Recently, Google announced that they would be updating their core algorithm that they use to rank results for web searches. Although this is a routine update, it has many site owners worried about how these changes may impact their rankings. Since Google is very protective of their proprietary algorithm, it’s hard to know what sorts of changes websites may need to make to stay on top.

Below, we’ll dive into what we know about the March 2024 core algorithm update and how you can navigate it without losing your top spot.

What Is a Core Algorithm Update?

Google is constantly working to improve their algorithm to ensure they’re delivering the best results for their users. They make small updates to the algorithm 500 to 600 times a year, but once or twice a year, they release an update large enough to qualify as a core algorithm update. 

These core algorithm updates are generally focused around delivering people-focused improvements. Google wants to rank sites that provide relevant, reader-focused information over sites that cram in keywords and backlinks hoping to cheat their way to the top of the rankings. So the key thing to remember as this new update takes effect is that as long as you’re still putting out quality content that gives readers helpful information in a readable style, you should be fine.

The March 2024 Core Update

Google announced on March 5, 2024 that they were updating their core algorithm. The exact metrics they use to rank pages are a proprietary secret, so as usual, they didn’t give full details on what’s changing. They continue to recommend following their published best practices for creating quality content.

They did mention that, rather than relying on one signal of helpful results, they’re moving to a multi-point system. Google announced this change initially in 2022 and have been continuing to work toward this more complex way of analyzing how helpful a page is. The March 2024 update is a big step in that direction and is more complex than many of their usual core algorithm updates.

Although we don’t know specifics of what’s changing in the core algorithm, Google did discuss some changes they’re making to their spam policies.

Expired Domain Abuse

Some unscrupulous site owners have started taking advantage of expired domain names to artificially boost their rankings. When a highly-ranked site lets their domain name expire, some site owners scoop up the domain name and start publishing unrelated content. Before this update, they could piggyback off the previous site’s good reputation and get their content higher in search engine rankings.

With this newest update, Google is cracking down on this tactic. Sites that publish low-quality content under a previously well-ranked domain name will be punished in rankings.

Scaled Content Abuse

Scaled content abuse is a tactic intended to manipulate Google’s policy of rewarding sites that have a lot of useful content. Rather than doing the work of actually generating quality content, these sites pull unoriginal content from a variety of sources to stuff their website. And with the recent strides AI has taken, a lot of these sites are using tools like ChatGPT to mass-manufacture low-quality content.

The problem with this content is that it’s not focused on providing useful information for your readers. There are often quality issues with this content, and even the higher-quality content is often plaigarized. The content on your site should be original, and you should do your best to make sure it’s the best article on the topic.

Site Reputation Abuse

Sometimes, high-ranking sites will post content from lower-ranked platforms as part of an ad or sponsorship campaign. This can be a fantastic way to grow a site’s reputation in the early stages of growth, but in some cases, it can backfire on the high-ranking site. If low-quality content is added without any review or oversight, it can drag down the reputation of the host site. 

Hosting third-party content is fine, but it should be carefully reviewed to make sure it’s providing a good experience for your readers. If the content is generated by AI, hard to read, or otherwise unhelpful, Google’s new update will drop it in the rankings.

The good news about all of these problems is that they don’t happen by accident. If you’re not actively and intentionally committing any of these abuses, your site rankings won’t suffer. Remember, the key to SEO success is to focus on providing quality, helpful content for your readers.

Do You Need to Make Any Changes?

So with this new update, do you need to do anything differently with your website content? As long as you’re focused on a people-first approach, you shouldn’t need to. Google’s core algorithm updates always focus on prioritizing sites that give readers helpful information, so if you’re doing that, you’ll be in good shape.

That being said, it’s still important to make sure you’re following Google’s best practices. Using keywords appropriately, including quality backlinks, and breaking up your content with headings can help your content show up higher in the rankings. And continuing to add high-quality, user-focused content to your site will help to improve its standings, too.

What Happens if Your Rankings Drop?

In some cases, as the kinks in the new algorithm get worked out, you may see a temporary drop in your spot in the rankings. The first thing to do is give it a few days. Sometimes, a page may temporarily drop before moving back up in the rankings.

If your rankings don’t improve, it may be time to audit your existing pages. Review Google’s best practices and figure out the areas you could improve in. Check if you need to improve your keyword usage, look at updating old statistics or outdated information, and see if some of your backlinks have expired and need to be replaced.

Get Help Perfecting Your SEO Strategy

Managing SEO can already feel confusing, and Google’s core algorithm changes may only make everything feel more overwhelming. The good news is that, as long as you’re creating quality, reader-focused content, this newest update shouldn’t hurt your rankings. If you do experience a drop, you may need to audit your website and look for areas you can improve on.

If you need help perfecting your SEO strategy and navigating core algorithm updates without all the headache, LawRank is here to help. We provide legal marketing that works, including SEO, PPC, web design, and more. Contact us today to start getting honesty, transparency, and results from your marketing firm.