What you really need to know about Google’s Helpful Content Update  

There’s a lot of buzz online about Google’s new Helpful Content Update, and some people are getting a little nervous. But we’re here to tell you what you really need to know about the update – minus the scaremongering!  

Google release new updates almost daily – they’re often so small and frequent that you won’t even notice them but a couple of times a year they release a Core Update. These are the ones that usually get a lot of attention.  

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update is rolling out now (which will take a couple of weeks) and some people are noticing changes already! 

You might be asking yourself, why does Google do this? Can’t things just stay the same? 
Honestly, they’d be doing you a disservice if they did.  

Why does Google keep making these updates?

These updates are all about improving people’s experience on the web. Google is on a mission to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. 

They want to ensure that when you hit that search button, you get the answer you’re looking for. They don’t want you to have to spend hours sifting through clickbait and spammy content.  

It’s all about showing you quality content and fewer rubbish results, which is a good thing right?   

What you need to know about the Helpful Content Update 

People are starting to freak out a bit about the Helpful Content Update, but if your site only publishes great content then you probably don’t have anything to worry about!  Phew!  

Google’s relaxed its guidelines on AI-generated content! 

Previously, Google said that the Helpful Content system prioritised content written by humans.  
In a bit of a twist, this has been removed from the guidance! Is Google changing its views on AI? 

The original guidance said: 

“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.” 

The updated guidance says: 

“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content created for people in search results.” 

Interesting!  

They’re cracking down on third-party content 

Whether that’s on your main website or a subdomain, Google isn’t loving third-party content. They’re trying to stop sites from hosting spammy unrelated content that isn’t benefiting the user.  

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update has some advice about third-party content. 

The Helpful Content Update guidance says:  

“If you host third-party content on your main site or in your subdomains, understand that such content may be included in site-wide signals we generate, such as the helpfulness of content. 

For this reason, if that content is largely independent of the main site’s purpose or produced without close supervision or the involvement of the primary site, we recommend that it should be blocked from being indexed by Google.” 

Essentially, they’re saying make sure the content on your website is relevant, which of course yours would be anyway! So, no need to worry there.  

Helpful Content self-assessment guidance updated 

Google is trying to make life easier, so they have self-assessment guidelines available to help you create helpful, reliable, people-first content. Huzzah! They’ve updated these to reflect the Helpful Content Update.  

  • They’ve added the word “reviewed” which means you don’t need an expert to have written the content, now they just need to review it.  Is this content written or reviewed by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • You can’t just change the published date of a page to make the content seem fresh and new. “Are you changing the date of pages to make them seem fresh when the content has not substantially changed?”
  • And this final addition is also about faking freshness – basically saying please stop trying to trick search engines into thinking your content is new when it’s not! “Are you adding a lot of new content or removing a lot of older content primarily because you believe it will help your search rankings overall by somehow making your site seem “fresh?” (No, it won’t) 

 

What does this mean for you? 

If you have a website you care about you need to be:

  • Levelling up your content – It’s time to step up your content game. Research, go in-depth, and don’t be afraid to spend a little extra time crafting something amazing. 
  • Become the expert – Even if you’re not the world’s leading authority, establish yourself as a credible source in your field. Share knowledge, be helpful, and be genuine. 
  • Engage, engage, engage – Encourage readers to stay on your site longer, click through your pages, and not hit the dreaded back button. Engaged users are happy users. 
  • Skip third-party content – If it’s not adding any value or relevance to the rest of your site.  
  • Keep It Fresh – Don’t let your content become stale. Regularly update and refresh your articles to keep them relevant. 

 

As always, Google wants to reward better and more useful content that’s actually written for humans, not machines! 
That’s why Google’s Helpful Content Update specifically targets
“content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.” 

If you’ve lost traffic due to the Helpful Content Update, get in touch. We’ll take a look and see how we can help.