Google Core Update + Spam Update March 2024

Google has just announced the start of the rollout of 2 major updates to its algorithm at the same time: a Core Update and a Spam Update. It’s going to shake things up like never before…

The rollout could last 1 month for the Core Update (and 2 weeks for the Spam Update) and cause more significant disruptions than usual. Ouch!

According to Google, this complex update brings changes to several core systems and introduces new ways of assessing content usefulness, using a variety of innovative signals. Yes, I know, it might seem amusing to read this, but it sounds like blah-blah-blah… Google has released a new FAQ on their way of evaluating the usefulness and quality of content. Here’s what I took away:

Useful Content System: Google has begun to improve the relevance of content in search results with what it called its “useful content system” launched in 2022. Since then, the processes have evolved and there is not a single system used to identify useful content. Google’s main ranking systems use a variety of signals and systems to assess content.

Useful Content Evaluation: To check if content is useful, Google offers a help page with questions allowing content creators to self-assess. Google’s systems mainly evaluate the usefulness of content at the page level, but there are also site-wide signals that are taken into account.

Removal of Non-useful Content: Having a relatively large amount of non-useful content on a site can negatively affect the performance of other content on the site in search results, to some extent. Removing non-useful content can help improve the performance of other pages.

Time to Recover: Ranking changes can occur at any time for various reasons, as Google regularly updates its ranking systems. Therefore, Google does not want to provide any indication of the timeline before hoping for a recovery after the removal of non-useful content.

What is particular is that on the same day, Google announces both a Core Update AND a Spam Update. I describe the new features of the spam update in the post below. Some sites might have a “manual action” for spam, which we call a “penalty“. In that case, it’s reported in Search Console.

In essence, Google is looking to strengthen its fight against spam by targeting 3 additional new practices:

  • abuse of expired domains (really?)
  • abuse of large-scale content creation (by AI or not)
  • abuse of third-party site reputation

The article with all the details is here, and the announcement there on the official blog.

About Spam Update March 2024

Here are the new explanations and guidelines from Google regarding spam (3 practices that were not officially in place before this update):

Expired Domain Name Abuse
This refers to when an expired domain name is purchased and reassigned primarily to manipulate search engine rankings by hosting content that provides little or no value to users. Examples include:

  • Affiliate content on a site previously used by a government agency
  • Commercial medical product sales on a site previously used by a non-profit medical organization
  • Casino-related content on the site of a former elementary school.

Large-Scale Content Abuse
This occurs when many pages are generated with the primary aim of manipulating search results rankings rather than helping users. This abusive practice is usually focused on creating large amounts of non-original content that provides little or no value to users, regardless of how it is created.

Examples of large-scale content abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Using generative AI tools or similar tools to generate numerous pages without added value for users
  • Scraping feeds, search results, or other content to generate numerous pages (including through automated transformations such as synonymization, translation, or other obfuscation techniques), which provide only low added value to users
  • Assembling or combining contents from different web pages without added value
  • Creating multiple sites to conceal the gradual nature of the content
  • Creating numerous pages whose content makes little or no sense to a reader but contains search keywords.
    If you host such content on your site, exclude it from search.

Site Reputation Abuse
This refers to when third-party pages are published with little or no oversight or involvement from the first party, with the aim of manipulating search rankings by leveraging the ranking signals of the first party’s site. These third-party pages include sponsored pages, advertising pages, partner pages, or other third-party pages that are generally independent of the main purpose of a host site or produced without close monitoring or involvement from the host site, and that provide little or no value to users.

Examples of site reputation abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • An educational site hosting a page on payday loan reviews written by a third party that distributes the same page to other sites on the web, primarily to manipulate search rankings.
  • A medical site hosting a third-party page on “best casinos,” primarily designed to manipulate search rankings, with little or no involvement from the medical site.
  • A movie review site hosting third-party pages on topics users would find hard to associate with a movie review site (such as “ways to buy followers on social media sites,” “best psychic reading sites,” and “best essay writing services”), with the aim of manipulating search engine rankings.
  • A sports site hosting a third-party written page on “workout supplement reviews,” where the sports site’s editorial team is minimally or not involved in the content, and the primary purpose of hosting the page is to manipulate search engine rankings.
  • A news site hosting third-party provided coupons with little or no oversight or involvement from the hosting site, and whose primary purpose is to manipulate search rankings.

If you host pages that violate this policy, exclude this third-party content from search indexing.

Examples NOT considered site reputation abuse include:

  • News service sites or press release services
  • News publications that have syndicated content from other news publications
  • Sites designed to allow user-generated content, like a forum website or comment sections
  • Columns, opinion articles, articles, and other editorial nature works where the host site is closely involved or reviewed
  • Third-party content (e.g., “advertorial” or “native advertising”) produced with close participation from the host site, aimed at sharing content directly with readers (e.g., through promotion within the publication itself), rather than hosting content to manipulate search engine rankings
  • Integration of third-party advertising units on a page or use of affiliate links on a page, with links treated appropriately
  • Coupons listed with close participation from the hosting site

What do you think?

Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I'm the creator and editor-in-chief of Tech To Geek. Through this little blog, I share with you my passion for technology. I specialize in various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android, focusing on providing practical and valuable guides.

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  1. One thing that bothers me in their quality evaluation is the ‘originality’ of the content… Because it implies that on a given subject, only one piece of content can take precedence because it is much more original than the others. However, the diversity of content, even when dealing with the same subject, can contribute to the richness of the information that Google so earnestly seeks. It’s a bit of a one-size-fits-all approach

  2. It may be original in the first sense of the word to have written it, the others who only reformulate or repeat its information will be ranked less well (without being duplicate content).
    There’s a lot of mystery about how they determine the quality of a page, but nowadays with AI, I guess they can replace humans to determine if a page is quality, useful and serious… without relying on backlinks.

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