Understanding Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update
Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update started around a week ago and will take one more week to roll out completely.
We were already expecting this as Google, in May 2023, announced that it would be coming up with an update to its helpful content system.
As per Google, the update is rolling out with a new classifier and it may affect the visibility of website content pages.
With this update, Google aims to improve Google Search Results and provide more visibility to content written with more experience and expertise.
Many website publishers just focus on how SEO-friendly the content is and do not pay attention to how helpful it is for the readers.
This leads to frustration among the users as the high-ranking pages do not often contain the most relevant content.
Google’s Helpful Content System aims to solve this problem by offering better visibility to more helpful content. Before diving deep into the recent update, you must understand what the Helpful Content System is all about:
What is Google’s Helpful Content System?
The Helpful Content System of Google focuses on promoting quality content that is helpful for the users while reducing the visibility of non-helpful content. Many websites are visible just because their content is written in such a way that it ranks higher and not because the content is actually helpful or relevant.
The helpful content system aims to recognize such low-quality content and reduce its visibility on Google searches. The system works along with all the other systems of Google that are focused on ranking websites.
Also Read: Decoding Google's August 2023 Core Update
What’s New About Google’s September Helpful Content Update?
The new Helpful Content Update by Google majorly focuses on three areas, including:
1. Loosening The Guidance on AI-Generated Content
As per Google’s previous guidance on machine-generated content, it seems like the Helpful Content System was prioritizing human-written content over AI-generated content. However, this part of the guidance has now been removed. This shows Google’s changed attitude towards AI-generated content.
The previous guidance contains the phrase ‘content written by people, for people,’ which has now been changed to ‘content created for people.’ It seems like Google is now okay with AI-generated content as long as it is relevant. Therefore, we can expect that the helpful content system can now even rank AI content over human-written content if it is helpful for the users.
2. Hosting Third-Party Content on Subdomains
The concept of hosting third-party content on websites or subdomains has been a trend for a long time. For example, you might have seen news and media websites hosting third-party affiliate content of a credit card company on their websites or subdomains.
This strategy is generally aimed at helping the subdomain content rank better with the power of the main website’s ranking.
With the September 2023 Helpful Content Update, Google has made a few changes, which may have a negative impact on the websites that host third-party content anywhere.
A new section has been added to the Helpful Content System guidance, which clearly says that if the third-party content is largely independent of the main website’s purpose, it is advisable to block such content from being indexed on Google.
Website publishers must take this section seriously and avoid hosting any third-party content that is not relevant to their website’s purpose. Not doing so may affect the website ranking and overall performance negatively.
3. Updated Guidance on Helpful Content Self-Assessment
With the September 2023 update, Google has also made some changes to the Helpful Content System self-assessment guidance. It is largely aimed at creating reliable, helpful, and people-first content rather than writing SEO-first content. As per the new guidance, you need to check for the following things in case your website gets hit by this update:
Assess whether your website content is written or reviewed by an expert who has a thorough knowledge of the topic. This guidance was already there in Google’s Helpful Content system except for the word ‘reviewed,’ which has been added with the recent update.
Another guidance is about faking an update to your website content. Ask yourself if you are really updating the content or just changing the dates of the pages to make them seem fresh. If you are faking updates to your pages, your website may be affected negatively.
The third addition is also about faking the freshness of your website content. If you are changing or removing a lot of content on your website just to achieve better rankings and not to actually help the users, it might not help you rank higher.
Guidance on What To Do If Your Website Gets Hit by This Update?
Google also talks about what actions you can take in case your website gets hit by the September 2023 update of the Helpful Content System.
Google advises website publishers to identify unhelpful content and remove or replace it. Self-assess your content keeping the above-mentioned points in mind and make sure that you are not faking anything.
Many website owners rent their subdomains for third-party content and they don't even pay attention to whether the content being published is reliable or not.
This is something you must avoid if you want your website to be ranked higher by Google’s Helpful Content System. Also, make sure that your website content is actually focused on helping the readers and not just a piece of SEO-friendly content intended to achieve higher rankings.
If your website gets hit by this update, it may take months to recover. But you can surely get back on track by keeping all the essential factors in mind.
However, the update is still rolling out, and the ranking release history page will be updated once the rollout is complete. So, Stay Tuned!