News, Articles & Knowledge

Google March 2024 Algorithm Updates – Fighting genAI

Posted by Clotilde on 02-Apr-2024 12:04:21
| 6 Minute Read

On 5th March 2024, Google announced two big algorithm updates: the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update and the March 2024 Spam Update. These updates have been launched as a response to the growing complaints of users regarding spam and low-quality results on Google search. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Google said the algorithms are “designed to show less content made to attract clicks and more content that people find useful” – Google Search Central.

Algorithm update.

AI vs. Google

The rise of AI has flooded the internet with AI-generated content with varying degrees of quality. Internet users have noticed this with many reports in the news about the decaying quality of Google’s search results, pushing users to move to other platforms like TikTok or ChatGPT. The Washington Post said people are moving to TikTok or Reddit to search, The Standard reports Google is prioritising low quality results, this article in the Verge made some big waves in the SEO industry by blaming it all on SEOs. Google had to react.

Search engines have had to deal with a huge volume of content to index that keeps growing and so they’ve had to review their algorithm to adapt. Lily Ray explains this very well in her video about the Helpful Content Update. Basically, some websites have been creating extremely similar content with the help of AI (remember genAI doesn’t create new ideas, it regurgitates what’s already out there). The problem is then that Google had to rank thousands – if not millions – of similar pages on the same subject which is almost impossible. Their reaction was therefore to downgrade content that was deemed of low quality.


Understanding the March 2024 Algorithm Update


Core vs. Spam Algorithm Update

Google launched two different updates at the same time with two different goals.

The March 2024 Core Algorithm Update is a broad update – a big one according to Google – that is still rolling out at the time of writing. It will take up to a month to fully roll out with various pushes during this time to different core systems. It will look at all types of content globally and reward great web pages. Google is expecting this update to reduce low-quality, unoriginal, and unhelpful content by 40%.

The March 2024 Spam Update will target more specific rules to remove spam from its search results:

  • Scaled content abuse: targets large scale AI-generated content farms
  • Expired domain abuse: targets spammers who buy expired domains to host low-quality content
  • Site reputation abuse: targets high-authority websites that host third-party content with little editorial oversight

The Spam Update finished rolling out on 20th March and we’re expecting a second one to happen on 5th May 2024.


Why is this Important?

Google’s aim is to reduce what it considers low-quality content by 40% to improve its search results. My take on this is that Google is currently at risk with the rise of AI-generated content and users moving to other platforms to search. The growth of TikTok and ChatGPT are clear threats to Google’s model as they provide a new, more interactive way of searching with instant responses. Even if Google still has a big share of the market now, it will start feeling the impact down the line and is therefore reacting to prevent further loss in market share.

We’ve also seen Google react with the introduction of Search Generative Experience (SGE) by incorporating AI responses into its search results. This is to counter the rise of conversational AI like ChatGPT which is quietly taking people away from traditional search engines as it provides quick answers to any question.

This update means that Google is now including the Helpful Content System into its main algorithm so it’s no longer a separate system. Google will now review content quality at a page level rather than site wide. This will therefore create a lot of fluctuations in search engine results and rankings. However, bear in mind the update is still not finalised so we wouldn’t advise doing anything drastic while it’s still running as it will keep evaluating search results and adapting positions.


How Will it Affect your Business?

These updates are heavily focused on quality content so if Google thinks your pages are low-quality, you will likely be downgraded in search engine results pages (SERPs). This means some of your pages will drop in rankings or, if you have too many low-quality pages, your whole domain could be seen as low quality and therefore all your pages might be affected.

On the spam update, many websites have reported getting manual actions for breaching Google’s policies. If your site has a manual action, it will be shown within Google Search Console as follows:

Screen shot from Search Engine Journal.

Source: Search Engine Journal

Recovery can be difficult once you’ve had a manual action or been downgraded. You will need to work tirelessly and consistently to improve your content and UX in order to prove to Google that you are a high-quality website, providing useful, unique content to your audience.


Source: Semrush Sensor


What to Do if You’re Affected?

Since the core of these updates seems to be related with content quality, our advice hasn’t changed much from previous recommendations we’ve given regarding the Helpful Content Update. You need to ensure the content you create is aimed at your audience and provides a useful, unique perspective to them which will help them solve their challenges.

Google has been clear about penalising content where the only aim is to attract clicks to your site rather than providing something to humans. This means a lot of websites that were using content to get views and then monetise these views via advertising have been affected by the various updates launched in the past months. This is an advantage for businesses who have a genuine reason to attract traffic to their site because they have something that can help humans solve their problems.

This doesn’t mean that genuine businesses won’t be affected by this update and there are still rules you’ll need to follow to ensure your pages are seen as high-quality by Google (and humans!).

What to do if you're affected by the algorithm updates.

Content Quality & EEAT Guidelines

The best thing to do to ensure your content is seen as high quality by Google is to follow Google’s EEAT guidelines: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Prioritise quality over quantity
  • Ensure your content is well-written and correct
  • Make your content unique by sharing your own opinion or focusing on an angle that hasn’t been treated elsewhere
  • Optimise your content for SEO but don’t over-optimise as Google wants content written for humans, not bots
  • Cite relevant, authoritative sources
  • Focus on subjects that you’re an expert in
  • Create content clusters around relevant subjects to show topical authority
  • Showcase your expertise by using first person, adding information about the author like their experience and qualifications
  • Show you have personal experience on the subject by sharing case studies or examples of what you have done to solve this issue
  • Improve your site authority by getting backlinks from other relevant sites


AI vs. Quality Content

Google hasn’t outright banned generative AI but their guidelines are clear that you shouldn’t mass-produce low-quality content which is mostly what websites have been doing with genAI. They’re happy for websites to use AI to generate content if it creates something of high quality that provides useful insights to the reader. They also recommend disclosing whether you’ve used AI in the content process “when it would be reasonably expected”.

As with most things in SEO, these guidelines provide a bit of a grey area. Our recommendation is to use AI sparingly and keep testing. Don’t create content with AI without a human checking it and bear in mind the content you create isn’t for bots but for humans. Throughout your creation process, keep the EEAT guidelines in mind to ensure the end result will be helpful to your audience.


Catering for your Audience

As a business, the ultimate reason you use SEO is to attract your audience to your site so you can provide them with something that will help them solve their challenges. This should always be the ultimate goal for everything you do!

Writing content, optimising your site, improving UX, improving technical health, all these tasks should be implemented in order to attract and engage with your audience. It may sound obvious, but some people tend to forget this and focus on pleasing Google rather than their users. We’ve found that keeping the target audience in mind and this ultimate goal has helped our clients weather the multiple storms of algorithm updates throughout the years.

Target audience.

Contact our SEO Experts

The world of SEO – and digital marketing – is evolving at dizzying speed with the introduction of AI. And it’s not about to slow down any time soon! AI keeps evolving every week and search engines have to follow suit to adapt. This will keep causing big changes in the Google algorithm as well as the way search engines provide results for their users. Therefore, businesses have to keep pace and adapt accordingly.

At Innovation Visual, we know the difficulty for businesses to keep track of changes AND maintain their day-to-day work. That’s why we are best placed to support your teams with our fantastic experts who are constantly training and keep a finger on the pulse with changes in the digital landscape. Contact us today to see how we can best support your team with SEO and digital marketing.


Topics: Strategy, Digital Marketing, Effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Content Strategy & Planning, Google