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    HomeGeneral MarketingGoogle March 2024 Core Update: What You Need To Know

    Google March 2024 Core Update: What You Need To Know

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    The latest core update from Google has caused one of the biggest disruptions in history, severely impacting websites and causing SEOs to hit the panic button. This update is not something to be taken lightly and should be actioned accordingly, following Google’s guidelines in order to ensure your website remains visible in the SERPS.

    About Google’s March Core Update

    The March 2024 core update is an algorithm update by Google that focuses on targeting low-quality and spammy content on Google Search, aiming to ‘reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%‘. Although core updates are nothing new, this update has been one of the biggest and has rocked the industry, with websites being completely de-indexed from Google, like they never existed.

    Something worth noting, Google has been testing algorithm changes to remove low-quality content since 2022, coincidentally when ChatGPT was publically released. AI has not been cited as part of this update, however, there’s a reason for that, which I will cover further down.

    Google

    Google focused on 2 key areas in this update:

    Quality

    Quality has always been an indicator for Google, however, there was a need for this to be enhanced. Although the information is vague, this is what Google has tweaked the algorithm to understand:

    • If Webpages Are Unhelpful.

    From my perspective, this looks mainly at search intent. In a nutshell, the content on the page should match the query the user types into the search. Again, this is nothing new from Google, but this has likely been enhanced even further.

    It also focuses on web pages that are created for search engines – not people. However, there are many indicators for this. The goal of any site should always be to create helpful content. Google has outlined what that means in this post.

    • Sites That Have A Poor User Experience

    User experience has always been an indicator for Google, again this has likely been enhanced. This could include overuse of advertising, popup banners, heavy affiliate marketing, slow websites, and much more. Google wants the best possible page experience for its users and will demote/de-index sites that have very poor user experience.

    • Pages Created For Search Engines Instead Of People (or created primarily to match very specific search queries).

    This is where I believe there is a heavy focus on AI content. Generative AI has allowed people to create masses of content targeting every possible keyword that can be found, in an attempt to dominate SERPs – this is content created for search engines.

    However, I also believe that this has impacted some generic sites with human-generated content. This could be down to the poor alignment of keywords with search intent – site niche, etc.

    Spam

    Again, spam is nothing new to Google. There have always been spam policies in place and manual actions and penalties that follow. However, AI has made this more of a problem, and changes were needed in order to keep the SERPs relevant and helpful to users. The 3 areas Google focused on in this update were:

    Scaled Content Abuse

    Scaled content is creating and publishing large quantities of content. According to Google, they have always had a ‘policy against using automation to generate low-quality or unoriginal content at scale with the goal of manipulating search rankings.’ This is something that could have been done before the likes of ChatGPT were around, but it’s become clear that AI has accelerated the ability to produce content at scale.

    To combat this, Google has tightened its policy to target more ‘abusive behavior’ with scaled content. One of the key factors to note here is search intent. Google states that it will be focusing on ‘pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content.’ They also state that it doesn’t matter whether the content is AI or human-written.

    Site Reputation Abuse

    Site reputation – also considered as ‘domain authority’ by some SEO platforms/professionals, is how authoritative the site is in SERPs. For example, Forbes, HBR, Yahoo, and MSN, are all extremely high-authority sites – meaning they are more trusted by Google. Low authority sites are generally new sites or those with poor SEO practices that have never grown – less likely to rank on SERPs.

    Therefore to increase the chances of ranking, the low-authority site will try to secure a post on a high-authority site – hoping to secure a link pointing back to their site. Which passes on that authority and boosts the rankings of the low-authority site – while also misleading users. Commonly in the SEO industry, this is referred to as Parasite SEO and it also is something that is generally paid for – which goes against Google’s policies.

    This doesn’t mean that Google is targeting every single post that links to other websites, it is focusing on the sites that haven’t evaluated this content to ensure it aligns with their own. This is the example from Googe:

    “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.”

    Expired Domain Abuse

    Going back to the term authority, this is something that primarily comes from external links pointing toward a site – showing that the site is trusted and high-quality. When a domain expires, these links and authority sometimes remain. This is taken advantage of by certain people, who purchase these domains, and flood them with content (mostly ads and affiliate links), to rank higher and take advantage of the authority.

    The only thing Google has said on this is ‘Expired domains that are purchased and repurposed with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content are now considered spam.’

    The Need For This Update

    Although AI has not formerly been mentioned and human-generated content sites are being hit too, I believe the main need for this update is a result of AI.

