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Google is Finally Downranking Spammy and AI-Generated Content

Tired of reading content that has purely been written to attract clicks? Constantly clicking on articles that have keyword-heavy titles but don’t provide the useful information that you actually need? Well, things are changing.

Alongside the March 2024 Core Update, Google has announced a number of spam updates (known by some as the March 2024 spam update). These updates will prioritise helpful, valuable and authentic content while downranking some of the spammy and AI-written pieces that have dominated the search engine results pages (SERPs) over the last few months.

Thanks to these updates, the company believes it is taking a significant stride towards enhancing the user experience and providing results that matter. From our perspective, it’s also clear that Google is sending a message: spammy, sketchy and manipulative behaviour that’s designed to game the system will no longer be tolerated.

According to Google, the March 2024 Core Update goes further than ever before in prioritising high-quality content. The company says that the new update will be able to distinguish between for-human and for-SEO content, promoting the former and downranking the latter. The company’s internal estimates suggest that ‘unhelpful content’ could be reduced by as much as 40% – that’s a massive change to the search experience for users.

By downranking low-quality content, users can expect Google to become better at finding and displaying content that is deemed impactful, valuable and helpful. But how impactful could these changes actually be? And will this update prevent practices that aim to manipulate Google’s ranking systems?

Combating AI-Generated and Scaled Content

The rise of AI and automation has led to new and faster ways of manipulating Google results. Now, with just a few sentences or a quick command, a chatbot can write entire blog posts, landing pages or product descriptions.

According to Pandu Nayak, a VP of search at Google, this is the kind of content that will suffer when the new update rolls out. In particular, Google’s new ‘scaled content abuse’ policy will downrank websites that churn out large quantities of content, either through the means of AI or through the use of low-paid, unqualified writers.

Google’s spam updates will take around two weeks to rollout, and the company’s core update will take about a month. But, in a warning sign of things to come, Google has been delisting some websites and sending out manual actions to others sites for ‘pure spam’… perhaps as a warning shot.

It’s well worth pointing out that it shouldn’t be surprising that Google is taking this step. After all, using AI tolls to generate content that’s only intended to rank rather than add genuine value is explicitly against Google’s guidelines:

In fact, many SEOs (and copywriters) will argue that such an update from Google is well overdue.

The Importance of Authentic, Expert Content

For content creators, this update underlines the importance of producing useful, engaging and authentic content. While AI-generated content offers speed and convenience, prioritising user intent and providing genuine value are now more important than ever before. 

While there will always be those who attempt to gamify Google, creators must prioritise quality over quantity. Content that demonstrates expertise, authority and trustworthiness (E-A-T) will become increasingly crucial in maintaining visibility within the SERPs.

As a result, now is the time for businesses to invest in ‘real’ content. This content must be meticulously researched, include actual expertise and provide an audience with valuable information. Of course, this is hard work. It also takes time and costs money. But, it’s unavoidable. The results of the latest update are clear: if you don’t properly invest in content and produce quality copy that’s audience-first, you’ll be punished.

Building a High-Quality Google Ecosystem

On top of what we’ve outlined above, the latest Google updates also include two further spam-related policies: site reputation abuse and expired domain abuse. 

We’ve all seen examples of site reputation abuse, whereby a reputable site seems to feature unrelated and spammy articles written by a third-party. Expired domain abuse, meanwhile, refers to the practice of buying an abandoned high-ranking domain in order to benefit from its preexisting rankings and levels of trust. 

For those who are currently engaged in site reputation abuse, Google has granted a 60-day get-out-of-jail-free card. The update comes into effect on 5 May 2024, which means offending sites have two months to sort out their spam issue and remove any low-quality content.

In taking these steps, it seems Google has recognised its issue with spammy content. As a result, the company is now taking real steps to eradicate these kinds of behaviours, tricks and manipulations. 

As Nayak puts it:

“The healthy, high-quality ecosystem is exactly the one that gets affected when spammers and low-quality purveyors of information get control of ranking.”

Been Hit? Here’s How to Turn it Around…

If you’ve been hit, you’re likely feeling the pinch. However, the good news is that it is possible to escape and rebuild. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Take Down all of the AI-Generated Content on Your Website

This is inescapable. This content is the reason why your site has received the manual action and Google wants it to be taken down. Although it may have provided you with some short-term results in the past, it will no longer offer any value and it is now the root of your problems. So deleting it and replacing it with valuable content is the only option.

2. Create a Content Strategy

Next, you need to create a new content strategy for a well-defined audience. This will take research and time, but it’s an essential step. For this step to succeed, you need to work out who your audience is, what they’re searching for and the information they want to know. Then, you can create pieces of content that answer these key questions.

3. Invest in Quality Content

Now, you need to invest time, money and resource into creating the content you need. This means crafting copy that’s well researched and provides genuine insights. This content must be completely unique and offer real value to a reader.

As part of this process, it’s well worth asking independent reviewers for their thoughts on the content you’ve created. By this, we mean non-SEOs and non-marketers. If they like your content and find it interesting or useful, you’re onto a winner.

4. Request a Review

Only when you’ve taken all the above steps should you request a review from Google. At this point, you’ll also need to pray for forgiveness and promise that you’ll never try to game the system again.

If Google is happy that you’ve removed all of the offending content and replaced it with content that is truly valuable, it will let you out of jail and allow your site to be indexed again.

Need help adapting to the March 2024 Core Update and spam updates? Talk to our team. With our experience and understanding, we can ensure your website complies with these new policy changes.

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  • Tom Brook

    Tom has more than 10 years of experience working in copywriting, content strategy and PR. Over the years, he’s led one of the largest copywriting teams in the UK and has worked on a freelance basis for some of the country’s biggest brands.