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Exploring Google’s Latest Helpful Content Update for September 2023

Alex Valencia
Published   September 20, 2023

Google announced the September 2023 helpful content update last Friday, leaving business owners, website owners, and SEOs all eager to uncover what changes might be in store. And for good reason. This is a sitewide update, meaning the update will affect the whole website, not just select pages.

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Here are the highlights.

Google Updates Its Helpful Content System

This September 2023 update affects the helpful content system. According to Google, “The helpful content system aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

The helpful content system creates sitewide signals, so if Google finds your website contains lots of unhelpful content, it could drag down your entire site.

Google Announces an Improved Classifier

Google said its latest helpful content update will include an improved classifier. The classifier simply refers to the mechanism by which Google classifies sites as having helpful and unhelpful content. 

Because the helpful content system and this new update affects your entire site, removing any unhelpful content could improve rankings on other pages. 

Google’s announcement didn’t reveal exactly how it improves its classifier, but we can take some clues from its helpful content page.

Beware of Hosting Third-Party Content

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

So, if you aren’t closely supervising the content posted on your site by third parties or the content isn’t consistent with your site’s main purpose, rethink that third-party content or at least block it from being indexed, Google recommends.

Content for People by People…or AI?

Among the more noteworthy updates to Google’s helpful content page is a small but significant change to how it describes helpful content. The screenshot below is from Search Engine Land and compares Google’s pre-update language to its current language.

Note Google no longer specifies that helpful content is written “by people,” only that it is created “for people.” Further, Google updated another of its helpful content pages to reflect that content should be written or reviewed by an expert or enthusiast.

The implication here, of course, is that Google may consider content created with the assistance of AI as helpful as long as it’s created for people, reflects the appropriate authority of an expert, and meets other helpful content criteria.

Nobody should take that to mean they can have ChatGPT or another generative AI program do all their writing with minimal human oversight. In the right hands, those tools can help content creators produce helpful content. But be careful not to lose sight of what that means. 

In the legal marketing industry, helpful content means ensuring, among other things, that the content connects with the reader, provides information and value that aligns with the user intent, reflects legal expertise, accurately portrays state laws, and complies with legal marketing ethics rules. AI content spit out without enough human oversight tends to fall short of these standards. 

However you are creating content for your website, be sure to put an experienced content creator who is familiar with your business and industry behind the wheel.

What to Do If Your Site Drops After a Helpful Content Update

Google notes that if your website currently includes lots of helpful content, then there’s nothing you need to do. In fact, the update could help your site. 

But Google recommends self-assessing your website content if you see drops after a helpful content update such as the one currently rolling out. 

Again, if Google classifies content on your site as unhelpful it could negatively affect all the pages on your site, not just those deemed unhelpful. Thus, improving or deleting unhelpful pages could improve your site overall. 

How WDW Can Assist

It can be hard to predict exactly how your website will fare after any Google update, even if you’re doing everything right. It’s important to monitor your site as new updates roll out and take action to improve your website if your site doesn’t fare well.

But starting with a strong, fast, secure website filled with helpful content puts you in a position to ride these Google updates and recover quickly if you see any drops. 

We Do Web does exactly this for our law firm clients. We specialize in helping law firms turn their website into an asset that is well positioned to perform in the search results and generate traffic, leads, and cases every month. 

Call us at (954) 425-9081 or reach out to us here to get more cases from your website.

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