Google’s March 2024 Spam Update Explained

SEO Reading Time: 4 minutes

On the 5th March, Google announced they were rolling out the March 2024 spam update and the March 2024 core update.

These updates aim to reduce ‘unhelpful content’ in Google search results by up to 40% and tackle growing issues like expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse.

On the 20th March, the March 2024 spam update rollout was completed – and Google’s latest changes to their spam system are now officially live to all users.

We’ve put this blog post together to explain the types of spam abuse this update targets and the best practices you need to stick to. 👇

What are Google spam updates?

Google is constantly looking for ways to improve its user experience and reduce spam-related search results, and they typically find and tackle around 40 billion spammy pages every day.

The first spam update was rolled out in two parts in June 2021 to fight spam in search results and improve the overall experience for their users.

Although this was the first official ‘spam update’, Google has always made tweaks behind the scenes and released broader algorithm updates that reduce spam and improve the search experience.

When the spam updates started being released, it showed a big commitment from Google to tackle spammy practices.

Since the first spam updates in 2021, Google has been regularly rolling out new algorithm updates to tackle any new spam techniques that start to grow.

What did the March 2024 spam update change?

Like most other Google algorithm updates, we don’t know exactly what’s been changed inside Google’s elusive systems.

However, Google releases information and guidelines about new updates, including why they’re being made and the issues they aim to fix, which means we can get a clear idea of the practices we need to follow to stay in Google’s good books.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, the March 2024 spam update targeted three big spam issues: expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse.

Here’s a quick look at each of those issues and why you need to avoid them, taken straight from the March 2024 spam update notice released by Google.

Expired domain abuse

Expired domain abuse is where spammers buy expired domains and repurpose them to boost the rankings of low-quality or plagiarised content.

This practice misleads users into thinking the new content is part of the older, more reputable website, which often isn’t the case.

Since the March 2024 spam update, Google now considers any expired domains that were bought and repurposed to boost low-quality content in this way to be spam, and it will be penalised.

Scaled content abuse

With AI tools like ChatGPT becoming increasingly popular for content creation, Google has cracked down on using AI tools to generate content low-quality or plagiarised content at scale.

Scaled content abuse is where spammers generate masses of unoriginal website content and articles to manipulate search rankings or trick users into thinking they have answers to popular searches, but they only deliver unhelpful content.

Google has had a policy on this issue for quite some time. Still, with scaled content methods becoming more sophisticated and AI tools constantly advancing, Google has changed how they target scaled content to address the issue better.

Instead of just trying to target scaled content created using AI, Google will tackle all forms of scaled content, whether made by humans, automation, or a combination of both.

Site reputation abuse

Some websites with strong reputations and loads of great content open up their website to hosting low-quality content from third parties, who can benefit from that reputation.

Google’s example of this is: “A third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefits from the site.”

Google will now consider any low-quality, third-party content produced only to manipulate search rankings as spam.

These changes, however, won’t be enforced until the 5th May 2024, as Google is giving website owners who host third-party content time to make changes to their approach.

How to avoid penalties from the March 2024 spam update

If you’re concerned about being impacted by the March 2024 spam update, here are a few tips to follow.

Be careful with AI tools

Don’t just use AI to write masses of content for your website.

Tools like ChatGPT are great for researching, rewording and shortening content, and developing content ideas.

But if you’re using them to create entire pieces of content, it’s not a great reading experience for your users, and based on this update, if you’re doing it en masse, it can be bad for your SEO, too.

Review your content

If you’re worried that you’ve been doing some of the spammy practices mentioned above, then you need to review your content.

Use the March 2024 spam update guidance to benchmark your approach to creating content, and conduct an audit across your website to ensure you’re following the advice.

Follow best practices

It’s also good to familiarise yourself with Google’s spam policies.

Knowing how Google tackles spam, the tactics you should avoid, and the best practices you need to follow, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of how to create helpful, people-focused content that ranks well.

What to do if you’re affected by the March 2024 spam update

If you’ve noticed an adverse change in your keyword ranking, less traffic coming to your website, or you’ve been hit with a manual action penalty in Google Search Console since the March 2024 spam update was released, we can help.

Our SEO Specialists are super knowledgeable and can help you ensure you follow Google’s best practices and the latest guidance from the March 2024 updates.

If you’d like to speak to one of our Specialists, you can get in touch here.