The latest update to Google’s algorithm has potentially major implications for brands and marketers who are focused on showing up for their audiences in search. As with many recent updates, this one is designed to surface genuinely helpful results that align with search intent.

The March 2024 update to Google’s algorithm primarily targets low-quality, AI-generated content and spammy SEO techniques. Read on to learn more about what this means and how it impacts your SEO content strategy. First, a quick overview on the state of the Google algorithm, and why it is valuable to stay in the loop.

“The March 2024 core update is a more complex update than our usual core updates, involving changes to multiple core systems. It also marks an evolution in how we identify the helpfulness of content.” – Google

About the Google search algorithm

When it comes to search, Google is the primary gatekeeper between your content and your potential buyers. As of last year, Google was still processing 8.5 billion searches per day and HubSpot reports that, “While close to one in three consumers use social search to find answers, traditional search engines are still dominant, used by 88% of people.”

The last few core algorithm updates have been all about promoting better content. Each one has caused a shakeup in rankings — brands that enjoyed unassailable top spots lost positions, and new, more relevant content rose up the search engine results page (SERP).

The March update is no different. If you’re seeing changes in your content performance, here’s what you need to know.

What marketers need to know about the March 2024 core algorithm update

Algorithm updates are coming faster than ever. The last core update was in November, which was preceded by updates in October and August. These various enhancements from Google have openly shared a focus: increasing visibility of high-quality content that demonstrates experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). The latest follows a similar theme, but is more geared toward penalizing content that fails to meet these standards.

Key Facts to Know:

  • Name: Google March 2024 Core Algorithm and Spam Update
  • Launch Date: March 5, 2024
  • Rollout Duration: March through May 2024
  • Scope: A comprehensive update that evaluates all content types
  • Effect: Devalues low-quality content, including AI and spam.
  • Global Reach: Affects all regions and languages worldwide
  • Impact: High — could reduce prevalence of certain SERP results by 40%
  • Wide Influence: All sites are being analyzed under this new update
  • Recovery: If your site is affected, review your content and implement Google’s core update recommendations.
  • Ongoing Evolution: Google will continue to strengthen its algorithm against spammy SEO tactics and AI-generated content.

What’s included in the March 2024 core update

The new update includes two main components: a spam update (completed as of March 20, 2024) and a core update (currently rolling out). These changes are designed to help searchers “see more useful information, and fewer results that feel made for search engines.”

The core update focuses on filtering out low-quality, inaccurate or unoriginal content, especially pages that are generated by AI or those with poor E-E-A-T scores. Google shared that they expect these and previous changes to collectively reduce “low-quality, unoriginal content” in search results by 40%.

The spam policies target three manipulative SEO techniques that Google is aiming to halt:

  • Scaled content abuse: Use of AI to produce high volumes of low-quality content.
  • Site reputation abuse (parasite SEO): High authority websites that host third-party content with little editorial oversight can expect to be affected.
  • Expired domain abuse: Spammers who buy up expired domains to host low-quality content and get an initial boost will also be targeted with this update.

The big takeaway here is that if you’re trying to game the system, it’s a losing battle. With their wealth of resources and expertise, Google is constantly innovating their search engine to circumvent the new era of black hat SEO.   

While incorporating AI into its own search experience, Google is taking active steps to ensure that unhelpful applications of the technology from others don’t diminish that experience.

What’s next for content marketers

As we often say, the secret to good SEO is quite simple: great content. Plenty of data and analysis should go into selecting the right keywords and how you approach them, but at the end of the day, quality is what matters most to rank. Focus on showcasing your brand’s expertise, building connections, and providing concrete value. 

Do not use artificial intelligence to directly produce content. Generative AI can be helpful for content marketing in many ways, but only as a complement to human skill and perspective. Ultimately, this Google algorithm change should be good news for brands that place domain expertise at the heart of their content strategy. Your authentic and credible content will further differentiate you from competitors who might be drawn to the allure of spammy AI tactics.

How to respond to the spam update

The site reputation abuse and expired domain abuse updates are a bit more technical in nature, and could merit exploration if your brand posts content to third-party sites. If you’re concerned about how your website might be affected by these changes, you can get out in front of it with a thorough SEO audit.  

Reviewing the latest updates:

At TopRank Marketing, we keep a close eye on the ever-changing Google algorithm so we can make sure our clients are in the loop. Here’s a rundown of the latest core updates and where they’ve focused.

November 2023

  • Name: Google November 2023 Broad Core Update
  • Launch Date: November 2, 2023, at around 11:30 am ET
  • Rollout Duration: Ended November 28, 2023
  • Scope: A comprehensive update that evaluates all content types
  • Effect: Higher ranking for high-quality content with an emphasis on firsthand content
  • Global Reach: Affects all regions and languages worldwide
  • Impact: High — over 10% of top 10 rankings are new
  • Wide Influence: Extends its impact to Google Discover, featured snippets, and more
  • Recovery: If your site is affected, review your content and implement Google’s core update recommendations
  • Ongoing Evolution: We can expect more core updates to come, focused on the goal of providing higher-quality content to searchers

October 2023

  • Name: Google October 2023 Broad Core Update
  • Launch Date: October 5, 2023, at around 12 pm ET
  • Rollout Duration: Anticipated to span one to two weeks
  • Scope: A comprehensive update that evaluates all content types
  • Effect: Not a penalty; it rewards high-quality web pages
  • Global Reach: Affects all regions and languages worldwide
  • Impact: Google hasn’t disclosed specific figures, but the impact seems wide-reaching, typical of core updates
  • Wide Influence: Extends its impact to Google Discover, featured snippets, and more
  • Recovery: If your site is affected, review your content and implement Google’s core update recommendations
  • Ongoing Evolution: Google will periodically refresh this algorithm, with potential future updates unannounced

Previous core updates

  • August 2023 Core Update: Rolled out from August 22 to September 7.
  • March 2023 Core Update: Rolled out from March 15 to March 28.
  • September 2022 Broad Core Update: Completed on September 26.
  • May 2022 Broad Core Update: A significant and fast update.
  • November 2021 Core Update: Impactful changes to search rankings.
  • July 2021 Core Update: Another important update.
  • June 2021 Core Update: A significant update that rolled out gradually.

Make your content algorithm-worthy

The path to performing better in search is two-fold: First, evaluate the content you have with an inventory and performance audit. Then develop a content strategy to create content that’s helpful to — and created by — humans.

Learn about TopRank’s SEO services and let our experts help you take the lead. We’ll get you started with a free SEO report card.