We understand the stress and worry a new Google Update brings to business owners and website managers – How will my website be affected? Will my content efforts and SEO improvements be for nothing?

Google’s algorithm updates are known for their ability to reshape the online visibility of a business. Each update brings certain ranking factors to the forefront, with the number one goal to provide Google users with the most relevant results every time they use the search engine. The March 2024 update involves both a Core Update and a Spam Update. Before we discuss what both of these updates mean for your business, let’s first clarify the difference between each.

What is a Core Update?

A Core Update is a significant change to Google’s ‘core’ search ranking systems. These updates are focused on improving the usefulness of search results for various industries and user intents. Core updates are extensive and usually have a noticeable impact on search results, unlike smaller updates that might not be as apparent.

What is a Spam Update?

Google’s Spam Updates target and penalise low-quality content. These updates improve Google’s existing spam-detecting systems and make them better at spotting ‘spammy’ content. Spam updates can lead to penalties for those violating Google Search guidelines and deliberately employing spam techniques.

Why are these updates important?

Nobody wants to do a Google Search and be met with a result that doesn’t help their query. It’s both a waste of time for the user and would portray Google as an unreliable search engine. As such, Google Updates ensure its users find exactly (or as close to) what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

The March 2024 Core Update alongside the Spam Update should not be dismissed as a small change. In fact, Google expects to reduce low-quality and unoriginal content in search results by 40%. It’s therefore crucial for businesses to understand the implications of these updates and adjust their strategies accordingly. If not, websites violating Google’s guidelines or employing questionable SEO tactics risk being completely removed from both the search results and the index.

The Google March 2024 Core Update – Explained

Start Date: 5th March 2024
End Date: Ongoing

The March 2024 Core Update is one of Google’s most extensive updates and is expected to take up to a month to roll out. This update is changing the algorithm that decides the order in which pages are ranked on Google. The primary focus is to promote high-quality web pages, with valuable and reliable content in search results. Note: we said web pages and not websites. While Google does have ‘signals’ that consider the overall helpfulness of a website, its core ranking system works primarily at page-level.

Improved Quality Ranking

One of the fundamental changes from the Core Update is the improved quality ranking. This ‘algorithmic enhancement’ aims to surface the most helpful information on the web while reducing unoriginal content in search results. It’s a big step towards a more user-centric approach in SEO. To adhere to the March 2024 Google updates, businesses and SEOs should focus on enhancing their website’s E-E-A-T:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

It’s worth noting that Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines puts ‘Trust’ firmly at the centre of it all. If your content fails to help users, it cannot be trusted and will fail to rank. In short, make sure your content is written for users, not search engines. A great practice to align with Google’s systems and ensure Google will reward your content is to answer Google’s ‘Who, How, and Why’:

Who (created the content): is it clear who authored your content?
How (the content was created): are you sharing details about the process involved in creating the content?
Why (was the content created): is your content being created primarily to help visitors to your site?

The Google March 2024 Spam Update – Explained

Start Date: 5th March 2024
End Date: 20th March 2024

Running parallel to the Core Update is the March 2024 Spam Update. This update, which took a total of 15 days to roll out, will put a stop to the visibility of ‘spammy’ and low-quality content on Google. The new spam policies focus on three main areas of concern: Scaled content abuse; Expired domain abuse; and Site reputation abuse. Both the scaled content and expired domain abuse policies are already in place, however the site reputation abuse policy is not expected to take effect until 5 May 2024.

