Google Algorithm Updates          Understand how ranking systems change through time to make data-backed SEO decisions.

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March 2024
Core & Spam Update
On March 5th, Google announced the first core Google Update of 2024.

The goal was to improve the quality of search results by showing less content designed to attract clicks and more content that people find useful.

In addition, Google updated its spam policies to better handle practices that can negatively impact its search results.
March 2024 core update – bigger than before

This update may take a month to fully take effect, and according to Elizabeth Tucker (Google's Director of Product Search), it will help reduce unhelpful content in Google Search by 40%.

It will include enhancements to several components of the overall core system and multiple systems will be updated and released within this core update.

According to the update document and their FAQ page, here’s what you need to know:
   • The helpful content system is a combination of many signals and systems built into the core of Google
   • If you have high levels of unhelpful content on your site, it may be causing other content not to rank

Since Google is updating multiple core systems, “there will be more fluctuations in rankings than with a regular core update, as different systems get fully updated and reinforce each other,” according to their information.

Google said this update has refined its understanding of unhelpful webpages that provide a poor user experience or seem to have been created for search engines instead of people.

This “could include sites created primarily to match very specific search queries,” Google added.
March 2024 spam update
Google announced the new spam updates that are designed to identify sites with spammy activities to game search results rankings which will end up being penalized.

In general, black hat SEO practices that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, such as:
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Malware
  • Buying links
  • Phishing
  • Cloaking content

This specific spam update covers 3 new policies to be aware of:
• Expired Domain Abuse: Purchasing expired domains and repurposing them to boost the search rankings of low-quality content is now seen as spam. It’s okay to buy an expired domain. But if you’re using it to trick users into thinking their old content is part of the old site and trying to improve rankings with no helpful content, your website will be considered spam and punished.

• Scaled Content Abuse: When lots of pages are made just to rank for more keywords and show up in searches, not actually to help people, that's a problem. This usually happens with Programmatic SEO to cover every possible topic.  It doesn't matter if a person or an AI writes your content. If your pages don't offer anything new or useful, your website may be penalized.

• Site Reputation Abuse: Google has a new rule about "site reputation abuse," also known as "Parasite SEO." It's when other sites host poor-quality content from third parties to boost their own ranking. Google explained it as someone posting payday loan reviews on a trusted educational site to get a better ranking. Google says this can confuse visitors who expect different content on a site. But not all third-party content is a problem. It's only a problem when it's hosted without close supervision and meant to manipulate search rankings.

Google will start enforcing this rule on May 5th, giving a two-month notice. They'll use both automated and manual actions against site reputation abuse.
Manual Actions
If your content breaks spam policies, you might receive a Manual Action from Google.

This happens when a person, not an algorithm, finds a violation on your site according to Google's policies.

These actions can happen for various rule breaches, especially those related to the spam update.

The spam penalty notice might say:
Detected Issues: Pure Spam.
Description: Pages on this site appear to use aggressive spam techniques such as automatically generate gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and/or repeated or egregious violations of Google’s spam policies for web search. Learn More [a clickable link].
Affects: Affects all pages.

You can try to appeal these penalties, though it's rare to see them lifted, especially during this update.

Sometimes appeals are denied almost instantly, which is surprising.

It's unclear if Google is just too busy to deal with them now, if they think sites couldn't fix issues quickly enough, or if they won't reverse the penalties. We'll have to wait and see.
November 2023
Helpful Content Update
This is the fourth big core algorithm update of 2023. The first one was in March, the second in August, and the third in October.

In this update, Google said they're improving a different core system compared to last month's update. Their guidance for these updates stays the same.

For more details, Google posted detailed Q&A explaining the new core update and the upcoming reviews update.
Why another update so soon?
Google explained they have different core systems for ranking, and this month's update focuses on a different one than last month's.
What's the difference between an update and a ranking system? 
Google clarified that ranking systems generate search results, and updates improve these systems.

They mentioned they're always working on making their systems better to show more relevant results.
Why do updates sometimes overlap? 
Google tries to separate notable updates, but with many updates overall, it's not always possible.

So when an update is evaluated and approved because it makes the search better, they don’t want to hold that back.
Why are updates sometimes during holidays? 
Google tries to avoid updates during late November to mid-December, but sometimes they're necessary. They release updates when they're ready to improve search.
What to do if your site is affected?
Google advises considering their list of questions if your site is hit.
Recovery might happen between updates, but the biggest changes occur after another core update.
October 2023
Broad Core Update
This is the third big Google update of 2023, and might take around two weeks to finish.

The first update was in March, and the second in August.

Google announced this update on X and refreshed its search status page.
What should you do if your site is affected?
A negative ranking may not signal that anything is wrong with your content and pages.

Google advises considering their list of questions if your site is hit.

Recovery might happen between updates, but the biggest changes occur after another core update.
Why does it matter? 
When Google changes its search ranking, your site might do better or worse. Knowing when updates happen helps understand changes in rankings.

Today, we know Google has released an update, so keep an eye on your site's performance over the next few weeks.

But with the spam update also happening, it might be hard to tell which update affected your site.
August 2023
Broad Core Update
Google's August 2023 core update is happening now and could take up to two weeks to finish.

This is the second core update of 2023, and the last one was in March, which was over five months ago.

Google announced this on Twitter and their search updates page, saying it might take two weeks to finish.
What should you do if your site is affected?
Google suggests considering their list of questions. Recovery might happen between updates, but the biggest changes come after another core update.
April 2023
Reviews Update
The April 2023 reviews update goal is to reward detailed content that has thorough research, not just short summaries of products or services.

It affects reviews about products, services, places, games, movies, and more. Before, Google's review updates mostly focused on product reviews.

Right now, this system works for these languages worldwide: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish.

For products, using product structured data might help Google figure out if it's a product review, but they don't rely on it completely.

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