Google rolled out the latest iteration of its Helpful Content Update on September 14th 2023, aimed at promoting content that offers unique value and insight to searchers. This ongoing algorithmic update was first introduced in August 2022 to reward pages that provide a satisfying user experience, while demoting content created primarily to rank well in search engines.
The September 2023 update brought an improved classifier to better identify unhelpful content but did not yet include an enhanced ability to surface hidden gems. As Google continues refining its classifier, sites with large amounts of low-value content may see impacts on overall visibility. While some helpful content on affected sites could still perform well, Google assumes better information exists elsewhere.
At its core, Google wants to see content crafted to meet searchers’ needs, not just to gain traffic. The Helpful Content Update targets thin, low-effort pages with little unique value. For example, articles merely summarising other sources without new perspectives, or AI-generated content created to hit search volume keywords.
Google is pushing for more authentic, original information that offers insights unavailable elsewhere. The update rewards in-depth expertise and life experience on topics. Those with proven credentials and skills in their field have an advantage.
If you see declines in rankings and traffic, take time to honestly evaluate your content. Identify pages produced primarily for SEO, with low helpfulness for users. Consider removing or updating these pages to realign with Google’s goals.
Conduct user testing on existing content to see if it meets expectations. Check for high drop-off rates or confusion on key pages. Research competitors ranking well – what value are their pages offering?
Bring in objective third parties to assess content if needed. Deleting low-value pages can help recover, but improving content takes time. Focus on demonstrating expertise and experience.
1. Incorporate Interviews and Quotes
Get insights from real experts in your niche, through guest posts, interviews and quotes. This helps establish authority and trustworthiness. Avoid over-reliance on keyword research tools or merely summarising what competitors have written.
2. Stay Focused Within Your Niche
Trying to rank for too many unrelated topics can spread expertise too thin. Really master specific areas where you have genuine experience and knowledge to share. Don’t chase every search term – focus on providing truly useful information.
3. Review Third-Party & AI Content Carefully
Any low-quality or irrelevant content hosted on subdomains or as part of partnerships could negatively impact your overall site’s reputation. Ensure proper oversight and alignment with your brand values.
Be cautious about introducing AI-generated content on a large scale, as Google’s stance indicates higher scrutiny. AI can supplement human-created content but should not fully replace it.
4. Creating Content Aligned with Google’s Values
Ultimately Google wants to see content that aligns with its principles of Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness and Experience (E-A-T). This means developing content with the following values.
The Helpful Content Update should reward your efforts if your content checks these boxes. But also regularly self-assess that your site truly lives up to these ideals. The update deliberately pushes sites to align with an ethos of creating content purely to satisfy searchers’ needs.
5. Ongoing Refinement of Google’s Classifier
It’s important to remember Google will continue honing its classifier algorithms through additional updates. Expect the criteria for “helpfulness” to evolve over time. Regularly audit content to catch issues early, particularly after Google announcements.
Be proactive in removing low-value pages that are unlikely to ever satisfy the increasing quality expectations. If Google flags your site as having unhelpful content, it can take months to reverse through classifier updates.
6. Peer Recognition and User Surveys
Consider getting feedback from others in your field to highlight your expertise. Quotes from recognised names can boost authority. User surveys also help determine if your content truly provides value and meets expectations.
Leverage PR and content marketing strategies to showcase knowledge. The more you are cited and referenced online as a trusted source, the stronger signals you send search engines.
Avoid shortcuts like keyword stuffing, artificial word count inflation, or repetitive thin content.
Google’s algorithms are becoming increasingly adept at identifying such tactics.
7. Helpful Content Updates Rewarding High-Quality Pages
As the classifier continues improving, the Helpful Content Update should promote increasingly useful pages. But sites reliant on churning out mass-produced, low-value content will likely see negative impacts.
Google has strongly hinted its algorithms can now detect AI-generated or outsourced templated content lacking expertise. So the update pushes content creators to take more responsibility for their output, focusing on insightful subject matter aligned with searcher needs.
Those who embrace Google’s ideal of “helpfulness” being about satisfying people first and foremost will likely thrive most under this evolving landscape. But ignoring these core principles risks declines in reach and visibility over the long term. The update compels deeper reflection on how to create content with genuine value – a positive step towards elevating the quality of online information.
The Helpful Content Update marks an ongoing shift in Google’s algorithms towards prioritising pages that offer true value to searchers. As the update continues rolling out globally, sites must take time for self-reflection on their content strategies. Does their output genuinely help people, or merely chase search traffic?
Creating content that aligns with Google’s core principles of expertise, authenticity, and trustworthiness has become imperative. Those willing to invest in insightful subject-matter expertise and life experience have an advantage. But cheats like AI-generated content, keyword stuffing and content farms will fall under growing scrutiny.
The path forward is to embrace the mindset shift Google is pushing for – crafting content with the sole purpose of satisfying searcher needs. If you build your site on a foundation of truly helpful information focused on people first, your rankings should prosper in the long run.