It’s true: This is one of the big ones. But should you be worried?

It depends on how you’ve been handling your SEO and content creation activities. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights in this month’s core algorithm update:

1. Helpful Content Updates Are Now a Part of the Core Algorithm Update System

For the past couple years, we’ve periodically heard Google announce a new helpful content update. Those announcements will now stop because Google has incorporated the helpful content update system into the core update system.

40%: That’s the big number people are focusing on. Google stated that, between their previous efforts and the March 2024 update, there will be a 40% reduction in low-quality, unhelpful content.

What they haven’t made clear is what the 40% reduction is compared to — prior to any helpful content update (so, 2021 or earlier)? Or since the first iteration of the helpful content update?

It’s unclear how much of this 40% reduction is due to past updates, and how much is due to the ongoing rollout of the March 2024 core update.

In any case, the key to smooth sailing post update (as usual) is to keep creating content for real people, not search engines.

2. Cracking Down on Specific Types of Website Marketing Strategies

Google’s March 2024 core update calls out specific website marketing tactics, some of which made me think twice about what I was reading:

A) Scaled Content

This one caught my eye, because scaled content is something we’re really good at here at Brafton. We do scaled content for our clients every day, and it’s not spam. Why? Because we focus on creating valuable content for our clients’ target audiences.

Google is focusing on reducing scaled content created specifically for search rankings rather than to help people.

A warning: Don’t jump to the conclusion that content created by AI categorically counts as scaled content. Google has noted specifically that it doesn’t matter how the content is created; the point is why it was created. Regardless of whether content is created by a human, an AI model, or a combination of both, it has to be useful.

B) Site Reputation Abuse

This one was another that made me think, because guest posting is a legitimate strategy whereby one organization (potentially with a lower Domain Authority) creates valuable content for another organization (probably with a higher DA & bigger audience) with the hopes that some of that traffic and link juice will pass over to their site.

Is this another case of considering why content is created rather than how? Kind of. In this case, the how also makes a big difference: Host sites should be diligently overseeing third-party content production to ensure it’s high quality and useful.

In our experience, sound guest posting strategies include close oversight in the process. So, go on and continue your guest posting program worry-free.

C) Link Signals

Writing for Search Engine Journal, Roger Montti pointed out that Google removed the word “important” from a notable sentence in its documentation: “Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

What does deprioritization of link signals mean for your off-site SEO strategy? While it’s still unclear precisely how link strategies will be impacted by the rollout once completed, here’s some preliminary information:

  • Highly manipulative links will be penalized — think private blog networks and paid link strategies.
  • Outgoing links will be scrutinized — so be very strategic about who you link to, and how you denote those links on your site (eg. using nofollow or sponsored attributes where relevant).
  • Expired domains that are bought and repurposed will also be scrutinized, particularly in the way they treat links.

So, should you continue your link building efforts? I’d say yes, as long as you’re already doing it strategically and with a close eye on Google’s existing recommendations. This is a topic we’ve covered before:

3. Reddit Content in SERPs: Is it Part of the Update?

No. This is a separate thing, but it’s worth looking at, because I think it’s probably part of the same sort of effort of bringing helpful content into SERPs.

Despite the fact that they only recently announced their official partnership, if you look in the right places, you can see that the Google-Reddit friendship is nearly a year old. Check out this chart from Ahrefs:

Here’s what we’re looking at: A 250% organic traffic increase to Reddit between August 2023 and February 2024.

Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Land was also curious about the whole thing, so he asked Google about it.

The responding spokesperson explained to Schwartz that “for some queries, people are really seeking out content that comes from other people with relevant experiences.” In their view, user-generated forum content, such as from Reddit, fulfills that purpose nicely.

While it’s true that Reddit and other forums have a fair amount of spammy, unhelpful content, there’s also good content in the mix as well. The more Google displays Reddit threads, the better they’ll get at detecting what’s helpful and what’s just a waste of SERP space (at least, that’s the idea).

We’ve seen social-search relationships rise and fall, and there’s no telling what’s in store for Reddit’s partnership with Google long-term. But for now, expect to see links to forums in SERPs.

Does that mean you should go off and create a Reddit content strategy? Maybe; but not necessarily. Like all things in quality content marketing, it’s all about who your audience is, where they spend their time online, how they consume content and what your company can do for them.

Check out these articles for further reading about Google’s changing SERPs: