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The March 2024 Spam Update has Finished Rolling Out: Here’s What We Know

Google has announced that it has finished rolling out the March 2024 spam update

In total the rollout took 14 days and 21 hours. It started on March 5th and was completed on March 20th. Crucially, the company has not finished rolling out the March 2024 core update. We expect this to continue over the next couple of weeks.

What was the March 2024 Spam Update? 

The March 2024 spam update aimed to penalise websites that had been using spam techniques that violated Google’s guidelines. Such techniques included:

  • Creating content that was primarily intended to match very specific search queries (think AI-generated, Q&A-led sites) 
  • Producing content at scale to boost search rankings (regardless of whether this was done via AI, copywriters or a combination of both)
  • Purchasing expired domains and repurposing them with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content

Added to this, as part of the update, Google also issued a two-month warning that it will take action against any websites that host “low-value, third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes, without close oversight of the website owner” from May 5th.

What did We See from the March 2024 Spam Update? 

While the March 2024 spam update was underway, Google also announced a number of new spam policies. As a result, the rollout led to a slew of manual actions (search ranking penalties you can see within Google Search Console) for ‘pure spam’. 

As a reminder, Google issues a manual action against a website when a human reviewer determines that the website is not compliant with the company’s spam policies. When a manual action is issued, a site no longer shows in the SERPs. 

Within hours of this update starting, hundreds of low-quality websites were completely de-indexed by Google and issued with manual actions for ‘pure spam’. The vast majority of these featured the heavy use of low quality, AI-generated content. 

Most of these actions were issued within a 24-hour window, leading Glenn Gabe to share the following GIF:

Following this, as the update rolled out, we also saw Google start to issue ‘misleading content’ manual actions. Again, these were largely given to websites that had relied heavily on AI-generated content. These manual actions primarily targeted sites that had featured prominently in News and Discover. 

Interestingly though, although AI-generated content definitely seems to be in Google’s crosshairs at the moment, a number of site owners have also claimed that their websites have received manual actions in spite of the fact that they’ve never used AI for content generation purposes. For example:

Of course, it’s possible that these site owners are merely trying to save face. However, this actually wouldn’t be unexpected. After all, Google has been clear that it is targeting ‘low-value content’. It’s just that AI content actually matches this description. This means that all sites that are creating meaningless content that is purely created to rank rather than serve users will still be hit by spam penalties even if their content has been written by humans rather than machines. 

Overall, it’s tough to say how many sites were hit by Google’s March 2024 spam update (particularly as the core update is still rolling out). However, estimates suggest that more than 1,000 sites were completely de-indexed. Noticeably, at present, it’s also thought that none have since recovered:

How can My Website Recover from the March 2024 Spam Update? 

If you were hit by this update, then Google recommends that you should review its spam policies and ensure that you’re compliant. If you’re not, you should immediately remove and replace all offending content. 

When handling manual actions with Google, it’s very important to be as compliant as possible and take as many actions as possible to try and revert the issue. You should also document these in detail before you file a reconsideration request.

For its part, Google says that it will carry out periodic refreshes to the spam update, but it may take impacted websites many months to recover. 

Concerned about whether your site may be hit by an update or unsure how you can genuinely show users your authority and expertise? Talk to our content experts today. We’d love to help you navigate the current updates and help you create user-first content that will help you reach your goals.

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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.