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Google rolled out an update to its spam detection system on March 5, 2024. It was released alongside an update to Google’s spam policies and the March 2024 Core Update, and was completed on March 20, 2024.

March 2024 Spam Update

Google’s Official Announcement

Google announced the March 2024 spam update in the same document, which announced the spam policy update and the March 2024 core update.

Google's official announcement of the March 2024 Spam Update

The spam policy update includes three new additions to Google spam policies. 

  • Expired domain abuse
  • Scaled content abuse
  • Site reputation abuse

Expired Domain Abuse: This update targets site owners who purchase expired domains and populate them with low-quality content to manipulate search results. For example, low-quality casino-related content published on a domain that previously contained a medical site. 

Scaled Content Abuse: This update targets site owners who create multiple unhelpful pages that provide little to no value to the visitor and are intended to manipulate search rankings. For example, unhelpful content created by humans, AI, or a combination of humans and AI.

Site Reputation Abuse: This update targets sites that publish third-party content that is intended to manipulate search rankings. For example, third-party advertising content intended to attract traffic from search results pages.

While the other spam policies went live immediately, the site reputation abuse update is expected to go live on May 5, 2024, to allow site owners enough time to prepare.

What Are People Saying?

On X (formerly Twitter), Glenn Gabe mentioned that the March 2024 Spam Update and the spam policies update will affect sites that mass-generate low-value, unhelpful content using AI, humans, or a combination of AI and humans. 

Meanwhile, SEOs began observing the effect of the spam policy update within a day of its release. In another post, Glenn mentioned he had received complaints from site owners whose sites had been deindexed.

Jeff Coyle also noted that many low-quality spam sites created within the last two years had disappeared entirely from search results. This includes sites that survived previous spam updates.

Bruno Dangelo also reported that spam sites with hundreds of thousands of traffic (or even millions in some cases) disappeared overnight.

Charles Floate also posted a thread with examples of sites that were deindexed from Google Search results for publishing pure spam.

Gael Breton also reported that spam sites created using AI were being deindexed on a large scale.

Also, Google has been inconsistent in the method through which it informs site owners that a manual action has been applied to their site. Only a few sites received email notifications. The rest received a message in their Search Console after suffering a massive drop in traffic.

Tony Hill also shared similar insights, saying the site owners he spoke with did not receive any email informing them of the manual action.

Ollie Ryman also observed that sites that engage in abusive experiences, such as ads that trick visitors into clicking them and sites that auto-direct visitors to other pages, didn’t receive a manual action message in Search Console even though they were hit with a manual action.

With that said, the spam policies update is believed to have mostly affected sites that generate low-quality spammy content using AI. Glenn Gabe posted about an Originality.ai study that revealed the affected sites had considerable AI content.

Craig Griffiths suggested that Google identified these sites based on the large amount of content they published within short periods of time. However, Pete Reynolds replied, saying his one-year-old site was also deindexed, even though it only had eight AI-generated content.

Another SEO, Simranpal Singh, mentioned that a site he created in 2013 was issued a manual penalty even though it contained no AI content.

Previous Spam Updates

The March 2024 Spam Update is one of the many spam updates we have reported since 2021. Below are details of the other spam updates we have documented so far.

What’s Next – Dealing With This Update

Spam updates are typically nothing to worry about as long as you comply with Google Search Essentials. However, you should review your content to ensure they comply with the updated spam policies, particularly the site reputation abuse update that will go live on May 5, 2024.

You should also monitor your site with Rank Math Analytics, as this spam update ran alongside the March 2024 Core Update. If you observe any traffic drop at the time of the update, follow the guide below to identify which update affected your site.

How to Identify Which Update Affected Your Site

Once you identify a drop in your traffic, check your Google Search Console dashboard and the email registered to your Google Search Console for a manual actions notification. Bear in mind that the notification may be sent to one and not the other. It may also arrive hours after the traffic loss. 

  • If you received a manual action notification, then the Spam Update caused your traffic loss
  • If you didn’t receive a manual action notification, and your site remains indexed in Google, then the Core Update caused your traffic loss

If you were affected by the Spam Update, remove any spam content on your site and watch the video below for tips on recovering from a Google algorithm update. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Google may issue a pure spam manual action if it detects aggressive spam tactics. Here are some  common questions and answers about manual actions:

1) Will Google remove the manual action if I remove some spam pages?

No, you must remove all spam pages from your site before Google will consider removing the manual action.

2) Should I remove the rel=canonical tag if Google identifies another page as canonical?

You should maintain your canonical tags based on your site’s content and structure. When a manual action is issued, focus on removing or correcting the spam content rather than altering the canonical tag.

3) Will I regain my rankings when I remove the spam pages?

Your site may take some time to recover its rankings. In the meantime, continue creating high-quality content and adhere to Google’s best practices.

4) Should I abandon my site and create a new one after receiving a manual action penalty?

The damage to your domain may be reversible. Remove the spam content and request a review to have the manual actions penalty lifted. Ensure that you follow search engine guidelines afterward.

5) Why was my site deindexed while other spam sites were left alone?

Google is always on the lookout for spammy sites. While some may evade a manual action now, it is not guaranteed that they will not be identified and issued one in the future.

6) Why did I lose traffic despite not being issued a manual action penalty?

Traffic loss can occur for various reasons, including technical SEO issues or a Google algorithm update. If you weren’t issued a manual action penalty, audit your site to identify why you lost traffic.

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