Seattle | September 25, 2023 – Google announced the September 2023 Helpful Content Update last September 14, 2023, with two significant changes to how sites are ranked and provided additional guidance on how webmasters can adapt to these changes:
Loosening Guidance on Machine Generated Content: Google has relaxed its previous guidance on machine-generated content. Previously, Google emphasized that the Helpful Content System prioritizes content created by humans. However, this specific emphasis on human-generated content has been removed, suggesting a more inclusive approach to AI-generated content.
Third-Party Content on Main Website or Subdomains: There has been a trend of hosting third-party content on the main part of a website or on subdomains. Google’s update advises caution in this regard. If you host third-party content on your main site or in your subdomains, Google may include such content in site-wide signals related to helpfulness. Therefore, if this content is largely independent of the main site’s purpose or is created without close supervision or involvement of the primary site, Google recommends blocking it from being indexed.
Updated Self-Assessment Guidance: Google has updated its Helpful Content Self-Assessment guidance, emphasizing the following points:
- Content should be written or reviewed by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well.
- Avoid changing the date of pages to create a false sense of freshness when the content hasn’t substantially changed.
- Adding a lot of new content or removing older content solely for the purpose of improving search rankings is discouraged, as it won’t necessarily help.
Gary Illyes’ Insights: Gary Illyes, a representative of Google, discussed the update on LinkedIn. He highlighted concerns about micro-sites, which are subdomains or subdirectories often rented out to third parties without oversight. These micro-sites are typically of low quality and unrelated to the parent site, created primarily to manipulate search results.
Site-wide Signals: There was a question about whether site-wide signals apply to all subdomains. Gary Illyes mentioned that some signals are at the URL level, some at the pattern level, some at the host level, and others at the domain level. So, it can vary depending on the specific signal.
Recovering from the Helpful Content Update: Google added guidance on how to recover if a site is negatively affected by any Helpful Content Update. Webmasters are advised to identify unhelpful content and either remove or replace it. There is a recommendation to use Google’s help page for creating helpful, reliable, people-first content for self-assessment.
This update seems to aim at improving the quality and relevance of content on websites and discouraging practices that manipulate search results. Webmasters should pay attention to these changes and ensure that their content aligns with Google’s updated guidelines to maintain or improve their search rankings.