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Google March Core Update 2024 Explained!

On March 5th, 2024, Google released its March 2024 Core Update, which involves changes to multiple ranking systems.

The update was rolled out to improve the quality of Search by demoting spammy content that was essentially made to manipulate rankings.

Put simply, the search technology company is updating its search ranking algorithm so it shows less scrappy content, improves the search experience, and ensures you’re satisfied by the web results.

I penned down this explainer to help you get a clearer understanding of this update, its impact, and what you should do as an SEO/web publisher.

All you should know about the core update

The Google March 2024 core update was released to improve the search experience by pushing out updates to different systems within the overall core ranking system.

Unlike previous search updates, this one is more complex since there will be updates to multiple ranking systems. And its rollout will last for about a month.

 

But what’s Google’s goal with this update?

Here are the words of Elizabeth Tucker (Director of Product at Google Search):

This update involves refining some of our core ranking systems to help us better understand if webpages are unhelpful, have a poor user experience, or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people. This could include sites created primarily to match very specific search queries.”

“We believe these updates will reduce the amount of low-quality content in Search and send more traffic to helpful and high-quality sites. Based on our evaluations, we expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%”.

During the rollout period, the search behemoth will make changes to some parts of its core ranking systems to better elevate content that’s helpful, reliable, and people-first. This is to reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%”.

The rollout may take 3-4 weeks.

And there’ll be more fluctuations in rankings within that period as different systems get updated.

New spam policies on the block

Aside from the March core update, Google released new spam policies and has updated its spam-fighting system.

These new policies are essentially set up to fight back against some abusive practices that web publishers indulge in to degrade the search experience.

“We’re making several updates to our spam policies to better address new and evolving abusive practices that lead to unoriginal, low-quality content showing up on Search. We’ll take action on more types of these manipulative behaviors starting today. While our ranking systems keep many types of low-quality content from ranking highly on Search, these updates allow us to take more targeted action under our spam policies.” — Excerpt from their spam policy announcement.

Here’s a rundown of the new spam policies.

Scaled content abuse

Before now, Google has had a long-standing policy against generating and publishing AI content.

They’ve specifically addressed the act of publishing low-quality or unoriginal AI content solely to manipulate search rankings.

With this new spam policy, the search giant is doubling down on their earlier stance and addressing site owners who have scaled content production at breakneck speed using generative AI models.

My Thoughts: Content made by AI models is often verbose and not near human creative ability. Everyone and their mom already knows that. So it’s a terrible practice to publish AI content as-is, just to save cost and scale faster.

No fact-checking. No proofreading. No refining of any sort. That’s an irresponsible use of artificial intelligence and should be frowned upon. I like Google’s stance on this and believe this spam policy is a needed change.

Site reputation abuse

This spam policy addresses a concept called Parasite SEO—a practice where a reputable site sells space to a third party to host low-quality content and capitalize on the reputable site’s strong reputation.

For instance, imagine a reputable university like Harvard publishing weight loss review content on its sub-domain (weightloss.havard.edu) just to leverage its existing brand reputation and sell stuff online.

With this new policy, Google now considers unrelated third-party content produced solely for ranking as SPAM.

But this particular policy will not happen immediately. It’s set to take effect from May 5, 2024, giving big sites involved enough time to take cover and do some house cleaning.

My Thoughts: Whether it’s creating Medium posts or LinkedIn articles just to gain better ranking, Parasite SEO is a concept that’s been fairly around for a while.

But recently it’s been taken to another level and abused by publishers looking to rank fast and make quick bucks.

Google’s approach to tackling this is commendable. It shows they’re well committed to an improved search experience for everyone.

However, pushing the deadline forward to May 5 is somewhat hypocritical.

 

Why are actions against small publishers immediate while big guys are given time to potentially hedge against any foreseeable punishment?

My best guess is Google avoids getting on the bad side of big media publishers to protect profit interests and avoid potential bad PR, hence the preferential treatment.

Expired domain abuse

Expired domains can be used to manipulate search rankings.

When a domain expires, it can be bought back, repurposed, and restored to leverage its link equity.

With the new spam policy, Google considers expired domains as spam, when done with the intent to publish low-quality content and manipulate ranking.

My Thoughts: The new spam change to fight expired domains is a great approach. Using another brand’s name and reputation to publish content is somewhat misleading.

Users will be confused into thinking the new content is still an extension of the older site. This ultimately leads to search disaffection and a bad experience.

Impact of Google March Core Update 2024

The March Core Update which fights against low-quality and unhelpful content is still rolling out currently but we’ve started to see its impact.

Here’s a brief rundown of its impact across the web:

Widespread removal from Google’s search index

One major impact of Google’s latest core update is the de-indexing of low-quality websites.

Ian Nutall who currently manages a database of about 49k sites has observed that 837 sites (about 1.7%) have been removed from Google’s index.

Since the start of the core update rollout, some web publishers have also publicly announced that their site was hit with a manual action and thereafter deindexed.

Loss of search traffic

Organic search search traffic of some websites has also been depleted since this update began rolling out.

The sudden loss of traffic is a result of Google automatically demoting sites with content they deem unhelpful to its users.

As the rollout continues in the next few weeks, the full impact of the March 2024 Core Update will become more evident.

Final thoughts + what you should do

[No] Thanks to the March 2024 Core Update rollout and new spam policies, the search landscape is currently rapidly evolving and going through a significant shift.

Sites engaged in AI spam and manipulative ranking practices are getting removed from the index, causing a huge loss of traffic and revenue.

What you should do:

  • Avoid irresponsible AI-spam practices
  • Scrutinize your existing content and ensure they’re actually helpful
  • If you have any AI-assisted content, edit them thoroughly and add original insights
  • Create helpful people-first content
  • Abide by SEO best practices

Remember, Google is forever staying true to its mission of showing the most helpful, people-first content on the web to its users.

That won’t be changing anytime soon.

So it is important to always align on the side of quality, originality, and helpfulness.

Create + publish helpful content, ALWAYS.

Play by Google’s rules.

Quality over quick profit.

Cheers to an improved search experience and making the web a better place.


Need SEO advice for your site or want to discuss how I can work with you to level up your search rankings? Kindly reach out to me via kola@kolafakunle.com.

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