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The Google September 2023 Helpful Content Update Is Complete… Now What?

October 2, 2023
October 2, 2023

The Google September 2023 Helpful Content Update Is Complete… Now What?

Erin Porter

On September 28, 2023, Google Search Central announced on X that the September 2023 helpful content update rollout was complete. The helpful content update began on September 14. SEO professionals are eager to get their hands on the new features and potential opportunities the low SERP volatility throughout this update presents. Our organic SEO strategist shares what users, developers, and search experts can expect with Google’s helpful content update.

Improved Classifiers for the helpful content system

While SEO experts are still assessing the impact of the updates to the current rank system, we have been expecting these classification improvements well before the recent rollout. A few months ago, Google said they were improving “how we rank results in Search overall, with a greater focus on content with unique expertise and experience.”

That being said, let’s unpack what’s new, recommendations to improve your content, and where to go from the helpful content update.

Google Discourages Hosting Third-Party Content

While the third-party section is a new addition to the help document, it’s not necessarily indicative of a new best practice. In our Webflow SEO Checklist article, Erin shares that subdomains and subfolders presenting content as part of the primary domain may negatively impact your visibility on SERPs. With the September 2023 helpful content update, Google now advises blocking the indexation of third-party content if it’s primarily unrelated to the main site’s intent.

Google Removes Human-written content verbiage

Google remains firm in its stance towards writing user-first content; however, the updated help document removed the words “written by people” and reiterated that helpful content should be “created for people in search results.”

Google Search’s helpful content removes requirements for content written by people and now only requires content written for people.
“Google Search’s helpful content removes requirements for content written by people and now only requires content written for people.”
Image Source:, 2023.
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What does this mean for content creators using AI assistance? There's no need to worry about a shadow ban because the algorithm deems your AI-generated content isn't helpful.

Google Recommendations for Helpful Content Update

Depending on the quality of your content, updates to your website range from minimal to a complete overhaul.

So, here’s what Google recommends to check first to determine what to prioritize and fix:

Conduct Self-Assessments on Your Content

Assess the content published on your site and indexed on Google. Determining if content is helpful can be made easier with Google’s helpful content creation guide. There, QA your content with the questions Google provides. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • “Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic?”
  • “Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious?”
  • “Does the main heading or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?”
  • “Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?”
  • “Is the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?”

Additionally, consider performing a content audit of pages with significant drops in traffic. Note the page type, search intents, and if your pages align with the content and quality questions provided by Google.

Google Recommends Expert Review of Content

Although this is not new to the help document, Google did add “or reviewed” to the following expertise question:

“Is this content written or reviewed by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?”

In short, if you don’t know it, don’t publish it before allowing an expert on the topic to review your content.

Ponder Before You Add or Remove Content for Search Engines

Be intentional with the content you add to your website. Is the content written for humans? Does it add value that the consumer needs to make a purchase decision? Creating people-first content abandons the idea that adding a lot of new content or removing a lot of older content improves your rankings. Google says “(No, it won’t.)”

Think Before You Change Content Dates

The same line of thinking as the removal and addition of website pages apply to the value of changing the date of your content. Google recommends against updating the date of a piece of content unless the content has substantially changed on that page. Don’t be deceitful!

Google Search Experts at Red Shark Digital Keep You In The Know

The turbulence stirred by the Google helpful content update is only just kicking up, so hold onto your hats. Our SEO experts recommend investing time and consideration in your current editorial, programmatic, and technical SEO efforts. The algorithm is changing fast. Analyze your content, re-assess your understanding of ranking factors, continue supplemental education courses from authoritative sources, and be ready for anything. Follow along with our digital marketing news for more updates and industry content.

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