Navigating the 2024 Google Core Update: Strategies and Insights for Website Owners

Google is constantly making changes to and refining its search algorithm. Most changes will have minimal impact on your search results. Occasionally, Google will roll out major updates—often called core updates—which can significantly affect search engine rankings and results. Normally, the search results stabilize after one or two weeks. However, depending on the update, it is possible you may see permanent changes to your rankings.

In March 2024, Google began rolling out one of the biggest updates it has made for a while. This core update aims to improve the quality of the search results by filtering out spam and low-quality content. While minor reductions in rankings are normal, certain pages or websites may suffer more if they have relied on low-quality or AI-generated content.

Understanding the March 2024 Core Update

The primary concern of the March 2024 core update is to place a larger emphasis on quality content instead of large quantities of content. It aimed to reduce the amount of low-quality content results by 40%. The update took about six weeks to roll out, which is one of the longest core updates in Google’s history. Early analyses have concluded that nearly 1,000 websites have been completely de-indexed from Google as part of the update.

Here are the key targets of the update that could lead to reduced rankings following this core update:

  • Spammy, low-quality content
  • Abundance of spammy links
  • Spammy link practices
  • Using expired domains for their previous authority for a new purpose
  • Low website credibility

Overall, Google will prioritize authentic, credible, and human-generated content. This is not necessarily new for Google, but this core update further enforces these values. For users, this update helps provide better-quality search results with more accurate information.

Major Changes and Their Implications

The major changes associated with the March 2024 core Google update include:

  • Links are less important for rankings
  • Spammy websites or those with low-quality content may find themselves with significant decreases in traffic or de-indexed from Google altogether
  • Affects both local and general SEO
  • Some low-content sites (such as e-commerce sites) may temporarily see a reduction in rankings but should be less affected than websites with large amounts of spammy links or content

For websites of average quality, ranking reductions will likely be temporary and work itself out over a few weeks. However, it is recommended that all websites take action to counteract these changes.

Top Reasons for Traffic Drops

While minor traffic drops will likely affect more websites, for those experiencing more extreme changes these are the most common reasons for traffic drops following the March 2024 core update:

  • Large amounts of duplicate content
  • Identification of spam links and penalizing them (whether mistaken or truly spammy)
  • Use of a previously unrelated expired domain (especially one that changes hands quickly)
  • Large content saturation in your industry
  • Targeted irrelevant niches
  • User experience issues (slow loading speed, poor design, or difficult structure)

Detailed Insights from the SEO Community

Google does not provide direct insight into its core updates. While the basics of the update is known, SEO experts continue to analyze the effects of the core update. Initial observations have shown reductions in link visibility on Google Search Console. Also, external backlinks from high authority domains have decreased. It is currently uncertain whether these two changes are due to a bug or was a strategic change by Google.

Often, there are unexpected effects of Google core updates. Normally, these are resolved throughout the implementation process or via small tweaks from Google and website owners.

Google's Stance and Guidance

Google’s John Mueller has confirmed that Google does not hold grudges against websites who have been negatively impacted. If websites make changes, websites may be able to begin recovery. However, this is not guaranteed and it can take months depending on the amount of recovery necessary. Further update cycles (which usually happen every few months) will help websites regain their authority and rankings.

Making ongoing improvements to your website—regardless of if affected by a core updated—is ideal for showing Google that your website is actively managed. It also forces Google to frequently re-index your site which can help improve rankings quicker in some cases.

Practical Solutions and Recommendations

If your site has suffered a traffic or rankings drop, there are things you can do to help improve your website and content quality. These include:

  • Perform backlink audits and disavow low quality links
  • Improve user experience, design, and functionality
  • Maintain reliable, brand-aligned domains
  • Research and target the right niche markets
  • Continue to create high-quality content that directly addresses user needs
  • Make changes to old or duplicate content

Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation

It is important to continually monitor your website through Google Search Console and pay attention to your general website metrics. This helps you stay on top of any potential changes and respond immediately. The best way to maintain rankings is to embrace ethical SEO practices to build long-term trust and continued success for your website.

Adapting to the 2024 Google Core Update

  • Recap of the key strategies to adapt to the 2024 Google Core Update
  • Encouragement to stay proactive and resilient in the face of algorithm changes

To address the Google core update, you should continue to monitor your website analytics and make minor adjustments as necessary. However, maintaining high-quality content and limiting use of AI will help keep your website ahead of the curve. If you need to make major recovery, it is important to do so quickly and to prioritize high quality links and content.

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