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Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Google’s Helpful Content Update, rolled out between September 14 and September 28, 2023, marks a significant shift in how content is evaluated and ranked on its search engine. This update, part of Google’s ongoing efforts to enhance the quality and relevance of search results, emphasises rewarding high-quality, user-centric content while penalising content perceived as unhelpful or created primarily for search engine rankings across all languages.

Key Changes

The September 2023 update introduced several notable changes to Google’s Helpful Content System guidelines, aimed at promoting content that prioritises users over search engine optimisation. These include:

Adjustments to Guidance on Machine-Generated Content: Google has softened its stance on AI-generated content, allowing for it to rank if it’s consistent with advice on creating helpful material. This represents a shift from Google’s previous preference for human-created content.

Revised Rules for Hosting Third-Party Content: The update addresses the practice of hosting third-party content on a website’s primary domain or subdomains. Google now advises against indexing third-party content that is largely unrelated to the main site’s purpose or produced without direct oversight, as it could negatively impact the website’s rankings.

Additional Advice on Content Freshness: Google warns against making superficial updates to content or altering publishing dates without significant changes, advising website owners to focus on genuine, substantial updates.

Recovery Guidance for Affected Websites: For sites impacted by the Helpful Content Update, Google recommends identifying and either removing or replacing unhelpful content. This underscores the importance of a comprehensive content review and adherence to Google’s guidelines for recovery.

Impact and Recovery

The Helpful Content Update affects all languages and has the potential to result in ranking discrepancies, particularly for sites containing unhelpful content. Recovery from the update’s impact involves a thorough review of a website’s content and adherence to Google’s updated guidelines, which may take several months.


Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update reinforces the search engine’s commitment to improving user experience by prioritising valuable, user-first content over SEO-driven content. Website owners and SEO professionals must adapt to these changes by ensuring their content aligns with Google’s updated guidelines to optimise their search rankings effectively.

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