Google's Helpful Content System is a machine learning model that uses classifiers to generate a signal that is used by Google's ranking system to weed out low-quality content. The system generates a signal, which is one of hundreds or thousands of other signals used to rank a site. The signal is weighted based on the amount of unhelpful content present on a site. Google updated its guidance for the Helpful Content System to add clarity to the system, ensuring that publishers and SEOs could understand why sites lost rankings.
The system is designed to identify sites that have a lot of unhelpful content across many pages, not just a few low-quality pages. Google's stance on AI-generated content, clarifies that it is not against its search engine guidelines. The use of AI-powered paraphrasing tools is becoming increasingly popular, and these tools use AI algorithms to accurately paraphrase text while maintaining the original meaning of the content. The goal of these paraphrasing tools is to help users create unique and appealing content, avoid plagiarism, and improve the quality of their writing.
Recent Updates and Best Practices
In September 2023, Google released a helpful content update that revised how their system evaluates and ranks content. This is the third helpful content update since the launch of the helpful content system in August of 2022 and is the most significant update to the system yet. The update places a renewed emphasis on content that's either written or reviewed by experts. Ensuring that content is either created by or vetted by individuals with genuine expertise can greatly improve its perceived value.
Google's clarified stance on third-party content, emphasizing careful monitoring. Hosted content that doesn't align with the main site's objectives or lacks proper oversight can negatively affect search rankings. We suggest long-form content (usually over 1,000 words) can be great for in-depth articles and guides. However, the number of words in an article is not as important as the quality of the writing. If the content is original, topical, relevant to the audience, and well-written, it stands a good chance of doing well in SEO terms, regardless of whether it is 800, 1000, or 5000 words.
Many site owners’ first response to Google updates was to perform an audit of their existing content. This is a sensible approach, and any site owners who haven’t yet carried out this action are encouraged to do so post haste. Scrutinize your content — subject each piece to an interrogation using Google’s suggested questions, and determine whether the content meets its criteria of helpfulness.
While it may be tempting to lean on automation to churn out content at a rate beyond the capacity of a human, Google is pretty clear that “extensive automation” is a no-no. AI has advanced immeasurably in the past decade, sure, but when it comes to content generation it still has some limitations: for one thing, it’s only capable of summarizing what others have already said without adding much value — something Google advises against.
In conclusion, Google's efforts to clarify the functioning of the Helpful Content System, emphasizing the use of machine learning models and classifiers to identify and address low-quality content, while also addressing potential confusion in their guidance. The article also touches on Google's stance on AI-generated content and the importance of creating high-quality, expert-reviewed content.