Google’s September 2023 Useful Content Update: Algorithm Changes and Effects

Google announced the September 2023 Useful Content Update, which includes two significant changes to ranking sites.

Google announced the September 2023 Useful Content Update and stated that this update will be completed within the next two weeks.

While the update takes a more flexible approach to content generated by artificial intelligence, it warns about third-party content hosted on websites or subdomains.

Barry Schwartz from Seroundtable discovered this important detail; While there was previously a statement on the Google helpful content system page that read “helpful content produced by people, for people”, it was updated to “helpful content produced for people” after this update.

Useful Content System

Google’s Useful Content System aims to reduce the search presence of useless content while promoting quality content.

Google made statements that this system works with all other systems. The main focus is on identifying quality signals that correspond to helpful content.

Summary of the September Update

This update focuses on three main areas:

  • Guidelines for content produced by artificial intelligence are being relaxed.
  • Addresses the issue of hosting third-party content in subdomains.
  • If your site loses traffic after the Useful Content Update, extra information is given about what to do.

Third-Party Content and Subdomains

Google states that if you host third-party content on your main website or subdomains, these contents may be included in your site’s general “helpful content” signals.

If these contents are mainly produced independent of the purpose of your main site, they should be prevented from being indexed by Google. (In my opinion, this is a very critical issue!)

Self-Assessment Updated

Google has added several new guidelines that address factors like how current the content is or whether it has been expert-reviewed.

Statements by Gary Illyes

Gary Illyes, a Google spokesman, stated in his statements on LinkedIn that third-party content generally has no connection with the main sites and that such content is created solely to manipulate search results.


  • Google now includes the “helpfulness” of content hosted on subdomains in its overall site helpfulness evaluation. This can target “parasitic SEO” tactics.
  • Changed “written by expert” to “reviewed by expert or enthusiast.” This shows that the focus is not only on the author’s expertise but also on the quality of the content.
  • Changed “content written by humans” to “content created for humans.” This signals the possibility of a more open approach to high-quality AI content.
  • Google has mentioned that the tendency to make content appear fresher by simply changing the date will not provide any benefit. Maybe Current and fresh content may be rewarded more now?

There is a vague reference to manipulating topicality or subject authority with low-quality AI content. Our focus should be on continuing to create helpful content that provides knowledge gain rather than manipulating systems.


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