Google Core Updates in 2024: What You Should Know

Nadica Naceva
Last Updated:

Google gets around 84.2 billion monthly visits worldwide. That's 83 times more compared to the 1.3 billion that Bing gets. In fact, Google makes up 91.47% of worldwide search engine market share across all devices. 

The point of sharing these figures is that Google makes up the biggest chunk of search engine users globally. As a business with an online presence, you have to adapt to Google's updates. When Google changes, so do you. 

Over the years, Google has made several core updates that have impacted the SEO community and website rankings. Since Google announces these changes in advance, webmasters and site owners can prepare for the updates and make necessary changes to their websites. 

In this guide, we discuss Google's March 2024 core update and everything you need to know about it.


What is a Google Core Update?

A core update is an extensive change to Google's search algorithm, which determines website rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). A core update is different from smaller updates, which Google says it makes ''thousands of times a year.'' 

Core updates set the tone for which content will rank and which won't. For example, the E-E-A-T algorithm update, which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, established that Google considers these factors when ranking a website. Simply put, Google wanted businesses to make content for people rather than search engines. 

Why Does Google Update Its Algorithm?

According to Google, core updates ''increase the overall relevancy of our search results.'' Google's goal is to be as user-friendly as possible. 

When someone searches for a topic, Google wants to give them the most precise and accurate result in a short time without making them scan through several pages. To accomplish this, Google filters content by its quality and helpfulness. 

Every core update aims to make search results more and more helpful for users. 

Why Do Google Core Updates Matter to Businesses? 

Something very interesting happens every time there's a core update. Some websites go up in rankings, while others, although they were previously performing well, lose their spots in SERPs. 

Businesses want to be found. For that, they must appear higher in SERPs. So, if a core update negatively affects a business's online visibility, it can lead to a decrease in website traffic and sales. 

That's why every time there's a core update, businesses have to ensure their content aligns with Google's new guidelines. Google explains that ''there's nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update.'' 

These websites have not ''violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to manual or algorithmic action.'' Their rankings simply change because they are no longer relevant, helpful, audience-friendly, or aligned with Google's new update. 

For businesses to regain their SERP positions, they have to follow the most recent content quality guidelines and prioritize user experience. 


Google Core Update March 2024: Key Highlights 

Google released details about its 2024 core updates on March 5, 2024. The update will roll out over time till May. 

SEO experts and business owners have differing views on the impact of this core update. While some think it would do the job, others are speculating that SEO is dead and Google will merely focus on relevance now. 

Let's first look at the key highlights of this update. 

Purpose of the March 2024 Core Update 

According to Google, the purpose of this core update is to show ''less content that feels like it was made to attract clicks, and more content that people find useful.'' It's due to this statement that many are saying the era of SEO might be over. 

Google has updated its core ranking systems to include more innovative approaches and signals to identify helpful results. The search engine does not merely use one system or signal for this purpose anymore. 

Google also states this update might result in fluctuations in search engine rankings. Since this is a more complex update than the regular core updates, the process of rolling out changes will take a month or so. 

Interestingly, Google says that content creators do not have to do anything ''new or special'' if they've already been making people-centered content. For others, who might be having trouble ranking on Google, they should consider focusing on people-first content. 

In making this core update, Google has two aims: 

  • Improve Quality Ranking: Google wants to make the most helpful information the most prominent. The search engine also wants to minimize unoriginal content on the SERPs.¬†

  • New Spam Policies: Google has also introduced new spam policies to eliminate poor-quality content from its search results.¬†


Reduction of Expired Domain Abuse 

An expired domain is a domain name that was registered but is no longer in use. Some people purchase these domain names knowingly and repurpose them to manipulate search engine results. These sites host low-quality content with little to no value to readers. 

For example, here’s how Google explains an example of expired domain abuse:

‚Äė‚ÄôSomeone might purchase a domain previously used by a medical site and repurpose that to host low quality casino-related content, hoping to be successful in Search based on the domain's reputation from a previous ownership.‚Äô‚Äô

The search engine will rank this website well for medical-related keywords, yet it has no valuable information on the topic.

Google has recognized this issue and is updating its algorithms to combat these abusive practices. The recent core update intends to reduce the impact of expired domain abuse by improving the detection and handling of such sites. 

However, this doesn't mean that you cannot use expired domains. Google says it's okay to use expired domains as long as you use them for a new, original website with people-first content. 


Tackling Scaled Content Abuse 

Since AI and automation are becoming more advanced, some websites have started using automated content to manipulate search engine rankings. These sites produce low-quality articles that are machine-generated or spun from other existing articles. 

Think hundreds of articles being posted in a month. Most of this content is utterly unhelpful and spammy, aimed only at ranking for certain keywords. 

Google already acted upon scaled content abuse in its previous update. In the March update, Google has built on its previous spam policy. 

However, it's interesting to note that this is not an attack on AI-generated content. Google states that it will take due action against scaled content abuse regardless of whether the content is generated through human efforts, AI, or a hybrid of both. 

