SEO Insights: March 2024 Report


Just as I finished writing my SEO insights for last month, Google began rolling out its “mega update”. This comprised of a new Core Update, a new Spam Update and possibly other updates too, which would take the entire month to roll out completely.

Now, at the beginning of April, the Core Update appears to still be rolling out, but the Spam Update was completed over a week ago.

So, what’s been the effect of the updates?

As expected, most of the impact has been focused on “content websites”. This includes websites designed primarily to provide information on a topic, such as blogs.

There have been many complaints since the updates started rolling out, where information sites and blogs in the travel sector, in particular, were hit hard. This is not surprising. The travel industry is very lucrative online, and there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of websites, focusing on providing guides and information about destinations all over the world.

The problem is that often, the writers of the content have never been to those destinations, and so, what is the real value of that content? It’s hardly first-hand experience or advice.

However, as with all of Google’s updates, perfectly legitimate and very helpful websites, created by people who HAVE been to those locations, have also seen their rankings plummet. It’s a very sad consequence of allowing a computer algorithm to decide what is and isn’t real, and what is and isn’t useful.

During March, many website owners had reported that their websites had been completely deindexed by Google, probably as a result of the Spam Update, whilst others, especially those affected by the September Helpful Content Update (HCU), witnessed further declines.

In fact, it seems that following the HCU update, there haven’t yet been any recoveries detected or reported.

So, what’s next?

Back in 2003, when Google launched its AdSense product, it effectively created the “content creator ecosystem”. It gave writers the opportunity to monetise their websites through content. There was no need to sell advertising for your website, just add the AdSense code and Google would serve up its own ads and you got paid when users clicked on them.

20 years on and they are now effectively destroying this community of writers and bloggers. The onset of AI generated content hasn’t helped the situation, but the days of building websites and relying on the content to generate an income have probably come to an end.

Google is much more focused on brands and e-commerce. They want to reward real businesses and become the go-to place when you want to buy a product.

It’s definitely the end of an era and the start of a new one. It’s why content websites impacted by the HCU update, and now the Core Update, are likely never to recover. It’s only been a few months but the world, and search, has changed.

In fact, just this week, Google engineer, John Mueller, responded to a comment by a travel website owner, who had lost her rankings and asking about recovery from the HCU update, stated just this fact:

“One thing with updates like these is that it’s not relative to previously, it’s basically a re-evaluation of the whole site in a new / current online world and users’ expectations.”

In other words….sorry, the game has changed!

Google has stated that when the March updates finish that they will provide a form for website owners to provide feedback regarding the updates. The reality is that they will probably be inundated with responses, it will take months for it all to be reviewed and many further months to have any of the feedback possibly taken into account.

Therefore, any potential recovery would be so far away and by then, the world will have moved on again.

It’s not all doom and gloom!

This all sounds a bit negative, but it highlights the challenges we face on a daily basis as SEOs. Nothing ever stays the same and the only way to stay at the top is to keep adapting and improving.

It’s what we’ve always done for our clients to keep them at the top of the search results. We are constantly refining and adapting our clients’ websites to meet the changes in search and user behaviour. It’s why we spend so much time and money on R&D.

Change is good…it creates new opportunities and that’s what we focus on.