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Understanding the March 2024 Google Core Update

The March 2024 Google Core Update is all about fighting spam. Spoiler alert: this one's more about what you should not be doing vs. what you should be doing.
March 2024 Google Core Update to fight spam

Changes to Search Engine Rankings to Fight Spam

The March 2024 Google Core Update is a tool to make our online searches better. The intent is to select the most helpful and new content for us to see first when we look at a particular SERP.

Well, that’s what they all say.

The core brand-promise of Google is that if your website doesn’t have good or new things for people to read, it might not show up easily in search results anymore.

But, if you always try to give helpful and unique information in your website, you may get more people visiting from search engines.

You may. As in, you probably won’t, but…you may.

What new, original and useful content can you share about HVAC installations? Electric guitars? The latest plastic surgery procedure trends?

It’s not so easy sometimes. But, that’s everyone’s problem.

The good news is, if you’re one of the very few who actually create great, new, helpful content, well, your search rankings (and visibility) are likely to rise.

Truth be told, many will simply give up and just buy more Google Ads, but this is much more expensive in the long run.

Keep readin’ to see how to help your website and yourself in the wake of this rather large shift. Spoiler alert: this one’s more about what you should not be doing vs. what you should be doing, the latter point Google has been hammering on for years.

The March 2024 Google Core Update focuses on reducing low-quality, unoriginal content and aims to show more useful and relevant content in search results. This update includes enhancements to the core ranking systems to improve the quality of search results, targeting clickbait content and spammy practices. Unsure of what to do? Contact the Bay Area’s best SEO agency for help.

Defining the March 2024 Google Core Update

The March 2024 Google Core Update is not your typical algorithm adjustment. This update consists of a core update and a separate spam update, each targeting different aspects of search and SEO practices.

The core update, as the name suggests, focuses on improving the overall quality and relevance of search results. However, this update is taking its sweet time to roll out. Unlike past updates that were PDQ, the March 2024 core update is taking a leisurely two to four weeks to fully implement. Google claims this is due to the update’s complexity and the extensive processing involved.

Or maybe they just wanted to give us all a little extra time to panic and second-guess our SEO strategies.

Now, let’s talk about the spam update. This is where Google gets serious about cracking down on shady, spammy content that’s been clogging up the search results. We’re talking about misleading content, clickbait, and the misuse of expired domains – all the tricks that some SEO “professionals” use to game the system.

The spam update also hasn’t fully rolled out at the time of this writing, so all those bold claims and assertions about its impact are premature.

Don’t jump to conclusions based on the initial fluctuations in your search rankings. I noticed that this site initially was “okay”, then took a little “hit”, and now is working it’s way back up the charts.

In any case, the full impact of the March 2024 update won’t be evident until both the core and spam updates have finished their rollouts.

Just because a SEO guru du jour is making bold claims about the update’s impact does not mean they know what they’re talking about. Until the dust settles and the update is fully implemented, take all those assertions with a grain of salt.

Basically, websites providing helpful, informative and especially unique and new content will rise in the search rankings, while those with low-quality or unoriginal material will see a decrease in visibility.

The update addresses several key areas critical for improving search result quality.

One crucial aspect is reducing unhelpful and poor user experience websites that feel like they were created solely for search engines. Google aims to display more useful and informative content to users, enhancing the overall search experience. This aligns with Google’s strong desire to ensure that users receive high-quality and reliable information when they use the search engine.

Ultimately, the better the search results, the more likely searchers will return to Google time and time again when they want to find something.

The focus is on promoting originality and relevance in online content. And of course, sponsored (Google Ads, which are paid for) results.

Understanding the March 2024 Google Core Update 1
The “best” results are obviously those which are paid for, right?

With an emphasis on reducing unhelpful, poor user experience websites, Google is taking a proactive (some might say “retroactive” since spam has been such a problem lately) approach towards elevating the quality of information available to its users.

For instance, websites engaging in manipulative behaviors that lead to low-quality content appearing in search results will face more targeted actions. Furthermore, websites hosting third-party low-value content primarily for ranking purposes will be considered spam under this update.

Similarly, expired domains purchased with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content will also be categorized as spam.

By implementing these changes, Google endeavors to significantly reduce the prevalence of low-quality, unoriginal content in search results — by up to 40%. Ultimately, the March 2024 core update aims to uphold the quality and helpfulness of search results while providing users with valuable and credible information.

These changes have brought about a fundamental transformation in how search results are presented and ranked. Now, let’s delve into the major changes enforced by this groundbreaking update.

