Reviewed by Jo Priest
A few weeks ago, Google announced its 2023 Helpful Content Update, which, by the time this article is live, will have just finished being rolled out. The announcement revealed two major changes, one of which may affect subdomains with third-party content.
Let’s take a look at these changes:
What Is Helpful Content?
In a long-standing effort to curb hordes of low-quality and spammy content from clogging up search result pages, Google made it clear a long time ago that content should be written by people and for people—i.e., and not for search engines (that’s why tactics like keyword stuffing and cloaking are pointless cheats).
What that really means is that your main motive for writing a page shouldn’t be to rank for a certain keyword but to provide the reader with informative, honest, and helpful information. (That’s why agencies like Geeky Tech spend so much time making sure that any keyword you want to rank for isn’t just slapped onto a page, but that it’s written for your audience and holds real value.)
What Google’s guideline is now no longer saying is that your content has to be written by a person, which formally establishes its laxed position on AI-generated content.
What’s more, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the word written anywhere in the document (I think it’s in there once). Instead, you’ll find replacements like generated, produced, created—all words that, on the surface, don’t seem too different but that, when considered with all other changes, have the cold, hard, mechanical edges of a machine.
That is to say, Google knows damn well that content isn’t being written by people but created by AI, and that our roles have now shifted to being content editors, overseers, and quality analysts.
How Does This Affect Your Content Production?
No matter who is creating/writing/manifesting/ the content, it still needs to meet Google’s standards for helpful content. Can you positively answer some of Google’s self-assessment questions:
If that’s a yes, then you’re probably doing something right. Bear in mind that the last time we heard, AI still doesn’t have the power to think for itself, so in reality, it’s never going to produce something truly original, which means that you still need to add your final touches to every piece to make it one of a kind.
If you’ve been writing or generating content that ranks, chances are you’re doing everything right, so our advice is to keep up the good work.
That being said, your page rankings may take an unexpected dip if you’re third-party content doesn’t fit within these guidelines.
Let’s explore this a bit more.
How Third-Party Content Will Be Affected by the Helpful Content Update
If your subdomain (or even main domain) is hosting third-party content, then you might find that even this content is subject to Google’s sitewide signals that measure a piece of content’s helpfulness.
If your subdomain’s third-party content is irrelevant to your site and/or doesn’t meet Google’s standards of helpful content, it could be negatively impacted by this recent update.
What You Can Do to Recover Your Rankings
Now would be the best time to go through and assess your content using Google’s guidelines. This could mean a cake walk or thorough pruning of your content. You might also have to remove your third-party content entirely or figure out a way to fix it.
What’s the lesson we can take from this update? Create your content like your future customers are reading it.
A Bit of Advice: Focus on Authorship
One of the biggest things you can do to make your content stand out from the reams of AI-generated pages is to ensure that you or the experts on your team are contributing somehow.
That author byline is like SEO gold because it shows your credibility, authority, and experience on a particular subject—and for Google, credible authors carry a lot of weight. You may want AI to help you develop your work, but nothing can replace the education, knowledge, and lived experiences of someone who is an expert in their field (at least not yet).
With that said, be sure that even if you’ve relied on generative AI to create some of the content, you want to be as involved as possible with the editing and fact-checking part so that you can confidently call yourself the author and push something out that isn’t going to undermine your credibility.
Don’t forget to include the author’s information (including the author’s dedicated bio page) in your Schema markup. If you or the author don’t have a dedicated bio page, now’s the time to build one!