Google Core Update March 2024: What Content Creators Need to Know

On March 5, 2024, Google announced the March 2024 core update, which is “designed to improve the quality of Search by showing less content that feels like it was made to attract clicks, and more content that people find useful.”

At the same time, they also announced their new spam policy, which aims “to better handle the practices that can negatively impact Google’s search results.”

In this article, we’ll summarize the key aspects of the Google algorithm core update and offers tips for improving site rankings in light of these changes.

What This Google Core Update Is About

The purpose of Google’s March 2024 core update and new spam policies is to improve search quality by prioritizing useful content and deterring poor content, such as click-bait titles or obviously AI-generated content.

According to Neil Patel: “Now what I think is going to happen is you are going to see it harder to rank from just producing content that contains regurgitated information, which is what AI mainly creates.”:

NP Digital bar chart on AI vs human content in light of the March 2024 Google algorithm core update

And the results of this:

NP Digital bar chart on traffic generated for AI vs human content in light of the March 2024 Google algorithm core update

Note that the full rollout may take up to a month. Check here to see the current status and/or when the update is finished.

More Details About the Google Core Update

The March core update is comprised of two parts:

March 2024 Core Update

March 2024 Core Update

The March 2024 core update is more complex than Google’s usual core updates, as it involves changes to multiple core systems. This update entails significant algorithmic changes that impact many sites, leading to fluctuations in rankings, and focuses on evaluating content helpfulness through innovative signals, thus moving away from single-system reliance.

Here, “innovative signals” refers to new and advanced indicators or factors – such as the machine learning model – that Google’s algorithm uses to better assess the helpfulness and quality of content. By leveraging machine learning technology, Google can better analyze and rank content based on its relevance and value to users. This new model moves away from traditional metrics like keywords and backlinks and towards a more sophisticated evaluation process.

Note: Google will stop announcing new helpful content updates, since the helpful content system has been incorporated into this March 2024 core update system.

March 2024 Spam Update

Regarding the new spam policies – they target three practices: expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse to combat spammy tactics.

1) Expired Domain Abuse

“Where an expired domain name is purchased and repurposed primarily to manipulate Search rankings by hosting content that provides little to no value to users.

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.”

2) Scaled Content Abuse

“When many pages are generated for the primary purpose of manipulating Search rankings and not helping users. This abusive practice is typically focused on creating large amounts of unoriginal content that provides little to no value to users, no matter how it’s created.

A few examples of scaled content abuse include:

  • Using generative AI tools or other similar tools to generate many pages without adding value for users.
  • Scraping feeds, search results or other content to generate many pages (including through automated transformations like synonymizing, translating, or other obfuscation techniques), where little value is provided to users.
  • Creating many pages where the content makes little or no sense to a reader but contains search keywords.”

3) 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.

For example, many publications host advertising content that is intended for their regular readers, rather than to primarily manipulate Search rankings. 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.”

Violations may result in penalties or removal from search results.

Note: Google’s “new policy doesn’t consider all third-party content to be a violation, only that which is hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate Search rankings.”

You may also like: Improving Site Ranking After the Google Core Update (Nov. 2023)

Impact of the Core Update

Because this update aims to reduce low-quality, unoriginal content and prioritize more useful and relevant content in search results, it’s had a significant impact on a lot of websites. Many are experiencing fluctuations in rankings and some are even being deindexed from Google Search.

Websites are facing penalties or are being removed from search results for violations such as:

  • Hosting third-party, low-value content primarily for ranking purposes
  • Purchasing expired domains to boost the search ranking of low-quality content

From Lily Ray on Twitter:

Jacqueline Foster
Demand Generation Marketing, Lever.co

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Has Your Site Been Impacted by This Update?

The easiest ways to check if your site was impacted by the Google update, is to monitor your site in Google Search Console and look for dips in the search results performance.

