning combination for happy users.
Step 4: Showcase Your Expertise
One of the best ways to regain user trust and rankings is by showcasing your expertise and credibility. If Google is uncertain you are an authority, it will be less likely to rank your content high in results.
Consider these tactics to demonstrate your knowledge and rebuild trust:
Optimize your About page to highlight credentials, unique expertise, years in business, customer testimonials, and other trust signals. Help Google understand why you are an authority.
Earn high-quality backlinks from known sites publishing expert content in your field. Relevant backlinks signal you produce helpful content.
Get interviewed on industry podcasts and panels. Discuss your insights to showcase knowledge. Then promote these back to your site.
Publish research studies, ebooks, and guides gated behind emails. Require emails to access premium content showcasing your expertise.
After a major update, investing in expertise-boosting tactics is time well spent. Fight for your rankings by showing Google you deserve to rank high.
Helpful Content is the Future
At the end of the day, Google wants to satisfy searchers by surfacing the most helpful, credible pages quickly. Sites that don't invest in great content will continue to suffer traffic declines.
But ecommerce and tech sites willing to optimize for long-term value over short-term rankings will bounce back stronger than ever. Focus on improving content quality, site speed, mobile experience, and expertise.
The sites that adapt to Google's helpful content initiatives will thrive. Don't chase algorithms - give your audience content that helps them. Your traffic will return in time.