Google’s March 2024 Core Update: What This Means For Bloggers

Let’s face it, it’s not so easy for bloggers right now in the wake of AI, but If there’s one thing that can cause a whole heap of confusion, it’s whenever Google rolls out an update. Every Core update Google unveils has potentially meant bloggers having to completely rethink their approach to creating content. So let’s show you everything you need to know about Google’s March 2024 Core update, what it means for you, and how you can best roll with this latest rollout.

What is a Google Core Update?

For those brand new to the blogosphere, there is potentially a steep learning curve when learning about each finite component, from SEO to marketing, so let’s lay it out very simply. A Google Core update refers to a significant update to the Google Search algorithm, with the goal of improving the quality of the search results. 

Google Core updates occur multiple times throughout the year, these updates can range from minor tweaks to broader Core updates that have a more substantial impact on user experience and Search Engine Optimisation. While most updates go unnoticed, the major Core updates are events that webmasters and SEO professionals tend to dread, but only if they’re going about things the wrong way. 

Google typically confirms these broad Core updates to provide more helpful, high-quality content while reducing the amount of low-quality and original content in search results. 

What is the Google Spam Update?

The latest Core update that occurred in March 2024 focuses on improving ranking systems to better identify content that is more helpful, has a better user experience, or removes content that seems to be created primarily for search engines rather than users.

Google is constantly working to fight against spammers and regularly updates policies and systems to tackle low-quality content so the average Joe or Josephine scouring the web sees more useful information and fewer results that appear to be tailored for search engines. 

Many bloggers have long since been using certain tactics to speak the language of Google to ensure that it ranks higher, but the problem is that these approaches have flown in the face of creating useful content. These can include various Search Engine Optimisation practices like:

  • Keyword stuffing, which involves unnaturally forcing keywords and their variations into website content, meta descriptions, and other on-page elements, making the content appear unnatural and spammy, which means a poor user experience.
  • Copying content word for word from other websites, commonly known as “duplicate content,” in an attempt to rank higher. This is considered plagiarism and violates copyright laws.
  • Link farming and spammy backlinks, which involve building large networks of low-quality and irrelevant backlinks to manipulate the search rankings and acquiring backlinks with overly keyword-rich anchor texts.
  • Purchasing expired domains and using them to host lower-quality content to boost search rankings.

Spammy tactics are commonly used and are even widely accepted; however, they are detrimental to user experience and provide only short-term gains. It’s always vital to remember that Google is making these updates to be more helpful to users.

The Key Points of the Google Spam Update

The latest Google Core update provides a number of main points:

  • The changes in the algorithm to Google’s Core ranking systems prioritise the most helpful information on the web and reduce unoriginal content in the search engine results.
  • Google is updating its spam policies to combat various tactics used by spammers, such as repurposing expired websites. Google has been working hard to reduce unhelpful and unoriginal content since 2022, and the latest Google Core update involves refining these systems to identify and diminish websites with poor content or user experiences created for search engines rather than people.
  • Google is expecting these updates to reduce low-quality unoriginal content in search engine results by a massive 40%, while also strengthening its policies to address three key components:

Scaled content abuse, which involves generating large amounts of content that provide little to no value to users, for example, by using generative AI tools.

Expired domain abuse, which occurs when third-party web pages are published on a website without involvement from the website owner or proper oversight, for example, publishing sponsored content, advertisements, or partnership pages that are not related to the host website’s purpose.

Site reputation abuse, which involves purchasing expired domain names and repurposing them with low-quality or irrelevant content. 

  • Some policy changes will be enforced starting May 5, 2024, such as the site reputation abuse, with a two-month notice period for website owners, giving them time to make the appropriate adjustments.

What Does the Google Spam Update Mean for Bloggers?

The 2024 Google Spam Update understandably can have significant implications for bloggers, particularly in terms of both search engine rankings and the level of content quality:

Its Impact on Search Rankings

Google is now clamping down on websites that are engaging in manipulative practices such as expired domain abuse and scaled content abuse. Google will penalise websites in the following ways:

  • Manual penalties, which can lead to either significant drops in search engine rankings or removal from search results entirely.
  • De-indexing, which means it is completely removed from Google Search results and invisible to users performing searches. The de-indexing of a website can lead to a significant drop in organic search traffic, impacting its visibility and lead generation, with prolonged de-indexing having a negative effect on a website’s reputation, making it harder to rebuild trust and authority with Google.
  • Difficulty with reconsideration requests. Even recovering from deindexing or manual penalties can be a very time-consuming and challenging practice, as the website will need to go through a reconsideration process with Google, and even after the issues are resolved, the website may take a long time to get back to where it was in terms of visibility and search engine ranking.

