What we’re seeing a week into the Google March 2024 core and spam updates


We are now just about a week into the Google March 2024 core and spam updates, and boy, has it been busy. In that time, we have seen search ranking volatility, some related to the algorithmic updates and some related to Google issuing manual actions to implement updated spam policies.

Not done yet. It is important to stress that these updates are far from over. Google said the core update will take about a month to roll out fully and there will be several systems updated during that time. The spam update will take about two weeks to roll out as well. We are only a week into the update, so expect more ranking changes in the search results over the next few weeks.

Timeline of changes. Here is a brief timeline of the changes we saw over the past week:

  • March 5th – Google announced the Google March 2024 core and spam updates.
  • March 6th and 7th – Google issued many manual actions regarding spam policy violations, and many sites saw that they were delisted from Google Search.
  • March 8th and 9th – We may have seen the first signs of the core and/or spam update impacting site rankings algorithmically.
  • March 10th and 11th—Google seemed to calm a bit, but at the same time, a number (not many) of reports showed that some sites that were hit by both the algorithmic changes and manual actions saw some reversals (at least temporarily).

Overlapping updates and confusion. With so many changes happening simultaneously in Google Search, it is hard to keep track of what is impacting what. We have a core update, a spam update, manual actions and also the Core Web Vitals change today. The impact of overlapping changes is likely to confuse SEOs and site owners.

In fact, Google is deviating from its stated goal of limiting overlapping updates. In 2021, Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan said they try not to overlap update. He repeated that in 2022 saying, “We’ve worked very hard to keep updates separated from each other, or as little overlap as possible, to help creators understand more.”

He reiterated that with this past update, adding, “We do generally try to avoid this, but we had both the core update and the spam update ready, and ultimately, we’re going to push updates we think will improve the quality of search results. Manual actions aren’t an update. New spam policies aren’t an algorithmic update. So those aren’t “updates” that “overlap” with the core and spam updates.”

Examples. I posted a number of examples of these changes on the Search Engine Roundtable, but here is a quick post on X of some charts:

Why we care. Watching these updates roll out on a day-to-day basis may be fun for me, since I write about it. But for SEOs and site owners, it can be very stressful. It probably makes sense to wait for these various updates to complete and see where the dust settles.

Until then, you can continue to take Google’s advice and improve your site’s content quality and user experience. That is never a bad thing to focus on at any time.

Stay tuned for the status of all these Google search algorithm update rollouts.



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