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March Madness: Google Rolling Out Major Search Quality Update

by | Last updated Mar 7, 2024

Google has begun rolling out its latest algorithm update targeted toward websites with unhelpful content that is either autogenerated or generated from AI like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It’s the first major update of 2024 and it’s expected to reduce 40% of unhelpful content indexed in Google.

What is a Google Core Update?

A Google Core Update is a major algorithm update that affects how the search engine ranks websites in its search results. These updates are designed to improve the overall quality and relevance of the search results, making it easier for users to find the information they are looking for. While we see frequent updates throughout the year, a core update is a major change that impacts all Google search results.

Why Core Updates Are Important to Understand

A core update from Google can impact the search results related to your brand’s keywords. The impact could be positive or negative depending on your content and SEO strategy, so it’s important to be aware of the details of a big change in Google’s algorithm.

A Core Inclusion – The Helpful Content Update (HCU)

Google has been rolling out its Helpful Content Update for over a year with many changes occurring in September of 2023. The main focus of the HCU update is to improve the quality and relevance of content across the web. This includes cracking down on spammy and low-quality content, as well as rewarding high-quality, informative content that provides value to users. The Helpful Content Update is now part of the core algorithm, which means it affects all search results and can have a significant impact on website rankings.

The March 2024 Update – What You Need to Know

The main focus of the March 2024 Google update is on improving search quality by targeting spammy or low-quality content created through the means of AI. Sites using AI techniques to manipulate their rankings are likely to receive a manual penalty in the coming weeks. Additionally, the update will target sites that have drastically scaled content through AI, sites that incorporated expired domains into their SEO strategy (i.e., purchasing expired domains for the sole purpose of spamming search results), as well as sites that pursue parasite SEO techniques. Parasite SEO, referred to as “site reputation abuse” by Google, occurs when a website attaches itself to a high-authority and trusted website, often a news publication, through a sponsored (paid) posting for the sole purpose of manipulating rankings.

AI Content Generation

We know that AI plays a major role in all aspects of digital now, but the websites and content creators who are profiting off of low-quality, gibberish content that is usually autogenerated are who Google is addressing in this update. Google has long been against autogenerated spam content and this now extends to AI-generated spam.

It’s projected this update will take approximately a month to roll out.

What You Need to Do

As with any core update from Google, people often react quickly and in some cases may overreact.

  • Nothing: if you have created informative content without the use of unhelpful AI-generated spam, your website will most likely go unscathed from this update.
  • Review your content: you should already be reviewing your content regularly, but now is a good time to assess its quality, whether it is human or AI-written. This includes evergreen content, landing page content, product content (for e-commerce retailers) and blogs. Be sure the content is helpful to your users, is well-written and edited, and is free from spelling or grammatical issues.
  • Keep an eye on SEO KPIs: when Google rolls out a major update like this, it’s important to watch your SEO key performance indicators like organic traffic metrics, rankings and indexation. Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to assess if your website has felt the impact of the update.
  • Hire an expert: SEO companies like us track every Google update and review data across different sectors, website types and different types of content. If you are new or inexperienced with SEO and suspect you have been hit by a Google update, this is the right option for you.

Above all, don’t panic. These updates are ongoing and unless you’re egregiously violating Google’s quality guidelines, your website will likely be okay. We also expect that this update is for very low-quality websites; if you have a strong investment in your website and its content, you are likely not going to be affected. Keep an eye out for fluctuations in rankings and traffic.

Let us know in the comments if you’re seeing major changes as a result of the March 2024 update. As always, reach out if you have any questions.

 

About the Author

Jeff Romero

Founder of Octiv Digital, University of Utah alumni, drummer and digital marketer for local businesses, e-commerce organizations and more. I write on the Octiv Digital blog about SEO, paid search, web development and analytics.

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