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Google has released the September 2023 helpful content update. As with all search engine updates, it’s important to understand the changes being made and how these changes will affect your websites.

The helpful content update is expected to roll out over a two-week period from its initial release and will encompass revisions to Google’s helpful content system.
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What Is the Google Helpful Content System?

The helpful content system that Google utilizes is a system that’s designed to guide users to the most relevant, appropriate, and helpful content out there. Google is working towards polishing up this system and this update is meant to bring the search engine one step closer to that goal.

The primary focus of this system is to promote content that is knowledgeable and often written or reviewed by experts in the field. This update aims to push out quality websites while the less relevant sites get lower rankings.

What Will Google’s Update Improve?

When Google announced this new update, it mentioned that there would be an “improved classifier” for helpful content systems. A classifier is a machine learning algorithm that is used to assign a class label to data input. In other words, this helpful content update will improve these labels to push out the most relevant content associated with different search keywords and phrases.

How Does the Update Affect Third-Party Content?

Google has let their opinion on third-party content be known as early as 2019. They’ve expressed that while it’s not technically against their guidelines, hosting third-party content could affect the main site’s rankings. Because of this, Google has recommended against renting out subdomains or subfolders without close supervision from the main site.

With the new update, Google states, “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.” They then go on to say that if the third-party content is independent of the main site’s purpose or has little to no supervision from the main site, they recommend blocking it from being indexed by Google. Google’s official guidance to having search engine success is to provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your brand.

Where Does AI-Written Content Fit In?

Previously, Google’s wording for the update read said that their aim was to “better ensure people see original helpful content written by people, for people in search results.” This gave the impression that websites that used AI to help write their content would not be as relevant to users.

However, Google adjusted its stance and now reads that it wants to ensure people see “original helpful content created for people in search results.” This solidifies the fact that content does not need to be written solely by humans to be considered helpful, allowing AI-written content to also appear in search results. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that AI-written content will rank as highly as human-written content, which can offer expertise and experience that AI doesn’t have.

What if Your Website Is Negatively Affected by This Update?

If you’ve seen a trend in your site being negatively affected by Google’s past helpful content updates, Google suggests self-assessing your content. Google asserts that if you’re producing helpful, original, and relevant content then there is no need to do anything in preparation for this update. On the contrary, Google believes that this update will benefit those who write helpful content since this update is designed to reward those helpful websites.

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What Are Ways You Can Make Your Content Helpful?

If your analytics are being affected by this update, then it may be time to polish up your website to become more helpful for users. There are many ways you can update your strategy and content to show Google’s helpful content system that your content is relevant to users.

Show Your Expertise

Google has been saying that it’s helpful to have your content written OR reviewed by an expert. This can mean hiring individuals who are specialized in that area to write and/or edit the content for your website. It should be obvious in the way the content is written that the individual has a certain expertise or enthusiasm for the content. The way that experts write about their special topics is noticeably different than how amateurs write about a topic.

Refresh Content if You’re Going To Republish

A common mistake made by content creators is re-uploading content from years ago to make their website feel more “fresh”. However, Google is familiar with this strategy and it is not beneficial for you. If you plan on re-uploading blogs or webpages, be sure that you’re also refreshing that content so it stays relevant. If you aren’t substantially changing the content and are just putting an updated date on an outdated piece of content, you might be hurting your website more than helping it.

Only Remove Irrelevant Older Content

While it’s important to clean up your website for relevancy’s sake, it’s important that you aren’t removing or adding content just to make your website “look fresh.” Google has gone on record to say that this doesn’t necessarily help to increase your search rankings. Instead, you should focus on analyzing your existing content and making sure that it’s relevant to your audience and suits your site’s purpose and mission. You can remove older content if it no longer works for your site.

What Should We Expect From Google?

This September 2023 helpful content update is making changes to how content is provided to its users. Earlier this year in May, Google said that a helpful content system update would be released to improve how it ranks results in searches with a greater focus on content with unique expertise and experience. While minor improvements can be seen in this update, Google says, “This work is still continuing and is not part of this particular update. We’ll share more about our work in this area in the future.” This is a promise from Google that better optimization to push out more helpful content with unique expertise and experience will be seen in the future.

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