The First Helpful Content Update For 2023, Released!

Google announced the release of the first helpful content update this year and is set to complete in two weeks.
Marie Aquino
September 19, 2023

Google has announced that they have released the September 2023 Helpful Content Update and it is rolling out with an improved classifier. It will take about two weeks to complete.

They have also announced that their help page about the helpful content system has been updated with new guidance about hosting third-party content and more explanation on what to do after a helpful content system update. In addition, new points were added in their documentation on creating helpful, reliable, people-first content and they’re about new points to consider when it comes to removing content and changing dates.

What Is The Helpful Content System?

The helpful content system generates a signal used by Google automated ranking systems to better ensure that people see original, helpful content, written by people, for people, in the search results. The system aims to better reward content that visitors feel they have had a satisfying experience, while content that does not meet the visitor’s experience will not perform as well. Thus, the term “helpful content system” and “helpful content update” whenever an update is made to that system.

The system generates a site-wide signal that Google considers when ranking pages. The system automatically identifies content that seems to be of low value, or not helpful to those doing a search. Since this signal is site-wide, any content – not just those that are unhelpful – on sites that are determined to have high amounts of unhelpful content overall, are also less likely to perform on Search, provided that there are better content on the web to display.

This means that removing unhelpful content in your site can help the rankings of your content and fluff content, can pull down the overall rank of your other content. Quality over quantity, seems to be very important and it is high time to do a content audit on your site to determine content that should be taken down.

The newly added points on third-party content states that third-party content hosted on the main site or subdomain may be included in the site-wide signals generated, such as with the helpfulness of content. Due to this, content that is largely independent of the main site’s purpose or produced without close supervision or involvement of the primary site are recommended to be blocked from being indexed by Google.

What To Do If You Experience Negative Effects From The Helpful Content Update?

If you experience a change in traffic related to the helpful content system, self-asses your content and fix or remove any content that are deemed to be unhelpful. Google’s documentation on creating helpful, reliable, people-first content includes questions that you can ask yourself about your content and that could help with creating content that is favored by Google.

According to Google’s documentation, helpful content are content that are helpful, reliable, and are people-first content. They are written by people for people and not to game search engines for higher rank. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • 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 content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • Does the content have any spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Is the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

Check out the documentation for a full list of questions to ask yourself with regards to your content and what Google is searching for when it comes to “helpful” content.

If you have been hit by the update, you may be asking yourself, how long will it take for my site to do better, after making all the content changes? According to Google, sites identified by the helpful content system may find the “unhelpful content” signal applied to them over a period of months. Their classifier runs continuously which allows it to monitor newly launched sites and existing ones. As the system determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long term, the classification will no longer apply.

Google also refines their helpful content classifier periodically and when updates are notable, they announce a “helpful content update”. When the update finishes rolling out and the classifier sees that content has improved on your site, then the unhelpful classification from a previous classifier may no longer apply.