The Role of Information Gain

One interesting patent to consider in light of the March 2024 Google Core Update is Google’s “Contextual estimation of link information gain” patent.

This patent, originally filed in 2018, describes techniques for Google’s automated systems to predict which documents will provide the most novel and valuable information to a user, based on the documents they’ve already viewed on a topic.

By calculating “information gain scores” using machine learning models, Google could potentially serve search results, answer questions, or make recommendations in a way that prioritizes truly new information over redundant content.

The judgement is whether or not Google can answer the question: “Is there anything new here?”

While there’s no definitive proof, it’s plausible that this patent could be part of the March 2024 core update. The timing lines up, and the focus on understanding the incremental value of new information fits Google’s increasing emphasis on serving relevant, high-quality content.

If this technology is indeed powering part of the latest update, it could mean Google is getting even better at judging the relative value of different pages on the same topic – a key step towards better serving users’ needs.

Major Changes Enforced by the Update

The first notable change is the heightened emphasis on content quality assessment.

There’s a ton of crap out there right now. Searchers don’t like it. Google don’t like it.

The update has refined Google’s ranking system to better discern whether a webpage genuinely provides valuable information or if it’s simply created for the purpose of pleasing search engines. This means that webpages with minimal engagement or those that deliver unsubstantial value to users will likely be devalued in search rankings.

Understanding the March 2024 Google Core Update 2
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As part of this refinement, Google is aiming to reduce unoriginal and low-quality content – aligning with their larger push for more helpful and relevant content for users.

In effect, this means that websites with thin or recycled content, outdated or recycled news, and pages offering little to no real value are likely to see a decline in their search visibility.

This is a critical shift in perspective, prioritizing the interests and satisfaction of the end user over webpages engineered specifically to rank higher in search results. It’s essentially a move towards ensuring that the primary motivation behind content creation is to genuinely serve and inform the audience rather than merely appealing to search algorithms.

Spam Policy Strengthening

Another crucial aspect of this update is Google’s stronger stance on spam policy.

Google has fortified its spam policies in an effort to combat low-quality and unoriginal content along with those doggoned manipulative behaviors aimed at artificially inflating search rankings. Specifically targeted are expired domains repurposed for spam and practices such as link schemes and other manipulative tactics.

This reinvigorated spam policy underscores Google’s commitment to curbing abusive practices and ensuring that search results are not cluttered with irrelevant or misleading content. By taking stronger action against deceptive tactics, Google is working to maintain the integrity of its search results, safeguarding its users from falling prey to misleading or untrustworthy information.

It’s all part of Google’s continuous evolution towards providing a safer and more reliable virtual landscape for online users.

Predicting the Impact on Search Results

Understanding the March 2024 Google Core Update 3
You’re in for a bumpy ride, spammers!

It’s anticipated that these updates will lead to a noticeable decrease in the visibility of low-quality and unoriginal content in search results.

This means that when you search for something, you’re more likely to see helpful information from reliable websites rather than affiliate spam on Reddit (er, I mean, content that’s there simply for the sake of attracting clicks.)

The reduction of approximately 40% in low-quality, unoriginal content will lead to a higher likelihood of coming across websites that prioritize providing valuable, genuine, and insightful content. This can enhance the overall user experience, as users are directed towards more helpful and informative sources.

For instance, if you were to search for “how to clean your mouse” after the update, you’d be more likely to find websites that genuinely specialize in the topic and offer authentic guidance rather than those attempting to manipulate search traffic without suitable expertise or credibility.

Understanding the March 2024 Google Core Update 4
Because everyone knows it’s a better experience to get your info from a Featured Snippet!

Overall, the mission is good. However, experience has taught us that Google is never as good at actually implementing what they say they are going to do vs. editorializing about it.

Increased Substance in Search Results

Users can expect to encounter search results that exhibit a deeper level of substance, relevance, and authenticity. The update is designed to enforce better practices for surfacing comprehensive and accurate information, thus enhancing the value provided by search results.

For example, if you were searching for “best local restaurants,” after the update, your search results may display more well-researched local guides from reputable sources and less generic listings from less credible platforms.

Meaning, all you’ll see are Yelp listings, because you know, no one fibs on Yelp!

Understanding the March 2024 Google Core Update 5

By reducing the visibility of content created solely for search engine visibility, the update aims to elevate the quality of search results by prioritizing genuine expertise and insights over manipulative tactics. In turn, this creates a more trustworthy, valuable, and satisfying experience for users seeking information on various topics.

