Google Announces March 2024 Algorithm Update

If you haven’t been tuned into the SEO, Google started rolling out a huge algorithm update just last week. The update, officially titled the March 2024 Update, affects the core Google algorithm and is expected to target the following:

  • Mass-generated AI content
  • Spam from expired (repurposed) domains
  • Spam from parasite websites

Google expects this update to address 40% of low-quality results in its index. What do each of these update items mean and will your site be safe from the update?

AI-Generated Spam

Google has been fairly coy about how it planned to handle AI-generate content since ChatGPT became widely popular at the end of 2022. The search engine initially stated that it didn’t mind AI-generated content as long as it was helpful to users. But what about AI-generated content in mass? This is where Google is planning to distribute manual penalties for sites that produce this type of content in an especially egregious manner. By egregious, we mean producing hundreds of low-quality pages or posts on a very frequent basis. Anyone who uses AI to generate their content should be heavily editing the content. If using ChatGPT or another AI content generation tool (there’s a lot) is part of your content strategy and you don’t have an editor thoroughly adjusting the output, you could be at risk of receiving a manual penalty.

Keep an eye out in your Google Search Console for any notices.

Spam from Expired Domains

Buying and repurposing an old domain that had some credibility with Google is one of the oldest SEO strategies in the book. Let’s say a business had to close its doors, but had created a ton of value in its website. The website retains that value even if the website owner decides not to renew the domain, which is usually the case for organizations that go out of business. Link-building companies and SEOs alike would purchase these domains to repurpose their value and retain the link value offered by the domain. In some cases, this is okay and it’s natural. But what Google is looking to penalize now are the websites that have absolutely no tie to the original domain’s content or audience. In many cases, these sites are set up and allow just about any type of content, typically in exchange for money.

If you’ve ever seen link publishing requests or spammy guest post requests, much of that content is placed on these repurposed domains. Google likely won’t value links from sites like this much going forward. If this is your organization’s link-building strategy, don’t expect it to provide much value anymore.

Parasite Spam

Google is also projecting to target websites that exist to host other’s content to pass the value of a link, also usually in exchange for money as well. Let’s say you are trying to rank your content for an incredibly competitive keyword – instead of waiting to rank your website, you find that you can purchase a post on a big publication. Not only would your content rank in Google but it could also be rewarded with the credibility and authority of the hosting website. This is called parasite SEO because you’re attaching yourself to a larger website for the benefit of gaming search engine rankings. This is also likely something that has to be done in a blatantly spammy way to receive a penalty. Having an article or a post here or there probably won’t get you in too much trouble with Google.

Again, pay close attention to any notifications in Google Search Console.

How to Know If You’ve Been Hit

In addition to staying on the lookout for notifications in Google Search Console about a possible penalty, you’ll also want to stay heavily focused on organic traffic and organic search rankings throughout the month. Google claims the update will continue rolling out through the remainder of March. If you’ve managed your website’s SEO from a white hat standpoint and haven’t overly used low-quality content from AI tools, you’ll likely be okay. But if you do notice significant changes in traffic and rankings over the next 30 days, hold steady and remember to not react too quickly. Google makes a lot of changes and revisions to its algorithm and your traffic / rankings will likely return to normal in time.

Do you feel like you have been hit by the March 2024 Google Update?

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