What web creators should know about our March 2024 core update and new spam policies

What web creators should know about our March 2024 core update and new spam policies

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Today we announced the March 2024 core update. This is designed to improve the quality of Search by showing less content that feels like it was made to attract clicks, and more content that people find useful. We also shared that we have new spam policies to better handle the practices that can negatively impact Google’s search results. In this post, we’ll go into more detail for creators about both the update and the spam policies.

Our March 2024 core update

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.

Just as we use multiple systems to identify reliable information, we have enhanced our core ranking systems to show more helpful results using a variety of innovative signals and approaches. There’s no longer one signal or system used to do this, and we’ve also added a new FAQ page to help explain this change.

As this is a complex update, the rollout may take up to a month. It’s likely there will be more fluctuations in rankings than with a regular core update, as different systems get fully updated and reinforce each other. We’ll post to our Google Search Status Dashboard when the update is finished.

There’s nothing new or special that creators need to do for this update as long as they’ve been making satisfying content meant for people. For those that might not be ranking as well, we strongly encourage reading our creating helpful, reliable, people-first content help page.

Our new spam policies

Our spam policies are designed to address practices that can negatively impact the quality of Google’s search results. Today, we’re announcing three new spam policies against bad practices we’ve seen grow in popularity: expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse.

We encourage content creators to review all of our spam policies and ensure they aren’t engaging in such practices. Sites that violate our spam policies may rank lower in results or not appear in results at all. If affected by a spam manual action, site owners will receive a notice through their registered Search Console account and can apply to have the action reconsidered.

Along with our new spam policies, we are also launching the March 2024 spam update today.

Expired domain abuse

Expired domain abuse is where an expired domain name is purchased and repurposed primarily to manipulate Search rankings by hosting content that provides little to no value to users. For example, someone might purchase a domain previously used by a medical site and repurpose that to host low quality casino-related content, hoping to be successful in Search based on the domain’s reputation from a previous ownership.

Expired domain abuse isn’t something people accidentally do. It’s a practice employed by people who hope to rank well in Search with low-value content by using the past reputation of a domain name. These domains are generally not intended for visitors to find them in any other way but through search engines. It’s fine to use an old domain name for a new, original site that’s designed to serve people first.

Scaled content abuse

Scaled content abuse is when many pages are generated for the primary purpose of manipulating Search rankings and not helping users. This abusive practice is typically focused on creating large amounts of unoriginal content that provides little to no value to users, no matter how it’s created.

This new policy builds on our previous spam policy about automatically-generated content, ensuring that we can take action on scaled content abuse as needed, no matter whether content is produced through automation, human efforts, or some combination of human and automated processes.

Is this a change in how Google views AI content in terms of spam?

Our long-standing spam policy has been that use of automation, including generative AI, is spam if the primary purpose is manipulating ranking in Search results. The updated policy is in the same spirit of our previous policy and based on the same principle. It’s been expanded to account for more sophisticated scaled content creation methods where it isn’t always clear whether low quality content was created purely through automation.

What’s different from the old policy against “automatically-generated content” and the updated policy against “scaled abuse”?

Our new policy is meant to help people focus more clearly on the idea that producing content at scale is abusive if done for the purpose of manipulating search rankings and that this applies whether automation or humans are involved.

Site reputation abuse

Site reputation abuse is when third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate Search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site’s ranking signals. Such third-party pages include sponsored, advertising, partner, or other third-party pages that are typically independent of a host site’s main purpose or produced without close oversight or involvement of the host site, and provide little to no value to users.

Our new policy doesn’t consider all third-party content to be a violation, only that which is hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate Search rankings. For example, many publications host advertising content that is intended for their regular readers, rather than to primarily manipulate Search rankings. Sometimes called “native advertising” or “advertorial”, this kind of content typically wouldn’t confuse regular readers of the publication when they find it on the publisher’s site directly or when arriving at it from Google’s search results. It doesn’t have to be blocked from Google Search.

Our spam policies page lists some illustrative examples of what is and isn’t site reputation abuse. Such content needs to be blocked from Google Search to avoid violating our spam policies. To allow time for site owners to prepare for this change, this new policy will take effect starting May 5, 2024.

What ranking signals does a site have?

Our core ranking systems are primarily designed to work on the page level, using a variety of signals and systems to understand how to rank individual pages. We do have some site-wide signals that are also considered. Please note: some third-party services provide “reputation” or “authority” scores for sites. These don’t correspond to any of Google’s own signals nor come from Google.

My site has a coupon area that we produce in part by working with a third party. Is this considered spam?

Many publications host coupons for their readers. If the publication is actively involved in the production of the coupon area, there’s no need to block this content from Google Search. Readers should clearly understand how the publication sources its coupons and how it works to ensure that the coupons provide value to readers.

Our goal with our new policies and our constant improvements to our spam fighting systems is not just to ensure that users get great, helpful content. It’s also to ensure those producing helpful content are succeeding in Search ahead of those who engage in spam.

We’ll update the Search Status Dashboard to confirm when the rollouts are complete. We’ll also announce and open up a form after the update has concluded for any specific feedback people might have.

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