We noticed that our site took a small dip from this core update but then quickly rebounded:

GSC chart showing Single Grain dip and rebound from March 5 core update

Or you can look for your website in Google by typing “site:website.com” and see if you are still showing up in the search results:

Screenshot of search results showing the Single Grain site still appearing -- good news after the March 2024 Google algorithm core update

Another place to check if your site was impacted by the Google update is Semrush Sensor. If you are tracking your website with this tool, you’ll get specific insights rather than just the overview.

Here’s how Semrush calculates the Sensor score: “We check the search results for a fixed set of keywords on a daily basis and measure how much has changed at the end of the day. The exact method is a proprietary formula, but the total value reflects the total search volatility for the day.”

This chart is for all categories/industries – as you can see, overall there have been “position changes for numerous sites”:

Semrush Sensor - chart showing SERP volatility for last 30 days, post March 2024 Google algorithm core update

In contrast, this chart is for a client of ours in the technology category – as you can see, for them this is just “another ordinary day”:

Semrush Sensor chart showing SERP volatility for last 30 days - client 1

And this chart is for a client of ours in the food and drink category – as you can see, for them “it’s a Googlequake”:

Semrush Sensor chart showing SERP volatility for last 30 days - client 2

Actions/Advice for This Update

The advice here is simple and common sensical: Produce genuinely useful content, align with Google’s guidelines, and monitor rankings during and after the update rollout.

If you’ve been doing this, then Google’s advice is a no-brainer:

“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.”

If your site was impacted by the March 2024 core update, here are a few things you can do to recover:

  • Fix the Problem Pages: The first step is to identify the pages that have been negatively affected by the update and then get to work on improving them by making them better quality, higher relevance and with more authority. Create fresh, high-quality content that is well-researched, accurate and provides value to your readers.
  • Improve Technical SEO: Fixing technical SEO aspects like site speed, user experience and overall website performance can also positively impact rankings.
  • Optimize the Content for User Intent: This is kind of obvious, but you just need to match your content with user intent. How do you do this? By providing valuable and relevant information that answers the users’ queries.
4 Types of Search Intent

For sites that are no longer ranking as well, read Google’s creating helpful, reliable, people-first content help page to learn how to avoid creating search engine-first content.

Remember, recovery involves focusing on high-quality content and user satisfaction:

10X Content short

Last Word on the Google Core Update

Google is sending a very loud message regarding its March 2024 core update plus new spam policy about improving the quality of search results by prioritizing content that is genuinely useful to users.

For website owners and content creators, the solution is clear: Just focus on producing great content for people, not algorithms. That means exercising caution when it comes to writing click-bait titles or using AI-generated content.

While AI can be a powerful tool, it’s essential to ensure that such content is carefully reviewed, refined and supplemented with human insight (and editing!) to meet Google’s standards for quality and usefulness.

If you’re already producing content that genuinely serves the user’s needs and adheres to Google’s enhanced quality standards, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Summary: The top 5 things you need to know about Google’s March 2024 core update are:

  • Significant Overhaul: The March 2024 core update represents a significant overhaul of Google’s search algorithms, and its goal is to enhance the user experience by prioritizing original, high-quality content.
  • Targeting Unhelpful Content: The update targets unhelpful, low-quality and unoriginal content, with the goal of reducing its presence in search results by up to 40%.
  • Impact on Rankings: Websites featuring unhelpful or low-quality content are at risk of ranking lower, while those dedicated to producing high-value, original and user-centric content may see positive changes in their search rankings.
  • Focus on Content Quality: The update emphasizes the importance of content quality assessment, and aims to prioritize web pages that genuinely provide valuable information for users. Websites with minimal engagement or unsubstantial value may see a devaluation in rankings.
  • Rollout Complexity: Google’s core updates are comprehensive and affect multiple systems within its ranking system. The rollout of the March 2024 update is expected to take about a month, leading to ranking volatility during this period.

If your website was affected by this core update, Single Grain’s SEO experts can help you recover your ranking and future-proof your site!👇

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