Google Core Update March 2024

On March 5, the first Google Core Update of 2024 was released and has promised a lot in terms of ensuring we are provided with the best possible quality of content when searching using Google. Cameron Hubbard explores what this means for SEO content.

New policies have been introduced to reduce the amount of spam on Google, mainly in the form of poor-quality websites that may appear when searching. It’s important to understand how this update aims to tackle these issues so that you can make sure that your content isn’t being mistaken for spam by Google and instead appears nearer the top of search results.

Google Core Updates

 

First of all, we’ll start with what a Core Update for Google is and what it entails. Google describes them as “significant, broad changes” to its search algorithms and systems. These changes can be anything from the search suggestions that drop down when you begin typing, all the way to the kinds of results you receive when you hit the search button, which is what the latest Google Core Update is all about. 

Google often changes its algorithms and policies with the intent of protecting users when they search, much like with Google’s E-E-A-T process, which we touched on in our previous blog. For this update though, the focus is simply on the quality of content and spam.

Unoriginal and unhelpful content

 

When you search for anything on Google, you have access to millions and sometimes billions of different web pages and hosts for the information you’re looking for. With figures that high, not all of those sources are going to be original, helpful or written to a high standard. Of course most of these will be hidden beyond the second page of Google search results, but there are going to be some that slip through the cracks and still manage to rank fairly highly, which the new Google Core Update is designed to reduce.

Google is taking findings from 2022 where the search engine’s ranking systems were tuned to reduce unhelpful and unoriginal content, and implementing them into the March Google Core Update to refine that ranking system further. The goal is to determine the difference between websites that are created with the pure intention to help someone, and those which are created to rank high on search engines.

The anticipated result will be a lower volume of low-quality content being presented to a user on Google when they complete a search, meaning that more search traffic will be sent to high-quality and helpful websites. Ultimately, this Google Core Update is expected to reduce low-quality and unoriginal content in search results by 40%.

Spam

 

Spam is more commonly associated with email, but can still find its way into your search results. Spam on Google mostly comes in the form of scaled content abuse, site reputation abuse and expired domain abuse which are methods of misleading users and failing to help people searching for specific queries.

Scaled content abuse refers to the use of automation to create a large number of web pages which display content that is unoriginal or low-quality, which is of no value to the users who may come across it. This new Google Core Update is aiming to give Google the ability to take action on this form of spam to reduce unhelpful pages generated on a large scale, so that users will be able to access those which are helpful and original without the possibility of landing on the former.

Alternatively, a website which is already established as one that produces good quality and original content may fall victim to site reputation abuse. This means low-quality content created by a third party will be hosted on a trusted website with the intent of confusing or misleading users. Google will now consider any low-quality, third-party content, which has obviously been generated to manipulate search rankings, as spam.

Also designed with the intent of manipulating search rankings is the tactic of expired domain abuse, where old and expired website domains are purchased for the sole reason of boosting the search ranking of unoriginal and low-quality content. Users may then assume any new content to be part of an older website which is unlikely. Thankfully though, Google’s March Core Update has already begun to be rolled out to start reducing these methods of spam, so you can search a bit more comfortably.

Looking beyond

 

Unlike with previous Google Core Updates, those who are already creating helpful and original content will not need to change anything in accordance with the update rollout. However, the update is likely to cause more noticeable fluctuations in Google’s search results rankings than with previous updates. But what of future updates?

With AI continuing to advance, seemingly with each day gone by, we can expect to see Google Core Updates like these becoming more in depth and focused on policing the kind of content that users are presented with at face value. So far over the past year, we have seen each Google Core Update increase in its focus to prevent spam and unoriginal content in search results, so we can assume this will be an ongoing theme with each update to combat spam produced using AI or otherwise.

These updates will of course make it harder generally for anyone to rank high on Google search results, but what if you’re creating content that you know is original, helpful and good quality, but it still ranks low? Well, Google has created a document detailing the kind of content you should be creating and how you should present it to avoid being thrown into the low-quality, AI-generated spam pile. This criteria will guide any creator to producing helpful, reliable and people-first content through self-assessment methods and tips on what to focus on or avoid. So, in this age of automation, we can hope to see more original and helpful content ranking higher on this search engine on a wider scale.

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Kirsty Nelms

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