Google March 2024 Core/Spam update is heavily affecting some websites

The March 2024 Google core and spam update is shaking up websites. Impact stories are widespread, but what should you do if you are unaffected yet?

Written by
Daniel Højris Bæk
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March 15, 2024

The Google March 2024 core / spam update might be one of the algorithm updates that we will look back and review as one of the bigger ones.

I see a lot of coverage and stories about people/websites being impacted.

zacjohnson.com is a clear example of a website being heavily impacted by the march 2024 update

So should you be afraid if you have not seen an impact yet?

What Google said about the core update

They key takeaways from Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product Management on Googles blog post about the update are these:

  1. 40% reduction in low-quality, unoriginal content is the target of the update, aiming to clear search results of such material.
  2. Unhelpful or poorly designed webpages are the focus of core ranking system refinements in the update, aiming to identify content that appears to cater more to search engines than to users.
  3. Scaled content abuse policy updates are being implemented to address content created en masse to manipulate search rankings, whether it's automated or human-generated.
  4. Site reputation abuse is being targeted, where low-value content is hosted on reputable sites primarily to boost rankings.
  5. Expired domain abuse is being addressed, preventing domains from being repurchased and filled with low-quality content for ranking manipulation.
  6. Two-month notice for site owners is being provided by Google before enforcing the new spam policy.
    Especially the last part about the notice is something I see people being upset about, as it seem like this only applies to bigger websites (and many report they just got hit from one day to another)

What other write about the core update

So what are people writing about the impact of the update?

Barry Schwartz, a respected voice in the SEO field, remarked:

"We are now just about a week into the Google March 2024 core and spam updates, and boy, has it been busy."

This sentiment echoes the widespread impact these updates have had on search rankings, with volatility hitting its peak on Friday and Saturday, followed by limited reversals on Monday after a flurry of manual actions.

Schwartz also highlighted the overlapping nature of the updates, which has led to confusion among SEO professionals and site owners.

This is a departure from Google's previous stance, as Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan had stated, "We’ve worked very hard to keep updates separated from each other, or as little overlap as possible, to help creators understand more."

Adding to the conversation, Matt G. Southern from SEJ reported, "Google’s March 2024 Core Update has deindexed hundreds of websites in its early stages, targeting low-quality content and AI-generated spam."

This aligns with findings from Originality.ai, which noted a significant presence of AI-generated content among the affected websites.

Graph indicating AI content

Again, I think it is important to highlight that identifying  with certainty what is AI or not is almost random, even though some companies like Originality.ai making a business of it.

The community's advice in light of these updates is to focus on enhancing site content quality and user experience.

As the updates continue to roll out, it may be prudent to wait and see where the dust settles before making any major changes.

Southern aptly puts it, "Watching these updates roll out on a day-to-day basis may be fun for me, since I write about it. But for SEOs and site owners, it can be very stressful."

Is AI content being targeted?

The conversation about the March 2024 Google Core and Spam updates has sparked some debate, with a focus on whether AI-generated content is being specifically targeted.

Some reports suggest that the crackdown is on AI content, but it seems that the update's primary goal is to address spam and unhelpful content more broadly.

It's important to recognize, though, that a significant amount of low-quality AI content might be considered spam or unhelpful by Google's standards.

Example of a website with +1,000 pages that seems removed from Google SERP currently

Matt G. Southern from Search Engine Journal noted that the update has resulted in the deindexing of hundreds of websites, with a particular emphasis on low-quality content and AI-generated spam.

This indicates that while the update isn't solely targeting AI-generated content, there is a noticeable overlap between such content and the characteristics of spam or unhelpful material that Google wants to demote.

Research from Originality.ai supports this, showing a high presence of AI-generated content among the sites affected by the update. This suggests that while AI content isn't the exclusive focus, much of it is low quality and therefore falls into the category of unhelpful or spammy—making it subject to the update's impact.

In summary, the update appears to be part of Google's continuous effort to ensure that users receive content that is original, high-quality, and genuinely useful.

As a result, AI-generated content that doesn't meet these criteria is likely to be affected by the update, even if AI technology itself isn't the explicit target.

What should you do?

If you haven't seen an impact from the Google March 2024 core and spam updates yet, it's wise to stay proactive and prepared.

Here's what I recommend:

  • Regularly monitor your site's rankings and traffic to catch any delayed effects of the update.
  • Continuously improve the quality of your content to preemptively address any potential issues.
  • Review and understand Google's updated spam policies to ensure ongoing compliance.
  • Enhance the user experience on your site, focusing on speed and mobile usability
  • Stay informed on the update's progress and any further guidance from Google
  • Consider a preemptive SEO audit to identify and fix any vulnerabilities before they become issues
  • In general always play the long game when it comes to SEO. Do not try to cut (too many) corners, but generate valuable helpful content9

What should you do if you have been hit by the algo update?

If you've been hit by the Google March 2024 core and spam updates, it's important to take a structured approach to recovery:

  • Carefully analyze your site's analytics to understand the extent and nature of the impact.
  • Re-evaluate your content, removing or improving pieces that may be considered low-quality or spammy.
  • Double-check your site against Google's latest spam policies and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Utilize Google Search Console to gain specific insights into your site's performance and any crawl errors or manual actions.
  • Stay tuned for any announcements from Google to gather more insights into the update.
  • If needed, seek assistance from SEO professionals to help diagnose issues and create a recovery plan (and not from any of the wannabe SEO Expert or Gurus that do not have extensive experince, but are just good at posting on Linkedin ;)).
  • Just wait a bit - multiple people highlight a huge fluctuation, where some sites bounces back after initial drop.
Users revealing on X.com how some of the march 2024 updates are coming and going
Google March 2024 Core/Spam update is heavily affecting some websites

This is an article written by:

+20 years of experience from various digital agencies. Passionate about AI (artificial intelligence) and the superpowers it can unlock. I had my first experience with SEO back in 2001, working at a Danish web agency.