How 2023 Re-Shaped SEO Forever

by | May 14, 2024 | Blog, SEO

In the constantly changing world of digital marketing, 2023 will be remembered as a pivotal year that fundamentally altered search engine optimization (SEO) strategies for businesses and e-commerce platforms. 

The impact of Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update (HCU) was particularly seismic, reshaping our understanding and approach to SEO. 

At eAccountable, we’ve been at the forefront, adapting to these changes and ensuring our strategies not only comply with Google’s evolving standards but also set the pace for the industry. Here’s how the landscape has changed and what it means for your business moving forward.

The Impact of the September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Unlike the previous two Helpful Content Updates (HCUs), which were somewhat underwhelming judging by Google Search update standards, the September 2023 HCU was particularly impactful on the SEO community. 

What made it so impactful? 

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update was distinct in that it targeted sites that were highly focused on niche subjects as opposed to large content publishing outlets. Within that facet of sites, the update specifically targeted websites that wrote content specifically for SEO without providing real, tangible value to their readers.  

For years, Google always stated that content needed to be written for “people-first”, but the rhetoric did not always match the reality seen in search results. However, with the September 2023 HCU, Google put its foot down. 

Websites that were previously dominating search results by leveraging niche-focused, SEO-heavy content found themselves losing significant ground—some sites saw traffic reductions ranging from 30% to an astonishing 90%. In extreme cases, some websites were de-indexed entirely by Google. 

Up until this point, this level of traffic volatility was unheard of in the world of SEO, essentially reshaping the landscape forever. 

What Changed in SEO Practices?

You don’t have to be a business or e-commerce leader to imagine the fallout from losing that much traffic overnight.

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update forced businesses and SEO experts to rethink their strategies from the ground up. 8 months later, in May 2024, many websites still haven’t recovered their lost traffic—even if they did everything right. 

The emphasis on SERPs has now unequivocally shifted towards creating content that is genuinely useful to the audience. Here are the critical areas impacted:

1. E-E-A-T Content

No more SEO-first content. You need to apply the acronym E-E-A-T to all of your content: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. These are an essential part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines—the handbook that Google Quality Raters use to evaluate search results. 

If this is going above your head, think about it from the reader’s perspective. Let’s say you’re looking for financial advice. You wouldn’t want a website loaded with SEO keywords that don’t offer any meaningful advice. 

If you’re looking for helpful information on how to manage your finances, you’d want search engine results to contain content from experts who have extensive experience in the field of finance. Even better, you’d want content to come from authorities in their respective fields of finance so you can really trust their advice. 

While E-E-A-T was introduced in the December 2022 HCU (adding onto the E-A-T acronym introduced in 2014), the September 2023 HCU made it mandatory. 

This means that moving forward, businesses have to invest time and resources in thorough research, expert insights, and unique viewpoints on topics rather than rehashing existing information from different blogs. 

Backlinks have always been a cornerstone of SEO, but their importance is now even more viewed through the lens of quality over quantity. 

What is a backlink? 

A backlink is a link on other websites that points to your website. 

If other websites with high domain authority point to your blog, it will improve your domain authority, and your blog will rank higher on SERPs. 

This became even more true with the September 2023 HCU, which reinforced that backlinks must come from reputable sources that add contextual value to the content. 

How do you measure domain authority? 

You can use this website to measure your domain authority score; it will show you your domain authority score as well as your linking root domains, ranking keywords, and spam score. This will help you gauge which websites you should aim to get your blogs featured on, building your backlinks and domain authority. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that Domain Authority is technically not a Google-supported metric. It’s a 3rd party metric that can help us get some perspective on the potential backlink health of our site. As such, it is often very easy to misinterpret DA and we always recommend working with a seasoned SEO when interpreting these metrics.

3. The Danger of Over-Optimization

There’s a thin line between optimization and over-optimization. 

Keywords and SEO practices must be balanced skillfully with the user’s need for clear, useful information. 

You can put every ranking keyword into your blog, but if it isn’t readable or helpful to the average user, then it will be penalized in this new era of search engine optimization. 

This makes it crucial to adopt a more nuanced approach to SEO—but how does one navigate the fine line between search engine optimization and over-optimization? 

Navigating the New SEO Landscape with eAccountable

Navigating the post-2023 SEO terrain is not easy; it requires a careful, intelligent approach that acknowledges the holistic nature of modern search optimization. 

Lucky for you, eAccountable has over two decades of combined SEO experience with cutting-edge strategies and tools that can help you elevate your website to page 1 of Google’s search engine. 

Here’s how we can help your business adapt and thrive under the new rules set by Google:

Comprehensive SEO Audits and Strategy Development

When it comes to any prospective client, we always begin with a comprehensive SEO audit. Our SEO audits include Editorial SEO, Technical SEO, and Authority-Signal Audits, where we identify your current SEO positioning and the impact of any Google algorithm updates. These insights form the backbone of our tried and true SEO strategy tailored to your unique business needs, ensuring we target areas with the highest potential for organic growth.

Customized Content and User Experience (UX)

Next, our team crafts high-quality content driven by in-depth keyword research and user intent analysis, ensuring that every piece of content not only ranks well but also meets the needs of your audience at every stage of their customer journey. Coupled with strong web design, this approach enhances the user experience and site performance to ensure your website is built for people first.

After the latest string of updates, building online authority is more crucial than ever. We help you secure high-quality backlinks from reputable sources, enhancing your site’s trustworthiness and relevance in Google’s eyes. Our link-building efforts are paired with strategic on-page optimizations, including schema markup and SERP appearance optimization, to improve visibility and click-through rates.

Adaptation to Google’s Evolving Algorithms

The September 2023 HCU update will not be the last Google algorithm update to make a seismic impact on the SEO community. That’s why our hands on SEO team is always keeping an eye on SERP volatility in order to stay ahead of Google’s algorithmic changes. We want to make sure our SEO strategy not only complies with current best practices but also anticipates future trends to keep our clients ahead of the competition. 

Partner With An Expert Team

In an SEO landscape constantly shifting to the beat of Google’s algorithm updates, you don’t have to brave it alone.

Partner with an experienced SEO agency like eAccountable to ensure that your search engine optimization is in safe hands. We can help you drive growth, build domain authority, and achieve and maintain top rankings online.

Interested in learning more? Drop us a line today for a free consultation with our SEO team.