Google's March Update: A Seismic Shift Towards Higher Quality Search Results

Google's March Update: A Seismic Shift Towards Higher Quality Search Results

11th Mar 2024


Breon Snowdon

Have you noticed a dramatic shift in your website’s organic search traffic within a short span of hours or days? If so, it’s possible that your site has been affected by a recent Google algorithm update.

These updates can prove detrimental to businesses that heavily rely on organic traffic as a revenue source, whether through online advertisements, affiliate marketing, or direct e-commerce sales.

Google’s “core updates,” in particular, are notorious for their sudden and substantial impact, frequently leaving website owners perplexed about what they might have done wrong and how to regain their lost search traffic.

What is a Google Core Update?

Google Core updates are a distinct type of update that Google releases several times per year. Unlike other major updates, these core updates involve changes to the core algorithm itself, rather than adjustments to individual ranking factors.

While other updates often target specific areas (e.g., introducing a new ranking factor or integrating new technology), Google Core updates primarily focus on improving the overall quality of search results delivered to users. They are part of Google’s continuous efforts to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.

Whenever a new core update is released, Google announces it via their Twitter channel, naming the update according to the month and year of its release (eg. “May 2024 Core Update”).

March 2024 Core Update & Spam Update (from March 5th 2024)

Following numerous complaints and even a study highlighting the declining quality of Google search results in recent months, Google has announced a major improvement to Google Search with the March 2024 Core Update. This update aims to deliver more high-quality, unique results that genuinely benefit users. In contrast, content created solely to manipulate rankings will be removed from search results. Simultaneously, Google has also announced a Spam Update with new and improved spam policies to keep low-quality results out of search results.

According to Google, the March 2024 Core Update builds upon the Helpful Content Updates that began in 2022 and now integrates those updates’ results into the core algorithm. This means there is no longer a separate “Helpful Content System”; instead, the core algorithm now includes several signals for evaluating helpful content. Together, Google expects these updates to result in a 40% reduction in low-quality search results.

This update is a much more complex Core Update than usual, as several ranking systems are being updated. As a result, rankings may fluctuate strongly over a period of up to one month.

The new spam policies introduced as part of the Spam Update target the following types of spam:

- “Scaled content,” which is content produced automatically and in large quantities but provides no real value to the user.

- “Site reputation abuse,” which exploits a website’s high reputation by allowing third parties to publish low-quality content on that domain – also known as “parasite SEO.” This change will not take effect until May 5th, giving website owners time to exclude such content from Google search.

- Using expired domains to boost the ranking of low-quality content.

Unlike the Core Update, the Spam Update is expected to be completed in around two weeks.

Since the update’s launch, a large number of manual penalties have been observed, with entire sites being removed from search results, including some sites with a high volume of purely AI-generated content.

In addition to the usual recommendations for Core Updates, you should also review Google’s recommendations for creating Helpful Content if you notice a negative impact on your rankings due to the March 2024 Core Update.

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