Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

March 2024 Google Updates re-emphasises search quality


Did you know that Google commands a staggering 92% share of the global search engine market and drives 93% of worldwide internet traffic?    In today's digital era, Google stands as a pioneering force shaping the online world.  The repercussions of changes within such influential search engines reverberate not only…

Did you know that Google commands a staggering 92% share of the global search engine market and drives 93% of worldwide internet traffic   In today's digital era, Google stands as a pioneering force shaping the online world.  The repercussions of changes within such influential search engines reverberate not only through businesses but across entire industries globally.   This trend is already in motion as Google consistently rolls out updates, including core, content, spam, and other updates, to enhance user search experiences. In its recent core update, Google has proactively addressed the challenge posed by an overabundance of content, especially in the era of AI-driven content generation, to diminish unhelpful content within the search engine and alleviate the growing clutter in the digital space. This surge in content has prompted Google's proactive measures to maintain the quality and relevance of online information.  

But before we dive into the details, let’s first understand what exactly is a Google Core Update.

  A Google Core Update signifies a significant alteration to Google's search algorithm, strategically crafted to enhance the overall quality of search results. Unlike targeted Google updates focused on specific sites or pages, a core update assesses and improves the way Google's systems evaluate content across the board. This comprehensive adjustment can profoundly impact Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by addressing broader aspects, such as political bias in search results or shifts in query intent. 

March 2024 Core Update - A Big Leap

The update, characterised as "more complex than usual core updates," entails modifications to multiple core systems, signifying an evolution in how Google identifies the helpfulness of content. Its overarching goal is to elevate core ranking systems, delivering more useful results through the integration of innovative signals and approaches. The rollout, expected to span up to a month, may induce fluctuations in rankings. However, for creators who consistently produce satisfying content for users, this is good news, and they need not take specific actions.    Additionally, it's crucial to acknowledge the evolving perspective on backlinks. Google’s Analyst Gary Illyes' statement at Pubcon Austin 2023 initially emphasised, "Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages." The updated version however states, "Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages." This removal of the term "important" in the recent spam documentation solidifies the shift, signalling a deliberate attempt to de-emphasise the significance of links in the ranking algorithm.

Key implications of this update include

#1. Enhanced Quality Ranking 

Core ranking systems now feature enhanced algorithms, focusing on presenting more helpful information and minimising unoriginal content. This improvement prioritises user experience and content crafted for people, moving away from catering solely to search engines. Stemming from initiatives launched in 2022, the March 2024 core update refines these systems further, effectively identifying and reducing unhelpful content, subpar user experiences, and pages primarily tailored for search engines. The collective impact of this update, as stated by Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product, Search at Google, is expected to cut unhelpful content in search results by an impressive 40%.

#2. Strengthened SPAM Policies

a. Expired Domain Abuse

Purchasing and repurposing expired domain names for manipulating search rankings, a practice known as expired domain abuse - is a deliberate strategy to host low-quality content with minimal value for users. This method capitalises on the domain's past reputation, targeting search engine visibility. While it's acceptable to use an old domain for a new, original site designed to serve users, repurposing it for low-quality content is now classified as spam.   For SEO experts, it's crucial to note that if the old domain was originally related to the content for which it is now being used for repurposing, it may not fall under the umbrella of abuse. However, maintaining transparency and relevance between the old domain's history and the current content is vital to ensure that SEO efforts leverage the benefits of the old domain without violating guidelines and jeopardising the website's credibility and ultimately search rankings.

b. Scaled Content Abuse

Scaled content abuse means generating numerous pages to manipulate search rankings without providing value to users. This policy addresses the creation of large amounts of unoriginal content, irrespective of the methods employed—automation, human efforts, or a combination. Google reaffirms its stance that automation, including generative AI, qualifies as spam if its primary purpose is to manipulate search results. The updated policy emphasises abusive behaviour, particularly content production at scale, to boost search rankings, regardless of the means involved.   The recent update explicitly categorises the creation of "low-value content primarily for the purposes of manipulating linking and ranking signals" as spam. This covers both manipulative practices with links to your site and outgoing links. Google's heightened scrutiny emphasises the need for SEO strategies to prioritise high-value, contextually relevant content for organic and sustainable link-building.

c. Site Reputation Abuse

Site reputation abuse occurs when third-party pages exploit a first-party site's ranking signals without sufficient oversight, manipulating search rankings. The new policy specifically targets third-party content hosted without close oversight, intended to manipulate search rankings. However, the new update also states that the “new policy doesn't consider all third-party content to be a violation, only that which is hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate search rankings” under the spam category.   Oversight of third-party content sites by actively monitoring and curating them to align with the site's purpose and not manipulate search rankings - is a proactive approach with which SEO experts not only adhere to Google's guidelines but also contribute to the authenticity and credibility of the site which is also in alignment of user’s search query.


Google has integrated its helpful content system into the core update, leading to the end of separate announcements for helpful content updates. The classifier for helpful content is now part of the March 2024 core update, emphasising a shift towards prioritising helpful, reliable, and people-centric content. This also prioritises content producers committed to delivering helpful information in search rankings over those involved in spammy practices.    It is also imperative to acknowledge the recent additions to specifically targeting links without explicitly detailing the alterations. Hence, as content creators and SEO experts, the key takeaway is to focus on producing helpful, reliable, and valuable content and paying attention to the backlinks for a better ranking in alignment with the new algorithms.

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