Bangkok. Thailand. FEB 21,2019 :A man is typing on Google search engine from a laptop. Google is the biggest Internet search engine in the world.

Google’s March Core Algorithm Update and what it means for you

Google launches hundreds, if not thousands, of algorithm updates every year. However, several times a year, they launch a slightly bigger ‘core update. These are updates to ensure that users keep getting the best results when they search for a query. While Google rarely specifies what is in these, the aim is always to ensure users are getting the best online experience, so keeping an eye on what Google is focussing on will ultimately help estimate the focus of these updates.  

March 2024 core update

Google has even said it themselves: “The March 2024 core update is a more complex” than their usual updates, which of course had our SEO team’s alarm bells ringing... This update centre’s around a previous Helpful Content Update that took place in September 2022 and the second update that proceeded it a year later. Luckily for us, Google have given more of an indication of the different elements they have targeted. 

  • New Spam Policies – Google always wants to address any practices that could have a negative impact on the quality of Google Search Results. Their new spam policies aim to target bad practices which have recently become more popular: Expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse and site reputation abuse (see below) 
  • Scaled Content Abuse – This is when pages are generated for the sole purpose of manipulating search rankings, ie. creating large amounts of content that old little to no value. Those of you who are aware of the rise in AI generated content may be feeling a little uneasy here. Is this a change in how Google views AI content? – Google says that their long-standing spam policy is only to target content with a primary purpose of manipulating rankings in search results. This particular Spam policy update is to account for scaled content creation methods where it’s not clear the low-quality content was created purely though automation. 
  • Expired Domain Abuse – This is targeting those sites that are purchased and then repurposed to host low quality content, aiming to rank well due to the authority of the domain previously 
  • Site Reputation Abuse – This is targeting third-party pages that are published with little or no first-party involvement, where the aim is to manipulate Search rankings, taking advantage of the first-parties ranking signals. 

All of this is expected to be rolled out over the next month, with Google letting us know once the update is complete. 

Their advice, however, remains very much the same as with all core updates: creators need to make sure they are making satisfying content meant for people. If you’re following best practice SEO techniques, that take into account Google’s search policies, you shouldn’t be worried. 

What this means for you

To put it bluntly, the same as every other core update: follow helpful content practices. The Helpful Content System Google uses to determine the “helpfulness” of content in search results is a complex process that uses a cacophony of signals and systems, and as this update shows, it’s one they will be continuously evolving. To delve into this deeper, we’ve pulled out some handy questions below to help you create helpful content which is reliable and useful to a person. 

Consider the following when it comes to the self-assessment of your content: 

  • Does the content I’ve created resonate with my target audience? 
  • Does the content I’ve created provide valuable information or insight? 
  • What does my audience achieve when they read my content? 
  • Is my content using trustworthy sources and is the information original based on my research or analysis? 
  • Does the content I’ve created position myself as an expert within the industry and demonstrate this level of knowledge? 
  • Does the content I’ve created provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? 

These are just a few of the many tips that surround helpful content, and we fully recommend taking a look at what Google says about helpful content creation especially when it comes to its quality. 

In addition, there are things that you should be avoiding: 

  • Copying and rewriting sources without additional value/insight 
  • Exaggeration and shock value in the main heading or page title 
  • Spelling and stylistic issues 
  • Mass-produced content spread across a large number of networks 
  • Writing Search Engine-first content 

The last point to avoid, is a complex minefield and Google has provided a very handy list of questions for you to ask yourself when it comes to the content you’ve created. We highly recommend you look through them and see how your content compares to the answers you give. 

Be careful using AI generated content

We cannot deny as SEO’s that we have seen a rise in low-value, AI generated content. It litters the SERPs like plastic in the ocean and when it comes to the latest Core Update, the SEO team at The PHA Group all had the same thought: this feels like a reaction to the sudden overflow of AI generated content. 

There’s no surprise to be seen here, with more and more users wading through the muck of useless content, desperately seeking the beautiful coral reefs of helpful, qualified content. 

That’s why when Google mentions it’s specifically targeting scaled content abuse, we feel there is a correlation. There’s no doubt that AI can be helpful in certain day to day tasks, however, when it comes to content creation, from a long-term perspective, we do believe it’s best to leave it to the (human) experts.

What to do if you’re hit

This one is aimed to take a month to fully roll out, so we recommend keeping an eye on traffic and rankings in that time.  

Some top tips from our SEO team: 

  • Watch out for traffic fluctuations within Google Analytics 
  • Compare time periods, both month on month and year on year 
  • Look for noticeable changes in sessions, page views and user engagement metrics 
  • Utilise Google Search Console and the performance section to keep an eye on Clicks, Impressions and Click-Through Rates and troubleshoot any drops you see 
  • Utilise rank tracking tools such as SEMRush, or SERanking to identify dips and fluctuations for your key pages 

The main warning sign that you’ve been hit by a core update is usually a sudden drop in website traffic. However, it can be difficult to assess if you’ve truly been impacted by a Core Update. It takes a thorough analysis of various metrics and performance indicators as well as the context within which your site sits. For example: 

  • Did you recently go through a site redesign? 
  • Did you recently migrate your website? 
  • Did you remove a large number of pages?  
  • Have your competitors made any major improvements in their SEO strategy? 

Feeling at a loss? Don’t worry we get the daunting nature of a Core Update. To find out more about how Google’s algorithms affect your site or if you’ve negatively been hit by an update, get in touch with our Digital team now. 

Check out some of Google’s other larger algorithm updates.

Get in touch with the team