The shift away from low-quality, unoriginal content emphasizes Google’s commitment to improving the overall quality of its search results, ultimately aiming to provide a more enriching and reliable experience for users.

Identifying Affected Parties: Who Are the Losers?

Websites engaging in manipulative behaviors to boost their search rankings are likely to face challenges with their visibility. This includes those using expired domains for low-quality content, creating scaled content for ranking manipulation, and hosting third-party low-value content primarily for ranking purposes without proper oversight. But who exactly are these affected parties? Let’s dive deeper.

Businesses Relying on Expired Domain Abuse

Expired domain redirects involve purchasing defunct domains with existing backlinks and redirecting them to a target website to boost its link profile and search engine rankings.

While this tactic may provide a temporary SEO boost, it’s a risky strategy that goes against Google’s guidelines and best practices. Google’s algorithms are becoming increasingly adept at identifying and penalizing manipulative practices like expired domain redirects, especially when the redirected domains are not relevant to the target website’s content.

Websites that rely heavily on this tactic may face manual penalties or algorithmic devaluations, leading to a significant drop in search visibility.

Websites Involved in Scaled Content Abuse

Next, websites involved in scaled content abuse might experience significant setbacks as well.

Scaled content abuse occurs when websites produce a large volume of low-quality or duplicative content across multiple pages with the primary goal of influencing search rankings. With Google’s emphasis on promoting helpful, reliable, people-first content, websites that rely on scaled content for ranking manipulation are likely to be adversely affected by the update.

This one I’d really like to see to combat so-called “pSEO”, or Programmatic SEO, AKA pure spam drivel.

For instance, imagine a website that churns out dozens of nearly identical articles targeting different keywords in an attempt to manipulate search rankings. Such practices go against Google’s push for high-quality, informative content that genuinely benefits users.

As a result, websites resorting to scaled content abuse may find their visibility dwindling in search results as the update continues to roll out.

Websites Hosting Third-Party Low-Value Content

Moreover, websites hosting third-party low-value content predominantly for the purpose of boosting their own rankings without adequate oversight could face scrutiny and repercussions from the update.

My sources report that means 94% of the internet is going away.

Just kidding, but most websites, even without meaning to, host low-value content.

Either way, it underscores the importance of maintaining stringent quality control measures over all hosted content.

Whether it’s guest posts or sponsored articles, you’ll want to ensure that any external contributions align with Google’s standards is crucial in safeguarding a website’s search visibility in the wake of algorithm updates.

As Google continues its focus on elevating useful and reliable content while diminishing the influence of low-quality and spammy practices, affected parties must reassess their strategies and prioritize crafting valuable, user-centric experiences to adapt to the evolving search landscape.

Preparations for Webmasters and Website Owners

As a webmaster or website owner, your online presence is crucial. With the March 2024 Google Core Update in mind, it’s essential to take proactive steps to ensure your website is well-prepared to maintain or improve its search engine ranking.

One of the first steps you should take is conducting a thorough review of your website’s content.

Oh Gawd, are you saying I have to read all that crap?

Well, kind of, yes.

You need to be sure that each piece of content on your website offers real value to your audience.

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Reviewing and updating outdated content (articles about how hard things will be during the pandemic for example), enhancing existing material, and removing any content that serves no purpose other than attempting to manipulate search rankings are all crucial actions.

Authentic and useful content is not only beneficial for your site’s ranking but also for providing value to your audience.

Compliance with spam policies is another important consideration. It’s vital to review and adhere to updated spam policies to avoid penalties or a decline in search rankings.

You vil comply, yes?

This means refraining from manipulative behaviors aimed at artificially boosting rankings and avoiding the use of expired domains for spam purposes.

It’s important to remember that the goal isn’t just to comply with regulations, but also to create a user-friendly experience while making sure that your website maintains a high-quality standard, which aligns with Google’s intention of providing users with valuable and relevant information.

(In my experience, this is a bridge too far for 99% of the businesses out there, who are trying to run their businesses without Google telling them how to do it).

Keep an eye out for any keyword stuffing or over-optimization within your content. These practices are not only discouraged by search engines but can also lead to poor user experiences. Aim for a natural use of keywords and prioritize creating content that answers users’ inquiries effectively.

Regularly reviewing the search appearance of your website is just as important as maintaining the quality of its content.

