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Written by Finn Ruijter, 11 March 2024

Google’s 2024 ‘spam update’ has arrived

Several times a year, Google rolls out a new update to improve search results for users. A major update aimed at improving the quality of search results was announced on March 5, 2024. This update, known as the “2024 spam update,” aims to reduce the amount of content that appears to be created to generate clicks. That way, more content should be shown that is truly useful to users. At the same time, Google introduced new spam policies to better deal with practices that could negatively impact search results.

We think these updates will reduce the amount of low-quality content on Search and drive more traffic to useful high-quality sites. Based on our evaluations, we expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality unoriginal content in search results by 40%. (Translated – Source)

Elizabeth Tucker, Director, Product Management – Google

In general

Google says this core update is a lot more complex than the usual updates and involves changes to multiple systems they use. Google now uses“a collection of signals” to show better results, rather than relying on one signal or system.

The rollout of the update can take up to a month and may cause more fluctuations in rankings than a regular update, as different systems are fully updated and reinforce each other. So it seems to be a bigger update than usual. So it is good to take this into account next month. Google will let you know via the Google Search Status Dashboard when the update is complete.

  • Start rollout update: March 5, 2024
  • Final rollout update: approximately April 5, 2024

If you have created a website with content intended to display useful information, then you have nothing to worry about. Google simply does not want companies to create content or websites that are not relevant to search results. In doubt about having unique content for your website? Then a handy checklist (EN) is available for you.

Spam rules to watch out for

Google’s new spam policies are designed to address practices that can negatively impact the quality of search results. The most-used search engine has proposed three new spam policies against ways that have grown in popularity:

  • Use of expired domains
  • Use of scaled content
  • Using the reputation of external sites

We will explain these three rules below. The search engine recommends that all websites check the rules and see if they comply. Sites that violate spam policies may rank lower in results or not appear at all. When a manual spam action occurs, site owners receive a notification through their Search Console account. If you disagree, you can request a reconsideration.

Use of expired domains

It was common for expired domains with high scores to be repurchased. These were then misused to create links to external domains. A good score is easy to get that way, but not what you want as a search engine.

Google gives the following example: imagine someone buys a domain that previously belonged to a medical site and then uses it to host content related to low-quality casinos, hoping to be successful in search results by taking advantage of the domain’s former reputation.

The abuse of expired domains does not happen accidentally or in small quantities. Some parties choose this strategy to make their own domains score higher. There are even sites that display which domains are expiring and what score they had. To give an indication, in the past 24 hours, 204 thousand .com domains have been queued for deletion. There must be some good domains among them.

Expired domains 1. Google's 2024 'spam update' has arrived
On websites like the one above, you could look for expired domains with lots of backlinks to buy on.

Use of scaled content

Here it is mainly about pages created using AI. There are several examples of marketers setting up entire websites with the help of AI automated pages to get good rankings. Usually this content is not unique or good enough to be relevant according to Google.

This new rule is a continuation of the current spam policy on auto-generated content, with Google ensuring that they can prevent the misuse of large-scale content. This rule is for content that is automatically produced, human-made, or is a combination of both. If you put your own effort into it and make the website to your liking, there is no problem.

Using the reputation of external sites

This is the biggest change as far as we are concerned. It is a well-known way to collect links to improve your website score. Google’s new rule says that not all third-party content is wrong, just content that is not properly controlled and intended to mislead Google. So it’s mostly about websites that have pages that are about completely different topics than your purchased page, for example, simple links. Our assessment that external links from frequently visited websites (high score) will become more important.

Google has a number of examples that are banned are

  • An education site has a page on loan reviews that someone else wrote. This page is also put on other websites to rank higher in Google.
  • A medical site has someone else’s page on “best casinos.” The main purpose of this page is to rank higher in Google, without much input from the medical site itself.
  • A movie review site has pages about things that don’t fit, such as “how to buy followers on social media,” “the best fortune telling sites” and “the best essay writing services.” This is to get higher in Google.
  • A sports website has a page on “reviews of sports supplements” written by someone else, with the sports website itself having done almost nothing for the content. This is to get higher in Google.

There are also, of course, other examples that are allowed, such as:

  • Websites for press releases or news services.
  • News sites that share news from other news sources.
  • Websites created for user content, such as forums or comment sections.
  • Columns, opinions, articles and other editorial work with proper involvement or control by the website.
  • Third-party content (such as sponsored pages or advertising that fits naturally into the site), created with much website involvement, intended to show directly to readers, not to trick Google.
  • Placing ads or affiliate links on a page, used appropriately.
  • Discount coupons displayed with care by the website.

You can probably tell from the above examples which external links are important to you. If you buy “links,” do so on websites that are truly relevant to your content. You can read all the new spam policies here.

What is the impact?

It is difficult to estimate in advance what the impact is going to be. For some websites, this will be worse than others. Let’s face it; almost every SEO specialist has used ad buying (“link building“) to improve results. I think websites that have been online for a while and do not contain only purchased links will not feel much pain. It is possible, however, that your rankings may vary in the coming period.

Don’t just focus on keywords, but think about topics and how content is going to be connected. Try adding new and unique information to your texts that Google hasn’t seen much yet. This gives your website an identity.

Using structured data is very important. Your way to stand out is to use structured data on your pages. This will make it easier to link content on your website and be ready for Google’s next update.

It is important to keep a close eye on Google Search Console for your website for any increases and decreases. Danny Sullivan (Google) indicated back in November last year: “buckle up. Time will tell what impact it will have. The important thing remains that you put effort into the website and continue to create unique content. As a result, your website will rise in search results and people will also want to link to it.

Make sure there is a website that people like to browse!