    Although generative AI was around before the public craze of ChatGPT, it was never a major concern for Google – though it would have still been on their radar. However, since OpenAI released ChatGPT, a generative AI model with a free version, the internet has been flooded with content and disrupting the content marketing industry.

    To the average Joe, this might not seem like a big deal, but the problem with generative AI is that the content it produces is outdated, repetitive, and provides no real value to the readers. On the other hand, for some website owners, it was a way to manipulate search engines and generate thousands upon thousands of AI-generated articles targeting keywords, trying to rank the pages and earn revenue through different methods.

    Being the global leader in internet search, Google needed to tackle this in some way to minimize the plague of low-quality content taking advantage of the SERPS. Hence the rollout of the March Core Update, which has been accelerated by 2 years according to some marketers.

    Impact Of Google’s Core Update

    The impact of this update is widespread, it has caused sites to be completely de-indexed, sites hit with manual warnings, and severe impacts on positioning/traffic. Floods of SEOs and website owners have been complaining that their sites have been wiped off the face of the earth and there are sites that are losing millions of dollars as a result.

    Here are some of the posts from the SEO community:

    This site has lost 65% of its metrics – which depending on its monetization methods, could cost the site millions. But it’s not just that, it’s the time, effort, and dedication put into the site, that really hits hard.

    This poll seemed to highlight that 57.7% of people were impacted negatively by traffic losses and 3.1% were hit by manual actions. Several of my sites have also been hit with traffic losses – some AI sites – and some human-written sites. No penalties though!

    This post highlights websites that were de-indexed and completely removed from Google.

    Finally, this post points out manual penalties being given out to undeserving sites.

    Of course, I have only focused on the negative posts, there are several posts highlighting ranking/traffic increases, but that’s not a cause for concern. The question remains, are there any underlying reasons as to why these sites are being impacted? The content might be high-quality, human-written, and perfect in your eyes – but have you ever engaged in black-hat SEO tactics or done something against Google’s guidelines?

    It’s worth understanding that Google can make mistakes and sites can be mistakenly targeted – in addition to high volatility when updates are released, which I will cover in a section below.

    How To Recover From A Google Update

    If you have been hit by a manual action penalty, this will be specific to your site and will contain information as to why. You can learn more about manual actions and how to check them in this video:

    Don’t React

    The first thing to note is that whenever Google releases a core update – it can take a month or more to fully roll out. So you shouldn’t panic and start deleting, changing, or removing things from your site (unless you have been hit with a manual action). The best course of action is to wait for 2-3 weeks and see what happens with your site. It could disappear from Search Console and the SERPs, then reappear a week later. In a previous update, one of my sites dropped by 70%, then a week later it increased to +30% from the original metrics.

    You should also be aware that Google has overlapped this Core Update with another algorithm update, so the volatility and impact could be longer-lasting and more severe. Although they claim to avoid this as it disrupts businesses operating online, it can and has happened.

    Say Bye – To AI (Kind Of)

    Secondly, stop using AI for 100% content generation. Google has never said ‘do not use AI’ but if you are posting AI-written content without human editing and input, you will likely be hit at some point by an update. If it’s not now, it will happen in the future. Do you think Google is going to allow sites to make millions of dollars just by pressing ‘generate content’ and publishing?

    I would go as far as to only use AI for research and ideas, not for content generation. But if you do wish to implement AI content into your strategy, ensure it’s helpful, focuses on the reader, and is edited to ensure quality. I have added an interesting video by Sam Oh (VP of Marketing at AHRefs) below that covers AI a bit more:

    Gain Knowledge

    Thirdly, familiarize yourself with SEO best practices and Google guidelines. The key areas I suggest you focus on are spam policies, E-E-A-T, and search intent. I also recommend you stay tuned to Google’s SEO updates and news in the industry – when core updates are made, website owners often have many months of warning to prepare and make changes.

    Audit & Improve

    Lastly, if your site has not improved, you need to conduct an audit. Find out where the low-quality content is, identify bad links, update existing content to match search intent, focus on readers rather than search engines, and see how your metrics fluctuate. This will be a huge task – but it’s either that or let your site fade out and disappear forever.

    Chad Wyatt
    Chad Wyatthttps://chad-wyatt.com
    Chad Wyatt (MBA) is a professional in the digital marketing industry, specializing in content marketing, SEO, and strategic marketing initiatives. With a track record as a 6-figure marketing entrepreneur, Chad brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and has been recognized by renowned media outlets such as CNN, Business Insider, Yahoo, MSN, Capital One, and AOL, where he has been featured for his industry insights and success stories.

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