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The Google March 2024 Core Update

13th March 2024

It’s here. The latest Google Core Update has arrived, and boy, it’s a big one. Chris Nelson from the Search Quality Team at Google has said that this is a ‘more complex update’ compared to those that have come before it. So, let’s get stuck in. 

First of all, what is the latest Google Core Update focusing on? Helpful content and spam. 

This ranking update has fully incorporated the helpful content system, rolling it all into their core update system. This means that Google will stop announcing helpful content updates separately. We’re not too surprised, as the majority of their updates throughout the last 18 months have revolved around helpful content. They were driven by the shift in users’ expectations for information and how they consume it, turning E-E-A-T content into an important ranking factor for Google. 

What is E-E-A-T content? Our head of digital, Emily, explains. ‘E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It’s not a new concept from Google; they’ve been asking websites to write and publish content that follows these rules as part of their Quality Rater Guidelines since 2014. Originally called E-A-T, they added the additional E for Experience in 2022. However, it’s becoming even more pressing as Google and users are demanding more in-depth and knowledgeable information alongside genuine customer reviews, to identify who is leading the way in every industry.’

The last helpful content update we saw was back in September of last year, and many websites with low-quality content pages felt the hit. If said websites have been focusing on creating helpful, rich content for the user since, they may feel a bit of relief once this new update has finished rolling out (estimated to take up to a month). 

What does this update mean?

Helpful content wins

For those following the helpful content updates, you’ll know they’re about making sure content being created is informative and relevant. This core update is taking those updates, that system, and enhancing them. 

Now, Google will have an easier time understanding which web pages have a poor user experience and weak content. Ultimately, its goal is to spot ‘sites created primarily to match very specific search queries’, says Elizabeth Tucker of Google.

The spam crackdown

In terms of spam, the March 2024 spam update has three main elements, two of which will roll out over the course of this month-long update. The third will go into effect on May 5th, so we’ll need to keep an eye out for that. But for now, let’s talk about those first two.

Scaled content abuse search spam

The ‘scaled content abuse search spam’ update is the spammy auto-generated content policy upgraded. Google will now view any method of producing huge amounts of content for the sake of search ranking as spam. Google already started to take action against this sort of spam last week – it’s a dark day for content mills and a great day for the rest of us!

Expired domain abuse

Next up is the ‘expired domain abuse’ update. Buying old domains and repurposing them to boost rankings for poor content is now considered spam. A big no-no, Google will be using a mixture of algorithmic spam systems and manual actions to uncover these and take action.

If you’re unsure what expired domain abuse involves, here’s an example. A highly trusted website about server software has expired, but someone selling vacuums has bought it and filled it with their product information. They’ve done this to gain ranking power from the old site’s strong domain authority. Anyone revisiting that site for the latest support updates about their server will be sorely disappointed, but the vacuum site will have climbed the SERPs under this domain.

Well, there’ll be no more of that. *snaps for Google*

Site reputation abuse/parasite SEO

The third spam update, set to be actioned in early May, is for ‘site reputation abuse’. Also known as parasite SEO, this is when a third-party site hosts low-quality content from another third-party who is looking to gain ranking power from that site. Google provides this example: a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefit from the site. 

The aim is to remove any confusing and misleading content that may bring users to the wrong site. Google has also said that ‘only that which is hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate Search rankings’ will be considered a violation of the new policy. So, if the content or ad is relevant, there should be no problem.

Is this update going to hurt?

This update should lead to a 40% reduction in unhelpful content appearing in our search results, which is pretty brilliant. The best part? If you’re already producing genuine content that is relevant, informative and well-written, then you should have nothing to fear. It’s another move towards good content being a key part of your business’ success.

Think of it as not a punishment for bad content but a reward for good content. 

You won’t be penalised for answering a frequently asked question that relates to your brand or business as long as you’re answering it well. Web pages with leading titles and waffling content that never quite answers the question won’t appear in search results. 

For example, if you own a bakery and ‘best type of bread’ is a keyword, posting a blog post titled ‘What is the best type of bread’ and answering it with genuine, informative content won’t hurt your chances of reaching the top of the SERPs. If done well and paired with other strong SEO practices, it could shoot you straight to the top of Google.

As for the spam updates, these shouldn’t hurt you if you’ve been doing things by the book. If anything, you should see some good come from it as content mills and farms are removed from the SERPs. 

What do we think about the core update?

Personally, we think it’s a fantastic step in the right direction towards clearing out the rubbish and shining the light on truly good content. It will help users get the best results for their search query and find a solid solution, which is what Google is there for. We’re very interested to see what comes from this update and will be keeping a close eye on further updates.

If you’re unsure of how your site is going to fare after this core update, or if you’re already feeling negative ripples as a result of it, get in touch. We know that content is crucial as part of a strong SEO strategy, and we can help you get back on top. Give us a call on 01603 859007 and let’s have a chat. 

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