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Understanding Google's March 2024 Spam Update: What You Need to Know

This week, Google rolled out their new “March 2024 Google Spam Update”, that’s going to drastically affect the way websites with spammy content rank in Google searches. The update is focuses on three specific topics, “Scaled Content Abuse Spam”, “Expired Domain Abuse Spam”, and “Site Reputation Abuse Spam”, which I will break down later on, but with such a large rollout it could take upwards of two weeks to fully complete. 


The intent behind this rollout will be to reduce the amount of brainless, slightly tweaked, and useless content being pumped into the internet just for the sake of manipulating Google’s algorithm to get higher ranking. Initiatives like these have been around for a while, like Panda for example that rolled out in February 2011, but spammers are clever, and have found ways to take the things that Google has put into place as helpful initiatives and turn them on their head for quick returns. 


If you have a site that utilizes a lot of AI generated content, or article spins, then there is a good chance that you’re not going to like this update. As for any of you who take the time to formulate unique and helpful content for your users, your time has come! Let’s break down what’s about to happen.


Scaled Content Abuse Spam

This is when content is driven by quantity and simplicity, the act of providing content for content’s sake without regard to originality, helpfulness, or relevancy. Content like this doesn’t help users, and serves only as a manipulation to gain rankings. It’s easy to say that a vast majority of these pieces of content are AI generated, and that may be true, but the update isn’t going to only pick up on these. This also includes stitching together bits and pieces of multiple articles and not adding any extra or original context, as well as creating multiple websites for all of the spammy content, so even quickly spun hand tailored content won’t get a pass.


The new Google Spam Update is going to ensure that websites are stocked with content that users can actually benefit from, and is relevant to the website that it’s hosted on. Otherwise, the new Google Update is going to penalize your website. Google has a list of examples of what they would consider as Scaled Content Abuse if you are curious. As internet users, we directly benefit from this as when we find information, we can be more confident that it’s coming from a reliable source, and that the original creators of the content are getting the credit they deserve. 


If you’re going to take anything away from this portion, make sure that when creating content for your website that you are putting in the work and ensuring that what you are providing is original, useful, and relevant. Using tools such as AI to help with your process can be fine, as long as it’s not being used to create the content in its entirety, and not taking the place of research and original voice.


Expired Domain Abuse Spam

This subject can get a little nuanced, but essentially, this refers to when a domain is purchased specifically so that the new site can benefit from the previous site’s reputation. That’s not to say that purchasing a domain that was previously owned is a bad thing moving forward! As long as the new site maintains a level of focus and relevance in its new identity, that site will be fine. It’s when an expired domain is purchased and utilized in a way that is contradictory to the domain’s implied intent, or filled with content that isn’t useful, constructive, or relevant to the user’s needs that makes it “expired domain abuse spam”. Here’s a couple of examples of what Google would consider to be Expired Domain Abuse for reference.


At first glance, it may seem like Google is lying in wait to pounce on you for having the audacity to purchase a domain that at some point in time had a good reputation, when in fact, this new update is simply trying to ensure that as long as you maintain the website with integrity and use it to benefit users and fulfill a need, using an expired domain shouldn’t be any different to starting a brand new one from scratch. 


The direct benefits behind this initiative are pretty straightforward. It will ensure that your search results will be relevant to what you were looking for, and are not reflecting spammy results based on what that website used to rank for. It will also ensure that if you intend to buy any domains specifically for their previous reputations that you will be wasting your time and your money. 


Site Reputation Abuse Spam

This refers to third party content hosting, which Google has been hinting at upcoming changes to third party content since November 2023, and this is it! Also known as “Parasite SEO”, this is when a third party (someone outside of the hosting website) provides content on a website that is not theirs. While not against Google’s guidelines, this has led to some very harmful practices, where the third party posts content that is not helpful to the hosting site’s purpose, and is only intended to manipulate the reputation of the hosting site for its rankings. Like the other topics, here’s a list of examples that Google would find to be Site Reputation Abuse.


This can also be a very nuanced subject, but can boil down to three questions.

  • Does the topic of the third party content coincide with the goals of the hosting website?

  • Does the hosting website have a category for the third party content?

  • Does the hosting website have oversight and control over the third party content being hosted?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then this update will likely have some negative effects on the hosting website.


Luckily, if you happen to own or manage a website that hosts this spammy third party content, then you have two months to make your fixes, as this initiative doesn’t officially rollout until March 5th. If you currently have third party content hosted on your website, but it falls within the mission or goals of the hosted website, or you were thinking about allowing third party content, rest assured, hosting third party content is currently, and will still be a valid and acceptable way to provide content in the foreseeable future.


What to Expect from the March 2024 Google Spam Update

At the end of the day, if you have a site with relevant, unique, helpful, constructive content, your site will remain untouched. There’s even a chance that you could improve in rankings, depending on if other websites in your industry get penalized for any of these topics. 


With AI making such a crash of an entrance, and it being so readily available to everyone, there has been a crazy insurgence of bland, repetitive, and false content flooding the internet, and subsequently, into our search results. With these new updates rolling out, we should start seeing more informative results to our questions, and less websites relying on these tactics in order to cheat the system. And with time, these will receive updates of their own and become even more effective.

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