Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update

In September 2023, Google rolled out a significant update, shaking up the digital landscape. Google mainly highlighted their aim to enhance content quality online, striving  to reward informative, helpful and user-centric content.  This update has affected the visibility and traffic of many websites.

What does it mean for you? This article unpacks the update and its impacts and provides tips on adapting to Google’s renewed focus on user experience and content quality.

Dive in to stay ahead of the curve!


Understanding Google’s Helpful Content System

Google’s Helpful Content System collaborates with other systems to evaluate websites’ rankings by assessing the quality and utility of their content. It uses an automated classifier process with machine learning to create an important signal for Google Search. It’s one of the key signals that Google looks at, among many others.

In the September 2023 update, Google has revised the system’s guidelines and documentation, providing fresh guidance for individuals facing a decline in their website’s traffic.

This update addresses content crafted primarily to boost search engine rankings rather than offering users genuine value, information, or help. Its goal is to guarantee that users consistently encounter top-notch content purposefully designed to aid, inform, and provide substantial value to them. In doing so, it takes measures to penalize content that falls short of these standards.

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Notable Revisions in the September 2023 Update

The September update has made three critical changes to the Helpful Content System’s guidelines:

  • Updates to machine-generated content recommendations.
  • Revised rules for hosting third-party content on subdomains or the main domain.
  • Extra advice for dealing with traffic drops after a Helpful Content Update.

Let’s review these changes and see what they mean for website owners.


1. Revised Approach to Machine-Generated Content

If you’ve been using AI to help you create content, there’s some good news. Google’s earlier preference for human-generated content over machine-generated content has been adjusted. Google no longer looks at who makes the content but how valuable and original it is, regardless of whether it’s human or AI-generated.

So, you can continue to leverage AI tools for content creation. Still, it’s essential to remember that the generated content should always prioritize being genuinely helpful and truthful to maintain trust and value for your audience. Balancing the capabilities of AI with a commitment to delivering reliable and helpful information remains crucial.


2. Hosting Third-Party Content

The update deals with the common practice of hosting content from other sources on a website’s main or subdomain. While some website owners believed this could boost their main site’s ranking, the September 2023 update may harm sites that rely heavily on third-party content.

To adapt, Google recommends not indexing third-party content, especially if it doesn’t align with the main site’s purpose or lacks direct oversight in its creation.


3. Revised Self-Assessment Recommendations

Google has made updates to its guidelines for assessing helpful content, and these changes stress the importance of conducting comprehensive reviews. Alongside this, Google offers a word of caution against making deceptive updates to web pages, and they also advise against adding or removing content solely to create the illusion of “freshness” in search rankings.


Which Websites Have Been Hit the Most?

Experts in the field have highlighted the significant effects on recipe and lifestyle websites, resulting in noticeable drops in Google traffic. Many of these affected sites lacked clear branding on their homepages and had excessive ads, which harmed the user experience and caused lower rankings.

In particular, sites with unverified health claims in their recipes had overly lengthy content or covered too many topics without depth. The update has also changed how search results are organized, prioritizing People-Also-Ask results and corporate sites over niche-specific ones. 


Guidance for Recovery After the Helpful Content Update

Following the Helpful Content Update, Google has introduced guidance to assist those impacted. The advice from Google is clear: affected websites should take steps to identify and then either remove or replace any content that is deemed unhelpful.

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How To Improve Content on Your Website?

In the wake of Helpful Content Update, here are some elements you must pay attention to so your site doesn’t suffer traffic loss.


1. Optimizing Ads on Your Website

Google’s recent update targets websites with excessive ads that hinder the user experience, emphasizing the importance of balancing ad revenue with content quality. Therefore, one crucial advice is carefully managing your ad placements, ensuring they enhance rather than detract from your site’s usability and value.

For example, Google’s algorithms penalize sites using intrusive interstitials, particularly those that activate on the first click from Google search results. To enhance user experience, ensure that your pop-ups start “between pages” and not immediately upon landing on your site. Additionally, refrain from repeatedly displaying the same pop-up to a user as they navigate your site, as this can be a turn-off for visitors and hinder their experience.


2. Usability Optimization

A table of contents or jump links are two straightforward techniques that can enhance the user experience. Jump links are clickable links on a webpage that allows users to jump directly to specific sections or points of interest on that page. 

Tables of content are organized lists typically found at the beginning of longer documents or web articles. They offer links to different content sections, making it simpler for users to explore and discover what they’re looking for.

These handy tools help people find what they want quickly and easily. It’s like giving them a map to navigate your site, making it more user-friendly, and keeping them engaged as they explore your content. 


3. Quality Over Quantity

While longer content can be valuable, it must be relevant, focused, and offer evident expertise. The key is providing information that directly aligns with what users seek. Instead of adding extra words to make content longer, focus on delivering precisely what your audience needs to fulfill the search intent

Review your existing content and assess whether it meets these criteria. Removing or revising content that doesn’t align with these quality standards can help improve the overall user experience on your website.


4. Health Claims and Expertise

It’s vital to differentiate between health facts and claims when striving to enhance your website’s content, especially in health-related niches. Credible sources must support health claims to maintain ranking. To demonstrate expertise, provide clear and well-sourced information. This advice also applies to any kind of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) content. 


5. Content for People, Not Search Engines

Content generated solely for ranking purposes may not align with Google’s criteria for quality and usefulness. Instead, prioritize producing genuinely valuable, informative, and user-centric content. If you pay attention to what your audience wants, you can make content that connects with them and stays important in the long run.


6. Elevate Expertise

Demonstrating your expertise is crucial to building a relationship with your audience. Consider various methods, such as participating in podcasts, interviews, or collaborations, to showcase your knowledge and insights. 

External endorsements and mentions can reinforce your authority and contribute to your site’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). You can bolster your website’s reputation and appeal to users and search engines by actively sharing your knowledge and promoting your expertise.


Prioritizing Valuable Content: Final Words

As a website owner and content creator, prioritize valuable and original content that aligns with your audience’s needs. Remember, Google’s latest update isn’t about punishing you. It’s about enhancing user experience. The more your content caters to user needs, the higher your rank.

Pay attention to quality standards. Make sure your content doesn’t just look good but also offers a rich user experience. Stuffing articles with keywords won’t work anymore. Instead, focus on the depth and value of your content.

Finally, align your strategies with Google’s update. Along with creating good content, you must also understand how Google’s search system works. Keep user satisfaction and value delivery at the core of your efforts to ensure better performance in Google Search. And if you ever need help from our SEO experts, contact us, and we’ll gladly assist you. 


Good luck!

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