Google’s March 2024 updates and what they mean


Google has launched a significant set of algorithm updates and new crackdowns on spam. Within 24 hours, reports of sites being completely removed from Google's index emerged. These include some of the worst offenders using pure spam techniques, but more will likely come.

My blog summarises what's happening and what to expect as the updates roll out in the coming weeks. I also share the ramifications of these changes for SEO practices and how you can shift away from outdated approaches.

March 2024 Core update

This wide-ranging update will take about a month to roll out. It follows several updates late in 2023 and signals that Google is making a major effort to improve the quality of its results. This action was needed and, from my perspective, welcomed.

Google March Update

Since 2022, the introduction of the Helpful Content system and associated updates has been a primary focus of SEO community discussion. This system is now becoming part of the broader core updates, so we'll no longer get separate announcements when it's updated (I doubt too many people will thank Google for that).

It further dilutes our ability to understand the focus of individual Core updates. They are different and, therefore, hard to unpick without Google sharing specific details (which it typically doesn't). When we assess SEO performance, we need to review it holistically and avoid making quick assumptions.

March 2024 Spam policies update

Updates to Google's spam policies put the emphasis on three particular tactics that are now being targeted through a mixture of algorithm updates and manual penalties.

  • Scaled content abuse: sites that generate high volumes of low-quality content are at risk. There's naturally a lot of focus on generative AI's role in this, but this policy applies regardless of method.
  • Site reputation abuse: otherwise known as "parasite SEO," occurs when a host site allows third parties to publish irrelevant content without any oversight. Google uses an educational site publishing payday loan content as an example (yes, this does happen).
  • Expired domain abuse: purchasing expired domains with a strong history and reputation, then using them to gain rankings on other topics

Reputable businesses with strong content policies are, hopefully, safe from the impact of these filters – but there are always exceptions. Smaller businesses that lack digital knowledge are often more susceptible to snake oil sellers, which are still too commonplace.

It's worth familiarising yourself with these policies to understand the risks and spot the scams.

What to do if your visibility has suffered

Please get in touch with us if you need help navigating through these updates or recovering from them.

  • If you see a sudden, more significant impact - it could indicate that your site has a quality issue. Because some of Google's signals are site-wide, the page(s) that suffer drops might not be the direct cause of the problem. You should consider a thorough review.
  • Sites that suffer a larger impact won't recover overnight, even after making fixes. It might need a future update to take effect or for incremental gains to gather pace over time.
  • Don't jump to conclusions if you see smaller fluctuations in your organic search traffic. These may be temporary. But do get in touch with us if traffic drops persist.
  • If your site is using one of the spammy tactics Google is taking action against, speak to an SEO expert ASAP and start taking action urgently. With site reputation abuse, you have until May 5th to get your house in order before Google takes action.

Generative AI – a little bit of history repeating

Nobody should be surprised that Google is targeting AI-generated content. At Fresh Egg, we've discouraged the unsupervised use of generative AI for content from the outset. Reputable voices in the SEO community have warned of the risks for some time. There are clear similarities for those in the SEO industry in 2011.

At that time, content farms were churning out content that was degrading the quality of Google's results. Google's response was the Panda algorithm, which obliterated these techniques and put people out of business.

The emergence of ChatGPT into the mainstream has led us to this point. Many fell for the hype or spied an opportunity to make quick cash and started churning out vast quantities of low-quality, unedited content.

The early signs are that these updates could have a similar impact on those who've bet the house on AI for all their content efforts.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't explore the possibilities of using AI technologies in their work, or to help them create content. The problem is that people place trust in technology without understanding how it works. The result is unrealistic expectations and poorly understood limitations.
Until there's a breakthrough in the hallucination problem, generative AI's output must be scrutinised closely. Some businesses are already finding this to their cost.

Do you need help with SEO following a traffic loss?

The future of SEO

SEO practices need to catch up with search engines' advances. While we talk about being user-focused, it's still common practice to start an SEO campaign by prioritising a list of keywords sorted by average monthly volume.

Likewise, tool providers need to innovate with the data they have and the metrics they provide. It's 2024, and those providers still shove "authority" scores down our throats that have no relation to Google's algorithms.

"I understand my audience because I downloaded this spreadsheet" doesn't feel like a convincing argument. Change is needed. To understand people's informational needs, we must talk to them, ask them questions and listen.

Then there's "best practice," which doesn't exist in the way people assume it does. There are good and bad practices for content, which vary depending on the scenario.

For example, providing the author's credentials and a bio for specialist topics like healthcare or finance is good practice. The reader needs reassurance that they can trust that information. However, they're unlikely to be interested in reading that the author of a "top 10 wellbeing apps for 2024" is a marketing copywriter who likes kittens and enjoys watching movies.

Most things with content are situational, so "best practice" is tailoring our approach to fit the context. Fortunately, we have just such an approach to which we can turn.

Using content design to meet user needs

Content design is a methodology that puts users at the heart of content creation. It moves us away from a linear write-edit-publish process into a collaborative, iterative model that begins with user research.

This method requires a shift in mindset for those accustomed to content marketing approaches, but it's easy to get started and scale up over time.

For example, begin incorporating the evidence-based guidance from into your content work.

Another significant benefit of content design is how it forces us out of insular bubbles – for example, by considering the language used by customers and how this differs from company or industry jargon.

The result is higher-quality content designed to deliver what people need in ways that are easy for them to access and understand.

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Mark Chalcraft

Mark Chalcraft

24 Aug 2022

Mark Chalcraft

Mark Chalcraft

18 Sept 2023

Are you seeing big drops in your web traffic? Are you seeing a performance hit in Google Analytics and Google Search Console? There will be ups and downs in the coming weeks as this update.

Are you worried about the forthcoming helpful content update? Do you need help in understanding and knowing if your site is at risk of this Google update? Contact us for help.