Implications of Google’s March 2024 Core Update: Understanding the 40% Cut in “Unhelpful” Content

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Implications of Google’s March 2024 Core Update: Understanding the 40% Cut in “Unhelpful” Content

Every day, millions of people turn to Google’s search engine to find the best content the web has to offer. With Google processing about 99,000 search queries every second, amounting to over 8.5 billion searches daily, it’s crucial that each search connects users with high-quality and trustworthy results.

Despite this, the search results have become cluttered with low-quality, spammy content. This surge of subpar material has buried the work of trustworthy publishers, causing them to drop in search rankings while less reputable content farms become more prominent.

Since the early 2000s, Google has been implementing policies and automated systems to fight against spam. Their latest update, the March 2024 Core Update, aims to tackle low-quality content on its search engine and introduces new spam policies against manipulative practices. 

But what does this update mean for your website’s rankings? And how can you ensure that your content is “helpful”?

Here are the full details.

Refined Ranking Systems

The March 2024 Core Update is a significant step forward in refining Google’s ranking algorithms.

Building on the “helpful content system” launched in 2022, this update continues to refine the process of distinguishing between high-quality content that offers real value to users and content created primarily to rank well in search engines.

The latest modifications expand the range of signals and systems used to assess the usefulness of content, aiming to highlight more valuable information and reduce clickbait.

These changes are expected to decrease the presence of unhelpful content by 40% in search results. This means that users will be more likely to come across content that not only catches their interest but also provides genuine value.

New Spam Policies

In addition to refining its ranking systems, Google is updating its spam policies to take targeted action against emerging manipulative practices. Sites found in violation of these policies may see their rankings drop or may be removed from search results entirely.

Expired Domain Abuse

Google is addressing the issue of expired domain abuse, a tactic where an expired domain name is purchased and used to enhance the search ranking of unrelated, often low-quality content.

These domains, often previously trusted and well-ranked, are particularly appealing because they can provide a shortcut to building domain authority.

For example, someone might purchase an expired domain that once hosted a popular gardening blog and repurpose it to sell dietary supplements. The new owner might redirect existing gardening content to new pages that promote these supplements, exploiting the domain’s credibility to quickly ascend in search rankings.

This practice can be problematic because it can mislead users who expect content related to the original domain’s theme or reputation. Additionally, it can degrade the quality of search results by promoting content that isn’t necessarily the most relevant or valuable to users.

Scaled Content Abuse

Google is updating its spam policies to specifically target practices that involve producing large amounts of low-quality web content primarily designed to manipulate search engine rankings, rather than to provide value to users. This type of abuse typically involves using automated tools or low-cost outsourcing strategies to generate keyword-stuffed content on a massive scale.

Key forms of scaled content abuse include:

  • Automated Content Generation – The use of AI tools or similar software to automatically generate web content that, although filled with relevant keywords, makes little sense to readers and provides no real value.
  • Article Spinning – Repurposing existing content using software that changes words and phrases with synonyms to generate “new” articles. This technique avoids plagiarism detectors but fails to add any substantial information or value.
  • Outsourcing Bulk Content – Hiring writers, often at very low rates, to produce large amounts of superficial content. These articles lack depth and are created solely to cover as many trending keywords as possible without genuinely addressing user needs or questions.

This new policy builds upon Google’s existing measures against spam, enabling more robust action against scaled content abuse, whether the content is generated through automated means, human effort or a combination of both.

Site Reputation Abuse

Google is strengthening its policy against site reputation abuse, which involves the misuse of low-quality, third-party content, such as irrelevant sponsored posts or ads, on reputable websites.

Websites might host such content to quickly generate revenue, as companies pay to place their content on platforms that already have significant traffic, hoping to leverage the site’s audience to increase visibility and sales. For example, a movie review site might display unrelated articles about buying social media followers or essay writing services, confusing visitors who are expecting film-related content.

However, Google’s updated policy distinguishes between harmful third-party content and acceptable practices like well-integrated native advertising meant for a site’s regular readership. The primary concern is content that lacks close oversight by the website owner and is primarily produced for ranking purposes.

This new policy will take effect on May 5, 2024, giving site owners time to comply with Google’s updated standards, ensuring that hosted content adds genuine value and is seamlessly integrated into their sites.

Timeline for Compliance with Google’s Updated Spam Policies

In response to the March 2024 Core Update, Google has set specific deadlines to ensure websites comply with its new spam policies:

  • Websites were given a two-month window to align with the new site reputation policy. With one month already passed since the announcement, site owners now have just one more month to make necessary adjustments.
  • Additional updates introduced as part of the Core Update began rolling out within a week of the announcement and should now be fully in effect.

Google continues to emphasise the importance of adapting to these changes promptly. Compliance not only helps maintain but can also improve your website’s search rankings.

Websites still in the process of implementing these changes are urged to act swiftly to meet the upcoming deadlines.

How Can I Check if My Content is Helpful?

Google’s automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that’s created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top search results.

Here are 5 ways to ensure that you’re creating people-first content, based on guidance provided by Google:

  1. Stick To Your Area of Expertise – Focusing on your area of expertise helps you build authority and trust, which enhances your reputation with users and improves your search rankings. Well-researched and insightfully written content is more likely to be detailed, accurate and informative, addressing specific user needs and effectively answering their questions – qualities that Google values highly in assessing content quality.
  2. Demonstrate First-Hand Experience – Sharing personal experiences in your content adds a layer of authenticity and trust that theoretical or second-hand summaries often lack. Readers value this authenticity, as it comes from someone with direct knowledge or practical experience in the subject matter. Including practical tips, lessons learned and actionable advice also enhances the practical value of your content.
  3. Focus on a Single Topic – Concentrating your website on a single subject area attracts a specific audience, establishing your site as a trusted resource in that field. A site dedicated to a specific topic is more straightforward for search engines to understand and categorise, improving your chances of ranking higher for relevant keywords.
  4. Provide Sufficient Answers To Searchers’ Questions – Effectively addressing the questions or concerns that bring users to your site enhances their satisfaction and decreases the likelihood they’ll seek answers elsewhere. Remember, quality over quantity; Google emphasises that there is no ideal word count — the real measure is how thoroughly the content resolves the user’s query. 
  5. Don’t Neglect The Overall Reader Experience – Adding multimedia to text not only boosts understanding and engagement but also makes content more relatable and enjoyable. It’s also essential to make sure to address your readers’ questions and challenges without overwhelming them with excess information. Comprehensive yet focused content ensures users find everything they need in one place, thereby enhancing their overall experience and satisfaction.

Navigating Google’s Latest Update with Priority Pixels

The Google March 2024 Core Update presents a significant opportunity for businesses to refine their content strategies and improve search visibility by focusing on quality and relevance.

Remember, the key to succeeding post-update is to produce content that’s not only informative but also genuinely helpful and engaging for your audience.

At Priority Pixels, we’re here to help you navigate these changes. Whether it’s enhancing your site’s content, ensuring compliance with the new spam policies or developing a more focused and authoritative online presence, our team has the expertise to make sure your digital strategy aligns with the latest SEO practices.

Don’t let the complexities of Google’s updates slow your digital growth. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you optimise your website and content to meet these new standards.


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