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Google’s March Core Update 2024: Content & Spam Update

Google is now unleashing multiple measures whose objective is to improve the quality of its search results commencing today. Google is going to release the March 2024 Google Updates core update as well as the March 2023 spam update. When it comes to Google’s overall core ranking system, Google’s helpful content system has been incorporated into it. 

In addition to this, Google has announced several new as well as updated spam policies, which will commence enforcement through automated algorithms and manual actions.


Bigger than Before - the March 2024 Core Update

It is today that Google has started to roll out its first core update of the year, and also the first algorithm update of the year is the March 2024 core update. 

Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product and Search at Google, told Search Engine Land, “This update will help reduce the unhelpful content in the Google search by 40%”. 


We expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%,” Tucker wrote.


This rollout of the March 2024 update can take up to 1 month. Multiple systems will have to be updated and released during such an update.


This update, when compared to the previous core updates, is going to include enhancements to a number of components of the overall core system. This current march update is going to have a number of updates within it. As the update impacts several systems within the core update, Google will be pushing out updates to those systems in the coming weeks. 


Chris Nelson from the Search Quality team at Google is of the opinion that “The March 2024 core update is “more complex update than our usual core updates,”

He added, “Google made changes to multiple core systems”.


The reason why Google is enhancing its core ranking systems is to provide more helpful results using a variety of innovative signals and approaches.


In fact, since Google is updating multiple core systems, “there will be more fluctuations in rankings than with a regular core update, as different systems get fully updated and reinforce each other,” Nelson added.


Google held that this update has refined how it understands which web pages are likely to be “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,” Google said.

Helpful Content update now to be a part of the core updates

With the help of the March 2024 core update, Google will stop announcing new helpful content updates since the helpful content system has been incorporated into the core update system. 


The last helpful content update, September 2023 helpful content update was a large-level update which impacted a considerable number of sites. Positively, some of the sites impacted by it will see relief from this March 2024 core update, but it is hard to comment on the same at this point.


But it is not just the helpful content classifiers that are the only systems part of the March 2024 core update. In fact, Google said that the working process for the March 2024 core update started along with the 2022 helpful content update. 

What is to be done if the rankings drop?

What is to be done if the rankings drop?

The advice that Google has given for those who have been adversely affected by a core update in the past is as follows:

  • As such there are zero specific actions to take in order to recover. A negative rankings impact may not signal anything wrong with your pages. 
  • Answer the list of questions mentioned here in order to evaluate your content quality. 
  • Wait for another core update. You may see some improvement between the core updates, but the biggest changes will occur after another core update. 


In short, content should be written for the people and not be ranked in the search engines. 


“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,” Nelson explained.

March 2024 spam updates

Google even announced the release of new spam updates, which it is calling the March 2024 spam update and the spam policy updates, in order to complement the release of the March 2024 core update. 


Two of these spam updates are going to result in both automated as well as manual actions this week. The site reputation abuse spam update will go into effect in two months, starting from 5th May to 5th May 2024.  

Scaled content abuse search spam

The scaled content abuse search spam is considered as an update to the old spammy automated generated content policy which now goes beyond just the spammy auto-generated content. It now includes any method of producing the content at a scale for search engine ranking. 


Google said that producing the content at scale in order to boost the search rankings, whether with automation, people, or a combination, is against its rules and regulations. 


  • “This will allow us to take action on more types of content with little to no value created at scale, like pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content,” Google wrote.


What are the examples of the pages that pretend to have the answers but fail to deliver? Tucker explained that those are the pages that start by stating they will answer your question, then lead you on the low-quality content and never end up giving you the answer to your questions: 

  • “Our long-standing spam policy has been that use of automation, including generative A.I., is spam if the primary purpose is manipulating ranking in Search results. The updated policy is in the same spirit as our previous policy and based on the same principle. It’s been expanded to account for more sophisticated scaled content creation methods where it isn’t always clear whether low-quality content was created purely through automation.”
  • “Our new policy is meant to help people focus more clearly on the idea that producing content at scale is abusive if done for the purpose of manipulating search rankings and that this applies whether automation or humans are involved.”


With the help of algorithmic spam systems and manual actions, Google will now start to take action against scaled content abuse. 

Expired domain abuse is now considered spam.

“Expired domain abuse” – the practice of buying expired domains and repurposing them with the “intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content” – is now considered spam, Tucker said.


Such a technique might trick the users into thinking the new content on a domain is a part of the old site, which it might not be. This is a very clear message for content creators not to purchase expired domains with the intention of repurposing those domains with the objective of ranking them in Google searches. 

Site reputation abuse (aka Parasite SEO) is spam, too.

Google now has a new policy for “site reputation abuse”, which some SEOs have been calling “Parasite SEO”, where third-party sites tend to host the low-quality content which is provided to them by third parties to hold onto the ranking power of those third-party sites. 

Google explained that “a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefit from the site.”

Google added, “Such content ranking highly in Search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have vastly different expectations for the content on a given website,”

This new policy clarifies that “third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes and without close oversight of a website owner to be spam.”

However, this new policy does not consider all third-party content to be violative. Google said that “only that which is hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate search rankings.”

The example that Google offered is: “Many publications host advertising content that is intended for their regular readers, rather than to manipulate Search rankings primarily. Sometimes called ‘native advertising’ or ‘advertorial,’ this kind of content typically wouldn’t confuse regular readers of the publication when they find it on the publisher’s site directly or when arriving at it from Google’s search results.”

Google was of the opinion that they are giving a minimum of two months advance notice of such a policy and will start to take both automated as well as manual actions on the abuse in the two months.

Over the past number of months, there have been numerous complaints as well as studies about the Google search getting worse. Content on the website is simply just not great, and Google actually has been ranking big sites over the sites smaller in size where, as Reddit recently has been dominating the Google search results. 

Google gave the reply that these rankings changes had been done prior to any relationship with Reddit. 

The spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “We’ve been working on making it easier to find content that reflects first-hand perspectives across all types of sites in our search results, including hundreds of forum sites. This ranking improvement was launched before and is independent of the Reddit partnership.” 

The criticism that the Google Search Results quality is not par is not something new. They echo what former search engineer land editor Danny Sullivan had written back in the year 2017 in A Deep Look at Google’s biggest-ever Search Quality Crisis.

Google’s official search Liaison, Sullivan, has been promising this as well as future updates that address the quality issue. In the month of November, Google is bound to buckle up. The company reiterated this in January. And again in February.

Is this the Google update that we all have been waiting for?

Google has also updated its search quality raters guidelines-based PDF by updating the characteristics of the untrustworthy pages and even added illustration-based examples in March 2024 Google Updates. 

Google will now be posting in its Search Status Dashboard when the updates are done, and we will be posting a story about the same here as well. 

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