Google Releases March 2024 Core Update Along With Multiple Spam Updates

Google Releases March 2024 Core Update Along With Multiple Spam Updates

Abi Simons March 22, 2024

Google has announced significant search quality enhancements in its March 2024 core update, alongside multiple spam policy updates. Unlike other core updates, this is not just an algorithm adjustment. The different updates each target different areas of SEO and search practices. That said, websites are likely to see more fluctuations than usual in rankings compared to a regular core update, as the two reinforce each other. With this, Google has estimated that there will be a reduction of 40% in unhelpful content within search results.

A screenshot of the Google Status Dashboard notifying of the Core Update and the Spam Update on March 5th 2024The Helpful Content System Update Now Part of the Core Update

The helpful content system update is now part of the core update, to improve the overall ranking systems. The rollout of this will include updates and enhancements to multiple core systems over 2 to 4 weeks. The aim is to show less content that appears to Google as though it was made to attract clicks, and rather prioritise content that is being created to inform and provide value to the end-user.

 

Updated Spam Policies Will Focus on 3 Areas

Spam policies serve to combat practices that could degrade the quality of Google’s search results. Websites found in violation of these policies may experience reduced rankings or could be omitted from search results.

Expired Domain Abuse

This is the practice of acquiring and repurposing websites to manipulate search rankings. The content hosted on these sites typically offers minimal to no value to users, to leverage the domain’s previous reputation for success. These sites are not meant to be discovered by users through any means other than search engines. For instance, one example could involve hosting gambling-related content on a former secondary school website.

Scaled Content Abuse

The policy targets the generation of many pages, of which their primary purpose is to manipulate search rankings. This builds on the previous spam policy about automatically generated content and can include website owners mass-generating low-value AI content. However, it doesn’t have to involve the use of AI. Other examples include:

  • Scraping feeds, search results and other content to generate many pages where little value is provided.
  • Stitching and combining content from different web pages without adding value
  • Creating multiple sites with the intent of hiding the scaled nature of the content
  • Creating pages where the content makes little to no sense to the reader but contains search keywords. Otherwise known as keyword-stuffing.

 

Site Reputation Abuse

This is where third-party pages are published with little or no first-party involvement, with the view of manipulating search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site’s ranking signals and domain authority. Typically, these can include sponsored, advertising, partner or third-party pages which are independent of a site’s main purpose. For instance, a sports website providing guidance on weightlifting might feature a page authored by a ‘third party’ focusing on “workout supplement reviews,” with minimal or no input or supervision from the primary site. The objective is to manipulate search rankings by leveraging content that may not align with the site’s expertise or standards.

What you should do if your rankings drop

There are no specific actions so to speak, as you can’t definitively say whether a negative impact on your rankings is indicative of something wrong with your content. It’s also beneficial to wait for another core update, as improvements can occur between them. The overarching advice would be to focus on creating valuable, reliable and people-first content that considers E-E-A-T recommendations. In terms of the spam updates impacting rankings, of course, the advice is to adhere to the policies and not practice strategies that aim to manipulate search, rather than serve the end-user. However, if you’re intrigued, you can audit the drops. Take a look at which pages are most impacted and for what kind of searches, and self-assess those pages against these questions: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/fundamentals/creating-helpful-content.

 

A line graph showing PureWow's top 3 keyword rankings over the last 30 days

PureWow.com’s Losses In Top 3 Rankings Since March 6th

 

Why is this important?

In terms of content, there have been numerous complaints about search results getting worse, with big sites ranking over small sites, with listicles and sites like Reddit dominating search. A spokesperson for Google said, “People are really seeking out content that comes from other people with relevant experience” … “Our goal is to surface the best of the web”.

In terms of spammy link profiles, the aim is to avoid misleading and confusing visitors with content that ranks because it has manipulated search engines through things like site reputation abuse, for which they have different expectations. This ultimately undermines the goal of creating the best search experience and maintaining the integrity of search results. Essentially, creators and website owners should produce high-quality and original content that has real value to users.

What can we expect from the March 2024 core update?

While this is an ongoing process as Google continues to update its algorithms, we should expect search results that demonstrate a higher level of substance, relevance, and authority. This should come in the form of more helpful information from reliable websites ranking higher in the search results. Users should also more easily find websites that specialise in the topic and offer authentic guidance.

If you aim to boost your brand visibility, drive website traffic, earn quality backlinks, and enhance your authority with search engines like Google, prioritise integrating Digital PR into your SEO efforts. Craft a diverse and entirely spam-free Digital PR strategy, complemented by expertly curated, user-centric content on your website.

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