On September 14th, Google rolled out the September 2023 Helpful Content Update, its latest algorithm update that has been primarily created to ensure people see original, helpful content based on ranking in search results. However, this recent update has caused a lot of anger across the web.
For those unaware, Google first rolled out the helpful content algorithm update in August 2022, which rewards people-first content and reduces the ranking for content written for search engines.
The search giant summarized the update as, “Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results. This page explains more about how the system works, and what you can do to assess and improve your content.”
However, in its September 2023 Helpful Content Update, the phrase “written by people” was substituted by a statement that Google is constantly monitoring “content created for people” to rank sites on its search engine. In other words, Google wants to imply that it would highlight valuable content that benefits users, irrespective of whether humans or machines have created it.
Some site owners are now complaining that their rankings are being pushed down in results in favor of AI-created content due to the latest update, which is causing huge drops in traffic to their site, says a new report from Business Insider.
“This is a joke,” wrote one person in a thread on the WebmasterWorld.com forum for website owners. “This is a joke. I’ve got long-form content, well written, well researched, filled with original image content LOSING to 500 word AI generated crap (It tests 100% positive for AI generated text) — produced by so-called “reputable” publications. Google is apparently forcing publishers to generate AI spam or die..”
Another travel blogger said she was absolutely shocked with the new Google Helpful Content Update, as her traffic had dropped down to 80% in the span of 48 hours, with AI-written posts now outranking her.
“Absolutely devastated with the new Google Helpful Content Update. My website is 12 years old, genuine, helpful, unique, written with passion & knowledge, and my traffic has dropped 80% in 48 hours. I’ve spent most of this morning crying,” she tweeted.
“The top ranking posts are VERY obviously AI written, with horrible formatting, and in most cases, little relevant info too. I’m genuinely baffled. Surely they’re going to realise they messed up and reverse?”
While variations are common when Google pushes out new updates for its search engine, these changes can cause content creators to lose traffic temporarily.
“The helpful content ranking system was designed to show more content in search results that’s created to help or inform people, and less content created solely to rank better on Google Search,” a company spokesperson told Insider.
“We are not targeting content produced by any particular method – AI or otherwise – we’re concerned with the quality of a given webpage and its helpfulness to readers.”
As of now, there is no clarity if the bumped-up content is created by AI or humans. We will update this space with more details as and when we receive information.