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Google’s March 2024 core update & new spam policies

google spam updates march 2024
  • New Google core update for March 2024 will take approximately one month
  • Multiple core systems will be updated – including those that make up the Helpful Content System
  • Additional spam filters aim to clean up old and new “spammy” SEO strategies

Google’s March 2024 core update

Google has announced the release of its March 2024 core update. Expected to take a full month to roll out, this latest core update is set to improve how multiple systems function – including more enhancements to the Helpful Content System. Webmasters already adhering to the principles of EEAT needn’t do anything different at this time.

New web spam policies target

In addition to improvements to the core systems, Google aims to tackle three spam tactics that some SEO’s still benefit from or leverage.

These are:

  • Expired domain abuse (aka, aged domains)
  • Scaled content abuse
  • Site reputation abuse (parasite SEO)

What is expired domain abuse?

More commonly known as using “aged domains” in context of SEO, the practice would historically see webmasters buying up expired domains that have established link profiles and either redirect them to their “money” sites, or use the site to host new content hoping to leverage its historic authority.

Google describe this as “a practice employed by people who hope to rank well in Search with low-value content by using the past reputation of a domain name. These domains are generally not intended for visitors to find them in any other way but through search engines.”

At the same time, they state “It’s fine to use an old domain name for a new, original site that’s designed to serve people first” which means that Google are likely relying on a multitude of other quality signals in order to make a good judgement on what’s deliberate spam and what might be legitimate (even if low quality) content that happens to be on an aged domain.

What is scaled content abuse?

Google define scaled content abuse as the creation of “large amounts of unoriginal content that provides little to no value to users, no matter how it’s created”.

Whereas previous spam updates surrounding scaled content were aimed exclusively at automatically generated content, the new spam policy is designed to cover all bases – including bulk content created by humans, automation or a combination of the two.

Has Google changed their view of AI content?

Whilst Google have previously stated that AI content is treated with the same scrutiny as human generated content, the new policy has been “expanded” to account for the new level of “sophistication” that modern AI brings to creating content at scale, especially when it isn’t clear whether the low quality was automated or not. The new policy in essence, takes into account “scaling” signals that aren’t unique to either AI or Human, and independent of the “automation signals” that previously formed the backbone of this policy. In other words, it is a clear reaction to the speed and efficiencies (and corner-cutting) that AI enables…”fully automated” or not.

What is site reputation abuse?

Site reputation abuse is more commonly known as parasite SEO. The tactic sees SEOs publishing content directly to established and authoritative websites (such as Linkedin) in order to rank that content at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) with no other effort.

It is not a link building tactic, as most sites allowing for unmoderated, user-generated content (UGC) will automatically apply a nofollow tag to any outbound links. Instead, the content that ranks will contain a call to action, affiliate link or directly advertise a product or service. The lack of moderation from site owners means that the quality of the content published may not be relevant or pass true value to the end user and it is this type of practice specifically that Google wants to tackle.

Google’s new policy claims to give greater leniency to clearly advertorial content no matter how the end-user finds the content. Google has given publishers one full month to prepare, so expect penalties for those allowing UGC without moderation or marked sponsorship.

AUTHOR

James Newhouse

Agency Lead

James has worked in digital marketing since 2009. He has led successful technical, link building, digital PR and content teams, and shared SEO advice in national outlets like The Telegraph. There’s not a lot he doesn’t know about SEO strategy, having worked across most enterprise verticals including household name ecommerce giants and international law firms. In his spare time, you’ll find him fixing rusty old Land Rovers or playing tabletop board games with friends.

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