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Google Helpful Content Update for September 2023: Algorithm Changes

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update, which would make two significant changes to how websites are ranked, was revealed by Google.

Highlights:

Google relaxed the rules for content created by AI.
Third-party material that is hosted on subdomains or the website’s main page is being actively discouraged by Helpful material System.
new alerts on attempts to pretend that pages have been updated and that content is new
Gary Illyes from Google provides information on how the Helpful Content System chooses sitewide signals.
Fresh advice on how to bounce back after a Helpful Content Update

The September 2023 Helpful Content Update was announced by Google and is scheduled to be fully implemented in two weeks. While issuing a warning against third-party content housed on websites or their subdomains, the update appears to relax restrictions on automatically created content.

Along with updated instructions on what to do if a site lost visitors following a Helpful Content upgrade, Google also added more assistance to their documentation for the Helpful Content System.

Google Helpful Material Method

Google has a method called the Helpful stuff System for boosting quality material and lowering the visibility of stuff that is found to be unhelpful in searches.

Google presents it as a system that complements all the other systems used to rank websites.

This system’s main objective is to find quality signals that correspond to useful material.

What’s the topic of the September helpful content update?
Google included advice in three new areas to their guidelines for the Helpful Content System:

Relaxing the rules for hosting third-party material on subdomains (or the primary domain)
providing further information on what to do if your site experiences a drop in traffic due to a Updated and helpful content

Google relaxes its machine-generated content policies
Google previously stated that the Helpful Content algorithm gives human-created content priority in its guidance on machine-generated content.

In order to better connect it with other, seemingly incongruous advise on AI material, that portion of the guidance has been removed, reflecting a change in Google’s perspective regarding AI content.

The initial advice was:

“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.”

Hosting third-party content on a website’s main page or a subdomain is a long-standing trend, with news media websites hosting third-party credit card affiliate content on a subdomain as an example. The rationale behind these tactics may be that some of the main site’s ranking power would help the subdomain content rank better.

Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content update has made a change that may negatively affect websites that host third-party content anywhere on their website.

A new section added to the Helpful Content Update guidance advises:

“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.”

Updated Self-Assessment Advice and Useful Content
Google updated their useful content self-assessment guide, Creating trustworthy, people-first content.

The newly revised self-assessment guidance now includes the following new advice.

  1. The addition of the word “reviewed” is the first modification; the rest of the statement remains unchanged.

Is this content written or reviewed by a subject-matter specialist or enthusiast?

  1. This latest change to the advice explains how to pretend that a page has been updated:

Are you updating the dates of sites to make them appear more recent even though the content hasn’t really changed?

  1. The final addition similarly deals with pretending to be fresh:

Are you eliminating a lot of outdated information or adding a lot of new content largely in the hope that doing so will improve your site’s overall search rankings by making it appear “fresh”? No, it won’t.

Google’s Gary Illyes Discusses September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Gary Illyes posted background information about the emphasis on what he called micro-sites, explaining that many people reported these sites that they felt should not have been ranking.

Posted by Gary on LinkedIn:

“We’ve heard (and seen) that some websites “rent out” their subdomains, and occasionally even subdirectories, to outside companies, frequently without any control over the material that is hosted on those brand-new, unrelated microsites that are typically of low quality.

In actuality, the parent sites, who don’t truly wish to endorse these frequently dubious sites, hardly ever link to the micro-sites.

The owners of these dubious (?) micro-sites just rent the sub-spaces in order to skew search results.

Answering a Question Regarding Sitewide Signals
The advice that third-party content on the primary site or a subdomain may be included as part of the sitewide signals that Google uses, like the signals connected to the Helpful Content System, was a topic of discussion in the LinkedIn thread.

the query:

“Am I correct in assuming that signals generated at the host level apply to all subdomains and are site-wide signals? Or does this only apply to certain signals, such as the value of the content?

Gary Illyes’ response was:

“Some indications are at the level of the url, while others are patterns, hosts, or domains. So… yeah.

Updated System Documentation and Useful Content

Updated Instructions for Recovering from Helpful Content
Finally, Google updated its recovery instructions should a site be impacted by a Helpful Content Update.

The newly introduced section of the manual advises locating useless content and replacing it.

Google’s latest advice:

“You should self-evaluate your material and fix or remove any that seems unhelpful if you’ve noticed a change in traffic that you feel may be due to this system (such as after a publicly-posted ranking modification to the system).

You can use the questions on our help page on how to make trustworthy, helpful material that puts the needs of other people first to self-evaluate your work.

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