New York | September 25, 2023 – Google announced the ‘September 2023 Helpful Content Update,’ geared towards rewarding helpful content last September 14, 2023. This update has rolled out two weeks, following closely behind the recently completed August 2023 Core Update.
On the Google Search Central website, Google elaborates on its helpful content system:
“The helpful content system aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”
“Any content—not just unhelpful content—on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display.”
If your site has been negatively impacted by a helpful content update, here’s Google’s advice:
“If you’ve noticed a change in traffic you suspect may be related to this system (such as after a publicly-posted ranking update to the system), then you should self-assess your content and fix or remove any that seems unhelpful. Our help page on how to create helpful, reliable people-first content has questions that you can use to self-assess your content to be successful with the helpful content system.”
What is Google’s helpful content system update?
Approximately one year ago, Google introduced an update aimed at addressing “content primarily designed to achieve favorable search engine rankings rather than genuinely assisting or enlightening users.”
This encompassed a wide range of content, spanning from subpar, keyword-stuffed text to sensationalist headlines and verbose content overly optimized for high-traffic keywords.
What is the new update all about?
This update will continue to reward high-quality and genuinely helpful content crafted for human readers, rather than content created solely for the purpose of boosting search engine rankings.
Google has introduced some noteworthy changes to its guidelines, particularly regarding deceptive practices:
- Manipulating Date Information: Google now explicitly questions if websites are altering publication dates to give the illusion of freshness when the actual content remains largely unchanged.
- Excessive Content Manipulation: Another addition to the guidelines addresses the practice of adding excessive new content or removing substantial older content solely to manipulate search rankings. Google emphasizes that this tactic won’t yield the desired results.
This update is a much-needed step in the right direction. It’s somewhat astonishing that, even in 2023, some individuals attempt to manipulate search results by adjusting publication dates. Thankfully, Google is taking action to address this issue.
Google Clarification on AI content
Google’s recent guidance appears to suggest that using machine-generated content is acceptable if the content demonstrates high quality and relevance, even for platforms like LinkedIn. Notably, Google has altered the phrase from “written by people” to “helpful content created for people”:
Previously, the guidance read:
“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
The updated guidance now states:
“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content created for people in search results.”
It’s important to acknowledge that while AI can generate content efficiently, the probability of producing truly helpful, accurate, and insightful content is often higher when the content is authored by subject matter experts. However, this doesn’t discount the valuable uses of AI-generated content in various contexts.
Google has introduced new guidelines concerning the hosting of third-party content. The following addition has been made to the guidelines:
“If you host third-party content on your main site or in your subdomains, understand that such content may be included in site-wide signals we generate, such as the helpfulness of content. For this reason, if that content is largely independent of the main site’s purpose or produced without close supervision or the involvement of the primary site, we recommend that it should be blocked from being indexed by Google.”
This update emphasizes that when third-party content is hosted on a website, it can impact site-wide signals, including the assessment of content helpfulness. To maintain the integrity of these signals, especially when third-party content is unrelated to the primary site’s purpose or lacks close supervision or involvement from the main site, Google suggests blocking such content from being indexed.