There hasn't been much of a change in Google's policy about the use of automation for content creation. The search engine still established that ''if the primary purpose is manipulating ranking in search results,'' the content is labeled as spam. It doesn't matter who wrote the content, ChatGPT, or a new content writing intern. 


Action Against Site Reputation Abuse 

Site reputation abuse occurs when a third party publishes content on its website without any oversight from the first party. The content could be used as a way to manipulate SERPs or piggyback off the reputation of another website. 

Examples of such third-party pages are advertisements and sponsorships independent of oversight from the host site or unrelated to the site's purpose. For example, a website may feature an advertisement for a product that has nothing to do with the content of the site simply to use product-related keywords for ranking purposes.

Google's crawlers would pick up the keywords and may rank the website high in SERPs. However, the content itself may not be relevant or useful to the user, leading to a poor user experience. The March 2023 core update will address this issue by penalizing sites that engage in site reputation abuse.

It won't affect all third-party content, though. As long as there's host oversight, your web pages are safe. For example, third-party sites that do ''advertorials'' or ''native advertising'' won't undergo a penalty. 

In these cases, the host site has explicit oversight over the placement of content and ensures that the sponsored content is relevant to its audience. 

Examples of Site Reputation Abuse 

According to Google, here are some examples of site reputation abuse: 

  • A sports website that hosts a third-party written page on ''workout supplement reviews'' with no involvement of its editorial staff with the purpose of SERP manipulation¬†

  • A site posting third-party pages about confusing topics that are not relevant to its actual audience, such as a movie review site writing about ''best essay writing services.''¬†

  • A site hosting third-party coupons without any oversight from the said third party¬†

Here are some examples of content that are not site reputation abuse: 

  • Press release service sites¬†

  • News sites that may have taken content from other news websites

  • Sites that allow user-generated content, like a comment section or a forum¬†

  • Opinion pieces or columns written by third-party contributors¬†

  • Coupons from third-party partners with proper host oversight and relevance to the site's audience


Implications of Google's 2024 Core Update 

The 2024 update started rolling out on March 5 and is expected to be complete in a month. Here are some implications of the update that businesses should be prepared for. 

Websites Getting Deindexed 

One day your website is third on the SERPs, but comes March 10, and it drops to page 5. Worse still, if your website is nowhere to be found on the SERPs, this may indicate that your website has been deindexed by Google's algorithm. 

In a recent announcement, Google said that it plans to remove about 40% of low-quality content from search engine results. That means many websites that were previously doing well due to good SEO might suffer a blow because their content isn't as helpful as it should be. 

Similarly, websites in violation of Google's guidelines on webmaster practices will also face the same fate. In accordance with the search engine's new spam policy, websites using questionable SEO strategies will be penalized. 

The effect is already in motion. Interestingly, complete deindexing of websites is usually a manual action rather than algorithmic, meaning that Google has really stepped up its efforts in ensuring quality content for users. 

Prompt Penalties for Websites 

This time, Google did not wait around to penalize websites. Instead, the penalties came swiftly and harshly. 

SEO masters have already started seeing penalties, as many are discussing the matter on X (previously Twitter). 

Websites that have declined in ranking or faced penalties do not get a notification in the Search Console. Since these changes are due to algorithmic updates, Google won't notify you if an update has affected your website positively or negatively. You'll have to check this manually by searching for your website's name on Google. 

Vulnerability of Outdated and Untrustworthy Websites 

While Google may not be directly penalizing AI-written content, it's definitely targeting low-quality and error-filled content. According to Google, the Lowest Quality Justification for content is based on two factors: 

  • Deception: A page with a deceptive purpose is prone to penalties. For example, if your website claims to be an informative resource for college students but your terms of service say you're a site for AI enthusiasts, Google terms this as deception.¬†

  • Untrustworthy: Suppose you write some articles using AI. In your website's terms and service, you say that some articles are AI-written and may be out of date or have errors. You do not specify which articles were written by AI. Google deems your whole website as untrustworthy, giving you the lowest E-E-A-T score.¬†

Websites with deceptive or untrustworthy content will suffer in the new update. Owners should take this time to go over their website's terms and service, ensuring that it aligns with the published content. 

Website Targeting Due to Publishing Frequency 

SEO masters and experts are somewhat certain that Google is not deindexing sites due to their use of generative AI for content creation but rather the frequency at which they publish. 

It makes sense. Let's say you're a travel blog posting 100 articles a day. That's a lot of content for a human to write, but for AI, it's a breeze. 

Google will take notice and investigate if these articles are of high quality and valuable to readers. Also, websites that post ridiculously high numbers of articles get flagged for abusing the ranking system. 

Going forward, sites that exclusively post AI-written content and do it in large volumes will be under scrutiny. 


How to Adjust Your Online Business Presence to Google's 2024 Core Updates 

By now, you should have a clear idea of what the 2024 core update is all about. To quickly sum up, Google wants content that helps audiences and isn't merely written to generate clicks. It's the same as Google's people-first approach except more intense this time. 

Here's the way forward for businesses that do not want to lose their rankings or online presence moving forward. 