Policy on Scaled Content Abuse

Before you worry you can no longer publish a collection of web pages at a time, ‘scaled content’ is about producing a lot of content with little to no relevance for users. As long as your content provides clear value to the user, you won’t be affected. According to Google’s spam policies, scaled content abuse includes:

  • Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding value
  • Creating multiple sites with the intent of hiding the scaled nature of the content
  • Using AI tools or similar to generate many pages without adding value for users

Policy on Expired Domain Abuse

Expired domain abuse is a tactic used to manipulate Search rankings. Google’s spam policy targets those buying expired domains that used to rank well, filling them with unhelpful or unrelated content, for the sole purpose of ending up on the first page of search results. Google explains this like:

  • Commercial medical products being sold on a site previously used by a non-profit medical charity
  • Affiliate content on a site previously owned by a government agency

Policy on Site Reputation Abuse

Site reputation abuse is when third-party content appears on a well-ranking site, with little to no involvement from the host site, to manipulate search rankings. This tactic is commonly referred to as Parasite SEO.

Although this particular spam policy won’t take effect until May, it looks like Google is already targeting ‘parasite’ pages. Stewart Vickers, also known as SEO Jesus, discovered that well-known websites with affiliate-type content have suffered a considerable drop in indexed pages since the Google Update started:

  • LinkedIn Pulse pages with the phrase ‘review’ dropped from 35K+ to 26K+.
  • Reddit pages mentioning ‘review’ plummeted from 576K+ to 400K+.

Google isn’t saying you can’t host pages on other sites – just make them relevant. For example, third-party content won’t be considered site reputation abuse on sites designed for user-generated content (forums and comment sections) or opinion pieces where the host site is closely involved.

3 Ways to Combat the March 2024 Google Updates

While these 2024 Google Updates can be daunting, there are specific steps you can take to try and adhere to Google’s guidelines and make your website as user-friendly as possible:

1️⃣ Avoid Low-Quality AI Content – Google’s algorithms are becoming increasing better at identifying and penalising content that appears to be AI-generated without substantial human oversight and contribution. However, that’s not to say you can’t use AI at all. Google recognises that “automation has long been used in publishing to create helpful content” and that appropriate use of AI won’t go against its guidelines. The key is to focus on creating high-quality content, with or without the help of AI, as long as it provides value to your audience.

2️⃣ Avoid Scaled Content Production – Google’s new update fights against the mass production of content, created by humans or AI, that lacks depth or relevance. It’s all about quality over quantity, and this should be taken into consideration for your 2024 SEO strategy. Make sure you’re crafting detailed, well-researched articles, blogs, and other content forms that meet the specific needs and questions of your target audience.

3️⃣ Avoid Blackhat SEO Tactics – Using manipulative techniques can result in penalties or de-indexing under Google’s latest update. Some well-known blackhat SEO tactics include keyword stuffing, cloaking and link schemes. We encourage you to use ethical SEO practices that aim for long-term success over quick and unsustainable ranking boosts.

3 Ways to Capitalise on the March 2024 Google Updates

Google’s March 2024 Updates don’t have to be a bad thing either. Sites who are actively investing in ethical SEO often reap the benefits of these updates. These sites capitalise on Google’s guidelines by adhering to following best practices:

1️⃣ Create Helpful Content – This can include how-to guides, tips and tricks, and industry insights. This goes back to the ‘Who, How, and Why’ that Google talks about. Why was the content created? If the clear frontrunner answer is to help your audience, you’re on the right track.

2️⃣ Create Reliable Content – Trust is a difficult thing to gain. To ensure your content is reliable we advise fact-checking, using up-to-date information and referencing credible sources. This is especially important for those writing about YMYL (“Your Money Your Life”) topics, such as finance and medicine.

3️⃣ Create People-First Content – Write for your audience, not search engines. When the updates were announced, Google reported that, “There’s nothing new or special that creators need to do for this update as long as they’ve been making satisfying content meant for people.” This means creating content that is engaging, easy to read, and relevant to your audience’s interests and needs.

Invest in SEO-Led Content After the March 2024 Google Updates

For those still uncertain about how to navigate their website strategy following the latest Google Updates, investing in SEO-led content can be a wise move. This approach involves creating user-first content with a strategic focus on SEO. SEO specialists can incorporate strategies that work with, not against, Google’s 2024 ranking systems.

If you want to prioritise your visitors while keeping your website’s visibility firmly in Google’s search results, please get in touch with our team.