Ensure that rich snippets, page titles (which Google rewrites, but do it anyway), meta descriptions (which Google also rewrites, but yeah, do the work anyway), and other elements are optimized both for search engines and user understanding. This will help increase your website’s visibility in search results and drive higher organic traffic.

By following these steps proactively and prioritizing user experience alongside search engine optimization efforts, webmasters and website owners can position themselves well for success in light of algorithm updates such as this gnarly March one.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of SEO strategies after algorithm updates, let’s shift our focus to the considerations that are paramount in ensuring sustained visibility and growth in search rankings.

SEO Considerations in the Wake of the Update

After Google’s latest core update, there are important concepts to focus on to stay ahead in search engine rankings.

It’s essential to understand that the changes being implemented are part of a larger effort by Google to enhance search quality and meet user expectations. The update combines various improvements and adjustments to Google’s search algorithms, all aimed at providing more relevant and trustworthy results to users.

One key aspect of this update is its focus on content quality, regardless of the content creation methods employed.

Whether content is generated by humans or through automation, the emphasis is on ensuring that it provides genuine value to users and satisfies their search queries effectively.

This means that publishers and content creators need to prioritize creating informative, engaging, and relevant content that aligns with their site’s reputation and purpose. You could think of this as the site’s core topic.

It’s worth noting that the March 2024 update is not an isolated event but rather part of an ongoing series of enhancements to Google’s search quality. Prior notable updates include the May 2022 core update and the October 2023 spam update, both of which aimed to tackle issues like site reputation abuse and low-quality content.

As Google continues to refine its algorithms, publishers across various platforms – from WordPress blogs to Instagram influencers and ecommerce sites – will need to stay attuned to these changes and adapt their content strategies accordingly.

So What Should I Do To Stay Competitive In Google?

The first thing to remember is that high-quality content—meaningful, informative, and valuable information—has become even more critical than before. This means your content needs to be original, relevant, and user-centric to match the objectives set by this update.

Or you could just buy Google Ads and forget the whole thing.

To put it into perspective for website owners, it means acknowledging what your users want. What are they searching for? How can you answer their questions or provide solutions to their problems better than anyone else? That’s what good content is all about.

By understanding and addressing user intent effectively, you can create compelling content that meets their needs, leading to improved search engine rankings.

Ethical SEO practices are also key. It’s time to really focus on doing things right rather than trying to trick the system. Manipulative tactics may work for a few days or weeks, but ultimately flame out as part of the next update.

So how do you do SEO “the right way”?

First and foremost, it’s about putting your users first. This means ensuring transparency, following search engine guidelines, and avoiding any practices that seek to exploit loopholes in algorithms. Prioritizing user experience and content quality will go a long way in keeping your site relevant and valuable after this update.

For instance, consider a business offering home renovation services.

Instead of stuffing your website with keywords aiming at just ranking higher in search results, think about what would truly be helpful for someone looking for home renovation advice. Creating detailed, step-by-step guides or sharing before-and-after images of projects could offer valuable insights that both engage potential customers and satisfy search engine requirements.

The good news is, if you do such a thing, it can really help.

In light of these essential considerations, seeking guidance from a reputable SEO agency such as Boomcycle Digital Marketing can provide actionable insights on optimizing your website post-Google Core Update.

Staying ahead of the game involves adhering to the best SEO practices and fostering genuine user value.

For further assistance in navigating through these changes and optimizing your online presence, consider giving us a shout, and get a no-charge website analysis.

We’ll see you on Page 1!

One Response

  1. What would really fix search is if google stopped assuming what we meant and instead searched for the words we put in the search bar.

    Did you mean?
    No I did not. If I meant that I would have typed it.

    Search: “We heart katamari physical edition”
    Return: “fortnite kardashian taylor swift post malone mr beast”

    That’s hyperbole of course, but it’s not that far off most occasions. Search for oranges and it shows recipes using apples, pears, or bananas, etc.

    Another fun one is try searching for suicide on youtube. It returns absolutely nothing and tries to pop up a crisis hotline instead. So if you’re looking for info about the DC movie, a band (tendencies or silence), or general stories from one of your true crime style youtubers, make sure you include the second word or a phrase to that or it absolutely breaks. I see the sentiment behind this, but in the same vein, people who actually needed help with such a thing would most likely just change the search term to a popular code word. That’s why so many people use the uneducated sounding term “unalive” to avoid demonitization.

    If we can say what we mean and mean what we say, I hope our search could give us the courtesy to return what we search for rather than what it thinks we want.