Google has completed the September 2023 Helpful Content Update rollout, which began on September 14 and ended on September 28.
Google says this update includes an improved classifier and brings several significant changes to the Helpful Content System, designed by Google to promote people-first content and demote content written for search engines.
Google’s Helpful Content System: What You Need to Know
Google’s Helpful Content System works in tandem with other systems to rank websites based on the quality and usefulness of their content.
Through the September 2023 update, Google has made alterations to the system’s guidelines and documentation, offering new advice for those who have experienced traffic loss.
Key Changes in the September 2023 Update
As reported by Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti, the September update has brought about three pivotal changes to the Helpful Content System’s guidelines:
- Adjustments to the guidance on machine-generated content
- Revised rules for hosting third-party content on subdomains or the primary domain
- Additional advice on what to do if a website experiences traffic loss following a Helpful Content Update
Adjusted Guidance On Machine-Generated Content
Google’s previous stance on machine-generated content, which suggested a preference for human-created content, has been softened. The updated guidelines indicate a shift in Google’s attitude towards AI-generated content, making it more consistent with other advice on creating helpful material.
Hosting Third-Party Content
The update has addressed the common practice of hosting third-party content on a website’s primary domain or subdomain. While some website owners may believe that the main site’s ranking power could benefit the subdomain content, the September 2023 update could negatively impact websites that host third-party content.
Google now advises blocking third-party content from being indexed if it’s largely unrelated to the main site’s purpose or produced without direct oversight.
Updated Self-Assessment Guidance
Google’s Helpful Content Self-Assessment guidance has been updated with new advice. Among the changes is an emphasis on the review process, warnings against false updates to pages, and a caution against adding or removing content to appear “fresh” in search rankings.
Insights from Google’s Gary Illyes on the Update
Google’s Gary Illyes provided background information on the update, highlighting the issue of micro-sites. Illyes noted that these third-party sites, hosted on subdomains or subdirectories without oversight, often serve to manipulate search results rather than provide valuable content.
In response to a query about sitewide signals, Illyes clarified that different signals operate at various levels, including URL, pattern, host, and domain.
Recovering from a Helpful Content Update
Lastly, the update includes new guidance for those affected by a Helpful Content Update. Google advises these sites to identify and eliminate or replace unhelpful content.
Google now advises identifying unhelpful content on your site and either removing or replacing it.
Completing the September 2023 Helpful Content Update marks another step in Google’s ongoing efforts to ensure the quality and relevance of search results. Website owners and SEO experts must adapt to these changes to optimize their search rankings effectively.
You can access Google’s documentation on the Helpful Content System here.
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