Google’s Helpful Content Update: How it Affects Search Results

by | Sep 29, 2023 | marketing blogs

  • The 2023 Google Helpful Content Update is complete and took 2 weeks to fully roll out.
  • This Helpful Content Update is geared towards rewarding websites with quality & helpful content on them.
  • This is a sitewide update versus a page by page update so the whole site can be affected.

During the second week of September 2023, Google started rolling out a new update called the “Helpful Content Update”. The last Helpful Content Update was just over a year ago. This two-week rollout brings several changes with the end-goal of improving quality search results. The main parts of this algorithm update include adding new guidance about hosting third-party content, removing unhelpful content or changing dates, and to exhibit content that’s created from personal points of view as well as expert content. While more changes are on the horizon, this update marks another step forward in Google’s quest to deliver helpful and relevant content to users worldwide. It’s crucial that marketing agencies and SEO specialists understand the importance of this update and what it means for their clients. 


What Does the Helpful Content Update Target?

This September 2023 Google update specifically targets content that has been created primarily for achieving high rankings in search engines rather than to accurately inform viewers. In other words, finding high quality content that’s considered more useful and purposely written for humans rather than Google’s ranking robots. Google has said that this is an ongoing process that aims to meet the needs of searchers in the best way possible. With that said, more algorithm updates similar to this one are expected. Types of content that the helpful content update will specifically impact include:


  • Shopping sites
  • Tech-related content
  • Art and entertainment
  • Educational materials


Websites that contain the content listed above are in more danger of losing their ranking due to the fact that they’re typically written more for search engines than for humans. Also note that this algorithm update is sitewide, whereas previous updates have been a page-by-page basis. This means that if Google thinks your site is producing a lot of unhelpful information, then your website as a whole will be negatively impacted. This update also currently only applies to English searches, but is set to expand to other languages in the future. 


Google Helpful Content Update Key Changes 

The Helpful Content Update promises to refine the search experience and enhance the quality of content displayed in search results. From addressing third-party content concerns to emphasizing the value of expertise in content creation, these adjustments are part of Google’s ongoing efforts to enhance the user experience. Below are the key changes that this update will implement.


Improved Classifier

Google’s announcement of this update mentioned an “improved classifier” for the helpful content system. While the specifics of this improvement remain a mystery, Google hinted at its commitment to refining search results further. The enhanced classifier aims to deliver more accurate and relevant content to users. 


Hosted Third-Party Content

Google introduced a new section in its documentation regarding hosted third-party content. Essentially, Google advises webmasters to exercise caution when hosting third-party content on their sites. If this content is largely independent of the main site’s purpose or lacks supervision, Google recommends blocking it from indexing. This move aligns with Google’s ongoing efforts to combat the manipulation of search results through low-quality micro-sites. This recommendation isn’t entirely new, as Google has been cautious about third-party content since 2019. The search giant’s systems are continually improving to distinguish between main site content and third-party additions.


Content Written by People or Machines

A subtle but significant change in Google’s stance on content creation is the removal of the phrase “written by people.” Google now emphasizes “helpful content created for people in search results.” This alteration underscores the importance of content quality, irrespective of whether it’s authored by humans or generated with the assistance of AI.


Self-Assessment for Content Impact

If you believe that this latest helpful content update has negatively impacted your website’s traffic, Google suggests self-assessing your content. For websites producing genuinely helpful content, this update may prove beneficial. However, if you suspect that your content may be deemed unhelpful, it’s time to review and improve it.


Reviewed by Experts

Google also updated its guidelines to acknowledge the value of content reviewed by experts or enthusiasts who possess in-depth knowledge of the topic. While this recommendation isn’t groundbreaking, it underscores the importance of expertise in content creation.


Changing Dates or Removing Content

Google addresses a common frustration for users and SEO experts alike: the manipulation of content dates. Websites often update old content, change the date, and republish it to appear fresh. Google now warns against this practice, as it’s a tactic that’s well within radar.


Adding or Removing Content for Search Engines

In light of recent debates, Google warns against adding excessive new content or removing older content solely for the purpose of improving search rankings. This practice, often referred to as “content churn,” may not yield the desired results and could negatively impact a website’s standing.


How to Rank High with this Update

To help content creators determine whether or not the information they’re putting on the web is human-oriented, Google has provided the following questions to ask yourself about the content you’re producing.


  1. Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you? 
  2. Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  3. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  4. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  5. Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  6. Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?


Questions to ask to avoid producing search-engine first content:


  1. Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans? 
  2. Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  3. Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  4. Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value? 
  5. Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  6. Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  7. Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? 
  8. Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  9. Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?


What Boiling Point Media is Doing to Assist Clients

A truly effective marketing agency understands that content should always prioritize the human audience above all else. It’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities of search engine optimization and forget the essence of meaningful communication. Boiling Point Media creates content with a human-centric approach, every word, sentence, and message is crafted to resonate with real people, addressing their needs, desires, and pain points. Such content engages, informs, and entertains, connecting on a personal level. It’s about crafting stories that captivate, solutions that solve, and emotions that evoke. By prioritizing the human element, Boiling Point Media ensures that our clients’ messages are not just seen, but genuinely felt, fostering trust, loyalty, and authentic connections that extend far beyond the algorithms and rankings.


Boiling Point Media Produces People Oriented Content

With a team full of creative minds, Boiling Point Media excels at generating people-oriented content that has proven high rankings. Boiling Point Media is a full service marketing agency located in the heart of Oklahoma City. At Boiling Point Media, our team is very knowledgeable in SEO and generating content that connects with the intended audiences. Additionally, our team excels in all mediums used in the marketing process like email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, and programmatic advertising so that we can choose the best marketing platforms to reach our client’s desired target market. We would love to chat with you so give us a call to discuss how we can help you optimize your website and take your company to its boiling point!

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