If your site traffic or the number of visitors to your pages has reduced in September 2023, you could well be penalised by Google for having unhelpful content.
How does Google penalise sites?
Google will penalise any site by reducing the number of times it shows your site in its results. Simple, hard, cold dropping of your site from Google results. Not every result, but a reduction of around 50% of queries across the board has been seen in the wild.
Why does Google penalise site owners?
Google has officially explained that sites it deems to contain any unhelpful content will be dropped from the Google results. But even very helpful and useful sites that have been around a long time providing information and support to visitors have had their visitor numbers seriously reduced. Why did Google target the good, useful and helpful sites with the helpful site update? No one knows why, but Google thinks you are unhelpful and is trying to scrub you from the web.
Google is the biggest search engine, and if you have noticed the September drop in traffic, then that will be your Google visitors or, more importantly, the lack of Google visitors to your site. Unaffected are visitors from Bing and all the other search engines, but, unfortunately, the biggest search engine bot is flexing its muscles and reducing the usefulness of its search.
The Google spin on this is that they say the update is a 'helpful content update' supposedly going after and taking down the spammy, unhelpful and often plain old misleading sites. But what Google has actually done in many cases is taken some really helpful sites off their search by classing them erroneously as 'unhelpful'. Not helpful, whichever way you look at it, helpful update, unhelpful update; if the useful and helpful sites are disappearing from the Google results, it's bad for the sites and bad for the searchers.
Witch traffic diverted from the so-called 'unhelpful sites. ' the top spots in Google are now being used to showcase other sites, ones that typically would have been lower in the results. Sites that, once in the past, didn't provide valuable content have now been pushed to the top, over and above many sites that did contain useful and helpful content. This is an odd move for a search engine and detrimental to the users of Google search engine who are getting sup-par results as their new high-ranking positions in search. More and more AI-generated content is appearing in the top Google search results, and less useful and helpful content is being shown.
It's not even that the sites now deemed as 'helpful' have any new content or changed any of their sites; there was no need. They got promoted because the previously 'helpful sites' have been demoted. It's a free move up the ladder for no work, like getting promoted, not because of your excellent work but because you are the only person available. It's a lift in the Google rankings by default and not by content. It has the same content, just now ranked over better sites.
Google has indicated in their official word about the unhelpful update that the 'unhelpful content' penalty is site-wide. If some of your content is flagged as 'unhelpful', the whole site is marked down. Every single post is tarred with the same brush.
What is the solution to the Google unhelpful penalty?
Google has suggested if you have a subdomain linked to your domain that has two different contents, then Google has advised you to block Google crawler from the subdomain. I would imagine that Google worries the subdomain content can conflict with the main content, and the whole site (domain and subdomain) can get flagged as 'unhelpful' due to a conflict of topics and demoted in the results.
Other suggestions by Google have been to restrict access to unhelpful content on your site, but if your site is helpful, who is to say what is unhelpful?
The AI-written Google nonsense about writing content for people (as if all good sites that have been penalised didn't already do that?) is here. To see the contradiction you are dealing with.
Because dropping the helpful sites means others, traditionally deemed to be less useful, will fill the void. This can only be beneficial to those sites that see an uptick in traffic starting in September. Our advice to those is to enjoy the new visitors and not change anything because it's obviously working, bar some new content (people-first content).