The Long-Term Impacts

The purpose of this Core update is to give bloggers and website owners the opportunity to address their behaviours. In the wake of AI, it is easier than ever to create reams of unhelpful content, and this is why we must all take a long, hard look at ourselves if we have resorted to unhelpful spammy tactics that are aimed at manipulating search rankings.

The AI Debate

This Core update highlights the challenge bloggers have in getting the balance right between creating helpful content while also avoiding the temptation AI poses. AI-generated spam sites can continue to dominate search engine results despite this update, which means it could have a demoralising effect on bloggers who have built their businesses on creating high-quality original content. For example, those who are in the field of generating recipes. 

AI-generated recipe websites have been able to outrank legitimate recipe bloggers who have invested significant time and effort into developing and testing their content, which can mean their hard work is undermined because of the deluge of AI-powered spam sites. 

The Spam Update specifically targets scaled content abuse, and this involves using AI tools or other methods to generate huge amounts of original low-quality content. Bloggers who rely on this to quickly produce high volumes of posts could be penalised under the new policy. 

Ultimately, bloggers and content creators who focus on original, well-researched content leveraging their own expertise and experience, as per the E-E-A-T update (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), are more likely to fare better in search engine results compared to AI-generated content.

What Should Bloggers Now Do in the Wake of the Google Spam Update?

It is natural for any bloggers up to this point to have been relying on manipulative tactics to make significant changes. Here are the key takeaways:

Avoid Manipulative Tactics

If there is one major lesson here, it’s that if you’ve been indulging in any manipulative tactics like keyword stuffing, duplicate content, spammy backlinks, and even fake reviews or what is known as parasite SEO (where you publish third-party content on reputable websites to exploit their authority), it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Staying away from any practices that manipulate search rankings is a must.

Focus on Quality Content

As bloggers, we are meant to prioritise value for users. Quality content is invaluable because this is what will endure. Algorithm updates occur to weed out those who think they can manipulate the system, but the goal has always been the same: to be original. Prioritising high-quality content, unique, and providing a satisfying, relevant experience for users is what will ensure you stay away from any type of manipulation tactic. 

Ensuring your content has a clear purpose and focus while helping users achieve their goals sounds very simple in theory, but because so many bloggers have worked hard at playing the game of Google, this should help you regain a sense of focus.

Audit Your Website

Now is the time for you to look back at your website and see if you’ve been guilty of any inadvertently spammy practices, including:

  • If you are hosting low-quality third-party content. Look at your website and identify the quality, relevance, and added value of any of this content and ask yourself if it benefits your users or if you’d included it purely for SEO purposes. You can scan for duplicate or plagiarised content that may have come from other sources with tools like Duplichecker and Copyscape and, if necessary, consider removing or replacing any of this content with your own original high-value content.
  • If you are using expired domains to boost rankings. It’s important to check for any indication that your domain was previously used for a different purpose or by a different owner and assess whether the content and links associated with the expired domain actually align with your current website’s focus. If the expired domain has a history of spammy practices, you may wish to start again with a whole new domain.
  • If there are any spammy links associated with your website. Now is the perfect opportunity to monitor your backlink profile going forward and remove any new spammy links that may appear over time, but you can also use the Google Search Console to review your site’s backlink profile and identify any of these suspicious or low-quality links. You can also analyse these links with tools such as SEMrush or Majestic to assess their quality and relevance and for any links that you determine are unnatural or harmful, you can use the Google Disavow Tool.

Stay Up to Date

If there’s one lesson from all of this, it’s that we need to stay up to code with Google’s latest policies. Every time there is a Google Core update, it can force all of us to rethink our content strategies and approaches. 

Each alteration to Google’s content policies and guidelines can have a direct impact on your site’s rankings, so you should be prepared to make the necessary improvements to remain compliant with Google standards.

Why It’s More Essential Than Ever for Bloggers to Focus on High-Quality Content

If there’s one lesson in all of this, it’s about focusing on creating genuinely helpful, user-focused content. In the wake of the Google Spam Update, bloggers all over the world can either quake in their boots and worry that all of their hard work will be in vain, or use this as the opportunity to start focusing on high-quality content. It’s essential to do this for several key reasons:

  • It attracts and engages your target audience, which is ultimately what we should be doing in the first place. By creating informative, engaging, and relevant content, you will drive more traffic to your website, which can increase brand awareness and then translate into what you are doing this for.
  • Quality content helps establish a blogger as an authority in their industry, which means they build trust and credibility with their audience and enhance their brand reputation over time.
  • Producing quality content is essential because this is what will improve your search engine rankings, meaning you will organically comply with the rules of SEO, without debasing your website through unhelpful short-term spammy tactics.

High-quality content provides value because it’s helpful, informative, and most importantly of all, relevant. This means that you, as the blogger, are a trusted resource and you become influential in many ways, and this translates to increasing engagement. As you focus on maintaining high standards in content creation, this results in far better blogging opportunities.