Let the Update Complete Before Making Changes 

First off, don't rush to make changes. Google has declared that the update will take effect by April 2024, so there's still time to act. Even if you're feeling the pressure to take action, hold back until the update completes. 

The Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, said on X, ''I would let the update complete before deciding if there are any fundamental changes you might want to make." He even went on to say that ''there might not be any to do at all.'' 

If your site is clean and adheres to Google's guidelines, there's a good chance that you won't be affected by the update at all. Sullivan further said that if your ranking drops from first to second place, doing technical or content changes isn't recommended. 

It's likely some other factors may have affected your rankings. You could easily move back up after some time. 

Block or Remove Site Reputation Abuse 

We've already mentioned that Google is planning to take strict action against sites engaged in reputation abuse. If you have posted any type of content, coupons, sponsorships, or third-party articles without the oversight or involvement of that party, you should remove it from your website to avoid penalties. 

Google has given websites time till May 5, 2024, to clean up or remove any type of reputation abuse, after which penalties will be imposed. 

Take a People-First Approach 

Not to sound like a broken record, but a people-first approach is key. Focus on creating content that benefits users. 

For example, if you're using keywords related to ''best chocolate recipes,'' make sure that the content is about those chocolate recipes. It shouldn't be a generic post about the use of chocolate in cooking or an overly promotional piece for a specific brand. 

Avoid keyword stuffing or using irrelevant keywords just to rank higher. Google's announcement makes it very evident that the search engine won't be ranking pages that are ''unhelpful, have a poor user experience, or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people.’’

Avoid Black-Hat SEO Techniques 

Black-hat SEO techniques are a big no-no. These unethical tactics manipulate search engines to gain higher rankings. One popular black-hat technique is using hidden text or links, which involves adding keywords or links that are invisible to users but can be picked up by search engines. 

Another tactic is spamming, where websites use deceptive practices such as creating multiple pages with similar content to trick search engines into thinking they have more relevant information. These tactics won't work on Google anymore. 

The 2024 core update punishes the following SEO methods: 

  • Cloaking: Providing different content to users and search engines¬†

  • Redirects: Adding sneaky redirects to trick users¬†

  • Parasite SEO: Exploiting reputable websites to gain rank¬†

Use Generative AI Smartly 

It might seem like Google is cracking down on AI content, but it's actually the AI practices that are getting many sites unindexed. Here are some steps to take in this regard: 

  • Site Audit: Audit the content on your website to identify poorly written AI content. Refine and rework it.¬†

  • Original Content: Create original content instead of spinning existing articles with AI tools.¬†

  • Edit and Enhance: Instead of using AI as a writer, use it as an assistant. Edit and enhance all AI-written content with original analysis and insights.¬†

  • Creativity: Follow good editorial standards on your website. Back your content with research and creativity to make it original.¬†

Remove Unnatural Links 

Google's new spam policy calls for an audit of all links to your website. Identify irrelevant and low-authority links, such as those from link farms. You may have acquired these links at some point because of a paid agreement, collaboration, or a partnership that no longer holds. Maybe a competitor spammed your site with low-quality links to drive down your rankings. 

Here's how to deal with ''spammy'' links. 

  • Go to the Google Search Console.¬†

  • Click ''Links'' report and select ''Top linking sites.''¬†

  • Export the link list.¬†

  • Disavow all the spammy backlinks.¬†

After doing this, you can submit a review request with Google and explain how you've taken steps to improve your website. 


Recovery From a Core Update 

Google releases broad core updates every few months. If your content was hit in a previous update, you can recover from it once Google rolls out the following core update, provided you have made the recommended improvements. 

However, you won't necessarily have to wait too long. Google is constantly making changes to its algorithm but doesn't announce minor updates since they're not as notable as their broader counterparts. 

Whenever such an update occurs, there's a chance for your website to recover and improve its ranking. Just know that this isn't a guarantee. Google says that ''if there's more deserving content, that will continue to rank well with our systems.'' 


Conclusion

The March 2024 core update by Google has caused a stir in the SEO and search engine marketing community. Its focus has been on new spam policies and a general removal of unhelpful web pages. Many websites have seen their ranking drop, causing panic and speculations among website owners. 

However, this update, like the previous ones, mainly targets unhelpful content. As long as your website is compliant with Google's E-E-A-T algorithm, you're good to go. If it's not, you still have time to make the necessary improvements before Google rolls out its next core update. 

About the Author
Nadica Naceva is a storyteller, reviewer and strategist with an instinct for blending the worlds of online advertising and content creation. She's been in the game for nearly a decade, navigating the currents of SEO optimization, content marketing, and the digital strategies. Her path has taken her through the dynamic terrains of digital marketing, including stints at SEO and web design agencies and finally settling down as Head of Content at Influencer Marketing Hub. Nadica's approach to content? It's all about depth and precision, favoring insightful, well-researched material over the superficial or overly automated. It's this mix of in-depth knowledge and down-to-earth style that really makes her stand out as a reviewer and a voice worth listening to in the digital marketing world.