Not Rolling Back September 2023 Helpful Content Update


Google Senior Search Analyst John Mueller said it is unlikely the September 2023 Helpful Content Update will be rolled back despite complaints by niche site owners.


Highlights

  • Google Helpful Content Update is not likely to be rolled back.
  • Niche site owners are reporting between a 20-80% loss in traffic.
  • Reddit and Quora have gained millions of new keywords and thousands of top 3 ranking positions.

The latest Google Helpful Content Update (HCU) launched on September 14, 2023, and is still rolling out across Google Search. It is expected to take two weeks for the full rollout.

The Helpful Content Update includes an improved classifier that rewards “helpful content” that is written for “people”, not for search engine algorithms.

There have been reports by “niche site” owners on X (previously known as Twitter) that they have experienced between 20-80% loss in traffic due to the Helpful Content Update. But they are not alone. There are also reports of big tech giants like Amazon suffering major organic search losses from this Google update.

So far the winners of the September 2023 Google Helpful Content Update are Reddit and Quora, which have experienced a massive surge in organic visibility and keyword rankings in Google Search. One commenter reports that the Ahrefs SEO analysis tool shows that Reddit has gained 3 million keywords and 96,300 top 3 positions while Quora has increased by 1.5 million keywords and 49,200 top 3 positions.

“We want to *highlight* fantastic, helpful, unique, compelling, ‘people-first’ content in search, and we will continue to work on our algorithms to move in that direction,” said John Mueller.

However, the niche site community is not happy with the current state of the search engine results pages (SERPs). They believe their sites have been unfairly demoted in the SERPs and replaced by irrelevant Reddit and Quora content.

Arielle Phoenix said on X, “They have to roll it back, there is no way they are looking at each other over at Google Search HQ and saying they did a good job here. Seems like it was done to spite ‘niche site’ owners.

Google’s John Mueller replied, “I’m sure there are cases where we get it wrong, and I’d love to have those examples if you can get them to me.”

In response, Mike Futia submitted multiple examples of web pages that he believed should not be ranking in the top positions in Google for queries related to the grilling niche.

One example Futia posted on X was for the query, “how to tell pork ribs are done”. A Reddit post is ranking in the #3 position in Google. Futia stated that the “top answer gives no answer/internal temp”. And, “2nd top answer: ‘you guys on here suck’ (very helpful content)”.

GucciBlogger also commented on X about Google rewarding outdated content from Reddit: “Hi @JohnMu, then why are you pushing outdated forum posts or Reddit posts so high on the SERPs? Isn’t freshness also one of the important factors? Yesterday, I tried searching for a specific build on one game, and all I’ve got are Reddit posts from 2017, which are highly outdated.”

John Mueller replied: “Have you not seen the trend of people adding “reddit” to their searches because they’re tired of the low-effort, low-cost content sites are pushing out? Heck, even the low-effort affiliate sites are adding ‘reddit’ to their titles. Hello.”

Mueller also added in the same X conversation, “Oh yes, there’s still a lot more to do, as always.” And, “The problem I often see is that the ‘website’ is just respinning Reddit content, often even indirectly. I’d much prefer to get the original, hands-on posts, written by people who actually did what they’re writing about. 5 years old? Still better than a month-old AI/cheap rewrite.”

It’s clear that Google’s Senior Search Analyst John Mueller is pushing back against the complaints about the Helpful Content Update in the niche site community on X. And it is unlikely to be rolled back.

More Details About the September 2023 Google Helpful Content Update

Google updated the following details to its Helpful Content System documentation:

  • Added new guidance about hosting third-party content and how such content may be included in site-wide signals we generate, such as the helpfulness of content.
  • Added new points about removing content or changing dates as a method to gain search engine rankings rather than focusing on creating people-first content.
  • Removed the words “written by people” and wrote “helpful content created for people in search results.” This could indicate that AI-generated content is fine when it is helpful for users.

In Summary

Google’s Senior Search Analyst John Mueller said it is unlikely the September 2023 Helpful Content Update will be rolled back despite complaints by niche site owners. Many site owners have reported a 20-80% loss in traffic due to the Helpful Content Update while two sites in particular have surged in keyword rankings on Google Search: Reddit and Quora.

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