Quality Content Holds Fast in March Core Update

One thing we will not have to be reporting to our clients when we write their March marketing reviews next week is any adverse effects of the Google 5th March Update. Why not? Because it hasn’t affected any of our customers. And again, why not? Because informative, quality content was not the target of the last core update.

What was the Google March 2024 Update?

On the 5th of March 2024, Google announced a core update and a raft of new spam policies.

Specifically, in their official blog post about the March 2024 core update, Google stated that the update was designed to, once again, improve the quality of search results. In particular, they mentioned surfacing content that was useful and not the mass AI-generated content used to “game” the search engines.

Google did say that this update was more complex than their usual updates, with “multiple core systems” having been changed to handle this one, as well as what they claimed to be “an evolution” in how they identify helpful content.

As for the new spam policies, Google announced three key areas their update was targeting:

      • Expired domain abuse – the buying of expired domains to build websites and use historical link and authority benefits to “spin up” new, unrelated content.

      • Scaled content abuse – the generation, primarily by “Artificial Intelligence” (AI), of mass amounts of content.

      • Site reputation abuse – publishing third-party content that is unrelated but “piggy backs” the reputation of the first-party site to manipulate the search engines.

    At Clever Marketing we don’t consider any of these tactics as professional and continue to post quality, informative, and comprehensive content for ourselves and our customers.

    Did You Get Affected?

    No. And none of our clients did either.

    The reason we saw no dips in impressions or clicks is that our content and SEO department has the philosophy that content must be informative, quality, and comprehensive. Consulting with our customers we’ve always urged them to write quality content. When they’ve not had the internal resources, we’ve written their content with them.

    The result is that we’ve constantly maintained, and often elevated, our clients’ reputations as experts in their field of practice, with huge experience and demonstrated their authoritativeness and trust; the E-E-A-T that Google’s search quality evaluator manually look for in websites.

    As always, if we do see any dips in impressions, clicks, or rank, we work hard to ensure that our clientele are notified and that a plan of action is in place to continuously improve their content.

    Who Did Get Affected?

    Monitoring Twitter (Now called X), we saw a lot of chatter about websites that were badly affected by the update. Why? Because they were low quality websites.

    Many, we believe, fell foul of the new “scaled content abuse” spam update.

    Our senior marketing manager had been deeply concerned about the misuse of AI to generate huge amounts of content. When it can take hours to produce a well-researched, quality article or blog post with a comprehensive amount of depth and detail to educate, inform, and educate readers, the fact that an amateur can use AI to supposedly create similar such articles set off alarm bells.

    It was also reminiscent of the period around 2008 when then Google CEO Eric Schmidt referred to the internet as a “cesspool”, criticising the amount and quality of content back then. But it took another 3 years before Google released its Panda Update, in 2011, to focus on improving the visibility of quality content.

    Google Took Its Time.

    Yes, ChatGPT was release in November 2022 and “took the world by storm”. It saw the fastest uptake in software in history, with a million users adopting the software in just five days – a record breaking feat.

    But Google was slow to react. Whilst the Large Language Models (LLMs) behind ChatGPT were similar to those Google was using itself, like in natural language processing tools on Google Cloud, the Mountain View company hadn’t released its own LLM-powered chatbot.

    After a “code red” internal memo was issued at Google, after the massive public fanfare to ChatGPT, it took them until March 2023 to release their own generative AI chatbot, Bard (Now renamed Gemini).

    Also, in the time after ChatGPT was released, many people tried to position themselves as AI experts, publishing prompts to ask the chatbot in order to conduct complex, and sometimes not so complex, tasks. Some innovative users even used the power of ChatGPT to build websites full of AI-generated content, usually with the aim of ranking high in the search engines. This was “generating content at scale” with some horrifically titled posts and YouTube videos like “Create 300 blog posts in 5 minutes using ChatGPT”. Cesspool anyone?

    Even the well-respected Search Engine Journal website published an article in December 2022 about programmatic SEO or pSEO. Of course, the piece ran with the caveat that the programmatic SEO guide was the view of the guest author and not SEJ itself.

    Taking its Time, Twice Now

    ChatGPT and generative AI in general, is like all things – it can be used for good or for ill. Just as social media is fantastic for amplifying positive news, so it can be used to spread negative sentiment as well. ChatGPT was not just being used as a tool to assist most of us in being more efficient in our work, it was in the hands of spammers as early as November/December 2022.

    With the four-month delay in releasing Bard as a competitor to ChatGPT, Google also took its time in reacting to and dealing with scaled content abuse. It was over 13 months before the 5th March core update was released to deal with AI-generated spam content.

    However, one thing that the SEO team at Clever Marketing has observed is that Google no longer states the volume levels of spam web pages that it has had to deal with.

    In 2020 Google said it was detecting 40 billion spam pages per day.

    For 2021 they merely stated that they’d detected six times as much as the previous year.

    2022 saw Google repeat the same and say 2022’s numbers were five times more 2021.

    And then right at the end of 2022 ChatGPT was released.

    Without explicitly stating it, Google were likely detecting 1.2 trillion spam web pages per day in 2022, and with the advent of publicly available generative AI, it’s likely that figure has… exploded!

    We haven’t seen the 2023 report yet, but if it comes out in April, in line with previous Google releases, then we might get an idea of the sheer volume of scaled content abuse in 2023.

    Quality Website Content Reigns Supreme

    The content we produce ourselves and the copy we create for our clients, is always well-researched and human edited. Quality content is helpful content, and our chief marketing officer’s personal values are that whatever is written should be as comprehensive as possible for the target audience, and that philosophy stands fast.

    Clever Marketing, digital marketing agency in Surrey, Hampshire, and Berkshire. For quality content, and helpful content, speak with Clever Marketing about your copywriting requirements.

    We can help you with your website design, UX, and SEO your content too. If you don’t have an in-house marketing department, our whole B2B marketing agency can be part of your business for a monthly digital marketing retainer.

    Call us now on 01276 402 381 and let’s discuss your next website design, content marketing, or SEO project.