Google Announced the March 2024 Broad Core Update, 3 New Spam Policies & What You Should Know

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

On March 5, 2024, Google announced a significant update to its ranking algorithm, aimed at elevating the quality of search results by targeting and reducing spammy content. This broad core update, accompanied by the introduction of three new spam policies, marks Google’s ongoing commitment to ensuring users access only the most relevant and high-quality information.

The March 2024 Core Update

What’s new?

Google’s core updates are not uncommon, but this one stands out as it was accompanied with a PR document from Google. Google confirmed that this update was a more complex one than the others and involved changes to multiple core systems. “It also marks an evolution in how we identify the helpfulness of content” – Google aims to diminish the visibility of unhelpful content by 40%, focusing on rewarding content that genuinely serves users’ needs

Google’s official document on the March 2024 update: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2024/03/core-update-spam-policies

How long does it take?

The rollout of this update is expected to span a month, with potential fluctuations in search rankings as the changes take effect. Website owners and SEO professionals should brace for these adjustments and monitor their sites’ performance closely.

What do you need to do?

Google’s guidance remains consistent: prioritise creating content that is engaging, informative, and user-centric. “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. For those that might not be ranking as well, we strongly encourage reading our creating helpful, reliable, people-first content help page.

If your content is already aligned with these principles, no immediate action is required. However, for those noticing a dip in rankings, it’s time to revisit Google’s content creation guidelines, improve & optimise existing content, or remove irrelevant, thin, or low-quality content that deems unhelpful for search users.

The Three New Spam Policies

With the latest update, Google introduces three policies targeting specific spam tactics:

  • Expired domain abuse: An expired domain is purchased and repurposed to manipulate search rankings by hosting content that provides little to no value to users. For example, if a domain that was previously used by a medical site and had an established domain authority is now repurposed to provide low quality casino-related content, it’s a violation of the spam policy.
  • Scaled content abuse: In response to the proliferation of AI-generated content, this policy aims to penalise sites that mass-produce low-quality content. Google never states that they are against AI content – in fact, as long as the content is helpful and valuable for users, it can rank well, no matter who writes it. However, a lot of companies are trying to manipulate search rankings and save on the cost of copywriting by producing mass content on scale with AI tools, resulting in a lot of low quality and unoriginal content that’s copied from other sources. Google has clarified that websites engaging in scaled content abuse will face penalties, regardless of whether the content is produced by humans, AI, or a combination of both.
  • Site reputation abuse: “When third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate Search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site’s ranking signals”. The third new policy is highly relevant for the websites engaging in the practice of acquiring paid backlinks in an attempt to gain authority from prominent websites that are not relevant to their niche. 

For instance, if your website focuses on the IT industry but you have guest posts on a well-known beauty domain, this could be considered an attempt to manipulate search rankings through irrelevant authority.

Observations from the Experts

Research by Originality.ai sheds light on the update’s impact, revealing that a small but significant portion of websites has been penalised for failing to adhere to Google’s quality standards. Notably, sites heavily reliant on AI-generated content have been among the most affected.

In study 1, they analysed 79,000 websites and found that 1446 (~1.9%) of them had been subjected to manual penalties by Google. Noticeably, three of these websites, which previously attracted over 1 million organic visitors each month, were entirely removed from Google’s search index, leading to a complete loss of their organic traffic.

Study 2 aimed to determine whether the manual penalties were related to the use of AI-generated content. They examined 100 recent articles from each of the 14 websites that had been de-indexed. They found that all of these sites contained some AI-generated posts, and half of them had between 90% to 100% of their content generated by AI, indicating a strong correlation between the use of AI-generated content and the imposition of manual actions by Google.

Conclusion

Google’s latest update underscores the search giant’s unwavering focus on content quality and the fight against spam. This commitment to promoting valuable content has been constant, but with advancements in AI and technology, Google’s algorithm has become significantly more sophisticated and adept at distinguishing between high-quality content. For website owners and SEOs, the message is clear: content that genuinely serves the interests of users will be recognised and rewarded over time. However, relying on low-quality AI-generated content and black-hat SEO tactics may offer short-term gains but carries the risk of severe penalties in the future. Numerous websites have been completely removed from Google’s index overnight due to past infractions. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritise ethical practices and quality content creation from the start.

SOUP is the leading independent digital agency in Australia, with the head office based in Sydney. Please get in touch with our SEO specialists if you need help or have any questions about leveraging the organic search channel for your business.

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