The New War On Spam: What The March 2024 Google Core Update Means For Low Quality Content

A business person discovering that the Google Core update has rewarded her content

Google algorithm updates aren’t always red-letter days. While the precise number isn’t known, there were at least 15 confirmed algorithm updates in 2022 and 2023, alongside 500 to 600 minor updates taking place each year.

Most of these involve minor, technical changes and bug fixes, but there are also significant, broader changes known as core updates that Google implements several times a year to enhance its search algorithms and system standards.

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One of the most important of these core updates was Google Panda, which was launched in 2011 with the aim of filtering out low quality websites with plagiarised, duplicate, or poorly written content. Google Panda – named after Google engineer Navneet Panda who played a central role in developing Google’s search engine technology – set the tone for every core update published ever since: the primary purpose of the Google search algorithm is to reward high quality websites while reducing the presence of low quality sites on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

It’s A war On Spam That Continues To This Day.

Has it been successful? Overall, yes. The trend in content marketing from 2011 to 2023 was a year-on-year increase in quality and authority, favouring original, informative, and longer form content. The ultimate victors in the war on spam are businesses and their customers, lending greater credibility to the Google search engine and the results it provides.

So, What’s Changed?

The Google Core Update published last month (March 2024) is a wide-ranging algorithmic change that targets low quality and unoriginal content while rewarding more useful and relevant material. It’s a familiar theme, but this update is important because the core ranking factors used to prioritise websites in search results have been radically refined and expanded.

In particular, the core update implements new policies to combat AI generated spam, ‘spun’ content (where somebody uses an AI to create a multiple paraphrased version of the same blog article), and manipulative link signals (in SEO, this is a ‘black hat’ practice that includes using misleading anchor text, disguising URLs with unrelated text, and other tactics to artificially boost a website’s backlink profile).

Unfortunately, since the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, the volume of new AI content being published has increased drastically, with approximately 10.2% of content on the Google top 20 containing AI generated material in March 2024.

Much of this material is decidedly lacking in the quality department.

Google’s recent action seeks to address quality concerns with AI generated content before it becomes a serious issue and undermines the credibility of the search engine.

What Does This Mean For My Business?

The update has already had a notable impact on many websites, and some have been de-indexed or had their search positions adjusted. Google’s new war on spam should be seen as a wake-up call for businesses to continue investing in high quality and relevant content as the best strategy to maximise their search position. There are, unfortunately, no shortcuts to the top. The best SEO strategy is to write for your customers, creating the best, most informative, and entertaining content you possibly can, in order to address their queries and drive inbound traffic to your site.

Is The Core Update A Ban On AI Content?

No. The core update doesn’t address AI specifically, but it does tighten up the rules on low quality content in a way that excludes a lot of shoddiest AI content. We’ve all seen this kind of content. It’s stuffed full of keywords and clichés, sounds stilted and unoriginal, and says the same thing over and over and over again. Websites that have gotten into the habit of churning out hundreds of AI generated articles each week over the past few years may need to think again. However, it’s important to remember that Google’s concern is quality – they don’t have a problem with AI itself. The best way to ensure strong long-term search visibility is to invest in professionally written marketing content tailored and personalised to your business. However, if you are going to use AI tools in your content, it’s essential to check that the content is original, factually correct and up to date, does not use copyrighted material, and is personalised to the needs and requirements of your target buyers. If you don’t, you could get penalised under the new rules.

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To find out more about content marketing and how to create the best content for your business to support your growth objectives, please get in touch with one of our team today by clicking here.

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