Google’s Core Update: March 2024 Algorithm Update and Your Site

March 17, 2024

“Today we announced the March 2024 core update & new spam policies that, in combination, are designed to show less content made to attract clicks and more content that people find useful.” – Google Search Central

Recently, Google announced one of their biggest algorithm updates in years. The platform goes through many updates, but any time a major algorithm update is released, Google announces this so that business owners, website managers, and marketing folks can be aware of the potential impacts and fluctuations in traffic that may occur with websites.

While there have been many core Google updates throughout the years, this recent one has had a big impact, leaving some websites with tanking traffic, deindexed URLs, and manual actions against them. Let’s discuss what this new update is about and why it’s impacting so many websites online.

What is the Impact of the New Google Core Update (March 2024)?

Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product for Search at Google published a new post for Google titled “New ways we’re tackling spammy, low-quality content on Search”.

Google expects this recent update to result in reducing the amount of low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.

“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%.” – Google

They are looking to boost and reward sites that are helpful, provide a better user experience, and are created for humans versus search engines while reducing visibility for spam or unhelpful sites with shady SEO practices.

What are the Updates to the New Spam Policy?

New spam policies target scaled content abuse, site reputation abuse, and expired domain abuse.

“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.”

Scaled Content Abuse

“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.”

Site Reputation Abuse

“For example, a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefits from the site. Such content ranking highly in Search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have vastly different expectations for the content on a given website.”

Expired Domain Abuse

expired domains are bought online and reused in order to try to manipulate rankings for lower quality content. Here is an example Google gave: 

“For example, someone might purchase a domain previously used by a medical site and repurpose that to host low quality casino-related content, hoping to be successful in Search based on the domain’s reputation from a previous ownership.”

They go on to clarify that recycling an old domain for new, quality content meant to be human-first is perfectly fine.

How Long Will this Update Take to Roll Out?

Google has stated that the update will take about a month, most likely. Business owners and web managers should stay on top of their Google Search Console notifications and fluctuations during this time. If you don’t have Google Search Console installed and turned on for your website, reach out for a quick call and I’ll talk you through this tool and why it’s important.

“As this is a complex update, the rollout may take up to a month. It’s likely there will be more fluctuations in rankings than with a regular core update, as different systems get fully updated and reinforce each other.” – Google

Can You Create Content Using AI?

How your content is produced is not the target of this update, but rather the quality and helpfulness of the content itself. You can read about Google’s statement on using AI to generate content and determine for yourself how heavily you’d like to rely on AI when creating your content. A unique perspective and expertise, experience, authority, and trust (E-E-A-T) will always be rewarded over fluffy, inadequate, low-quality content. Using AI to help create your content isn’t “bad” but it can be if you’re relying too heavily on it, not speaking in your own voice, not giving a unique perspective, copying it word for word, and not fact checking the details. 

Why You Should Care about Your Entire Website (Not Just Your Most Important Pages)

If you’ve looked into SEO you probably know it can be time consuming or pricey to try and optimize your entire website. It can be tempting to prioritize certain pages while leaving other parts of your site sparse or missing metadata in order to cut costs.

But, it’s important to remember that the entire website matters when it comes to crawling and indexing, though Google may rank parts of your site while not ranking others. This is why technical SEO encompasses your entire site, not just one section or page.

“A website’s quality can impact the crawling process, even for new sites. For example, if a new page is discovered through sitemaps, Google will look back on the quality of the previously crawled homepage to decide whether to crawl the new page.” – Search Engine Journal

This is why it’s so important to have your entire site optimized for good user experience, not just one page you want to see ranking.

How To Improve the Quality of Your Content

With these new updates, it’s obvious that it’s worth the effort to take a step back and review the quality of the content on your website. If you’re producing original content meant for humans, you should be just fine as far as penalties go. But is your content arranged in a way that makes sense (semantic HTML) and does it have the appropriate (and optimized) metadata so that search engines and people can find it online? Here are a few next steps to get you moving in the right direction if you’re not sure where you stand:

Audit Your Content

One way you can improve your site is by removing low-quality content. Yes, that’s right. If your content isn’t doing anything for you – remove it. More is not always better. A blog audit can help determine if content is cannibalizing, not ranking, thin, outdated, or redundant. Taking a look at your content strategy from a high-level and ensuring you hit all areas of your client’s search journey is vital. 

Ensure Your About Page/Bio is Up to Date

If you are writing about important topics related to your business, you’ll want to be sure you have a thorough about page or bio somewhere that gives your qualifications. This is especially true if you are writing about YMYL (your money your life) content. According to Google, YMYL content is any topic that could significantly affect a person’s “health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.” Read more about guidelines for this type of content here.

Ensuring that your content is written by or reviewed by people who are qualified to talk about the subject is imperative for visibility and authority.

“It should be clear who is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page, even if through an alias or username” – Google Quality Rater Guidelines, Nov 2023

Review High Ranking Content by Competitors

Wondering how long your blog needs to be? Google has stated that content length is not a ranking factor, but they are more concerned with depth of content. Do you cover the topic fully and answer user questions? Can users get a great experience and find what they are looking for within your piece of content? A competitive and content gap analysis can show you what you’re missing that competitors are covering, including keywords, headers, FAQs and more. 

Give Your Individual Perspective (Or the Perspective of Others)

E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trust) are a huge part of Google’s quality rater guidelines. While the about page or author/reviewer information is important, displaying experience and expertise on a topic is key. If you, your team, or someone who has used your business or services can include a unique, first-hand perspective or experience in your content, you’re more likely to meet the conditions of these guidelines.

Answer Questions Your Readers Would Ask

While keyword research is important because we need to know what people are actually typing into the search bar, it’s important that the keyword isn’t just stuffed into every nook and cranny in your content piece. The most annoying thing is search for “unique pizza toppings” to get some ideas for your next fun home-made pizza and getting a blog that details, “What are Unique Pizza Toppings?” and “Why Use Unique Pizza Toppings.” Users just want the toppings. Skip the stuffed headers. Use the keyword in the appropriate places on your blog (this is detailed in my SEO Basics Workshop), but don’t go crazy stuffing your headers and content and causing a terrible user experience.

Ensure You Have a Solid SEO Strategy 

If you have someone handling your SEO, ask your SEO team about their strategy, tactics, and methods. Ensure your website is following Google’s guidelines for quality content. Gone are the days of quick rankings with black-hat SEO tactics and shady tricks. Now more than ever it’s important to build quality content for users, not for robots. A long-term SEO strategy will take effort and time and it will be well worth it in the end as Google rewards those who take time to create helpful and thorough quality content.

Need Help With Your SEO Strategy? 

At Well Optimized SEO, we offer blog audits and competitive analysis within our strategy packages so you’re not just getting “keywords” each month. You’re getting a thorough and individualized strategy that is not only meant to boost your website traffic, but also user experience, conversions, and sales.

Schedule Your Free Consultation and let’s chat about your SEO strategy!