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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.)”
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!
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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