Google Releases The March 2024 Spam Update Plus New Spam Policies

Google announced the launch of the March 2024 spam update and three new spam policies that address new abusive practices
Marie Aquino
March 6, 2024

Aside from the rollout of the March 2024 Core Update, Google has also announced the launch of the March 2024 spam update. Three new spam policies were also introduced, with the aim of better addressing new abusive practices that lead to unoriginal, low-quality content from ranking in the search results.

Scaled Content Abuse

Scaled Content Abuse is when many pages are generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings, and not towards helping users. This abusive practice typically focuses on creating large amounts of unoriginal content that provides little to no value to users.

As scaled content creation methods are getting more sophisticated, Google is strengthening their policy on scaled content abuse. Originally, the policy was designed to address instances of content being generated at scale, where it was clear that automation was involved. With this strengthened policy, it does not only address automated content, but also human-produced content, or a combination of both. This allows Google to take action on more types of content with little to no value that are created at scale – like pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content.

When it comes to AI generated content, Google states that their long-standing spam policy is that the use of automation, including generative AI is spam if the primary purpose is manipulating rankings in the search results. The updated policy is in the same spirit as the previous policy and based on the same principle. It’s been expanded to account for more sophisticated scaled content creation methods where it isn’t always clear whether low-quality content were created purely through automation. The new policy is meant to help people focus more clearly on the idea that producing content at scale is abusive if done for the purpose of manipulating search rankings and that this applies whether automation or humans are involved in the production of the content.

Site Reputation Abuse

Site reputation abuse is when third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site’s ranking signals. This includes sponsored, advertising partner, or other third-party pages that are typically independent of the host site’s main purpose or produced without close oversight or involvement of the host site, and provides little to no value to users. An example provided is when a third-party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefit from the site. This type of content ranking on search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have a vastly different expectation for the content on the website.

The new policy doesn’t consider all third-party content to be a violation, only those that are hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate search rankings. As an example, many publications host advertising content that is intended for regular readers, rather than to manipulate search rankings – called native advertising or advertorial content. This type of content typically would not confuse regular readers of the publication when they find it on the publisher’s site directly or when arriving at it from Google’s search results. This type of content do not need to be blocked from search.

Google’s spam policies page lists some illustrative examples of what is and isn’t site reputation abuse. These type of content needs to be blocked from Google Search to avoid violating their spam policies. Site owners are given time to prepare for this change before this new policy takes effect on May 5, 2024.

Expired Domain Abuse

Expired domain abuse is when an expired domain name is purchased and repurposed primarily to manipulate search rankings by hosting content that provides little to no value to users. For example, someone might purchase a domain previously used by a medical site and repurposed to host low-quality casino-related content, with the hopes of being successful in search based on the domain’s reputation from its previous ownership.

Google states that expired domain abuse is not something that people accidentally do and it is a practice being employed by people who hope to rank well in search with low value content, by using the past reputation of the domain name. These types of domain are generally not intended for visitors to find them any other way but through search engines. It is, however, fine to use an old domain name for a new, original site that is designed to serve people first.

According to Google, the goal of these new policies and constant improvements to their spam fighting systems is not just to ensure that users get great, helpful content, but to also ensure that those producing helpful content are succeeding in search, ahead of those who engage in spam.

Read more about the policy updates in this Google Search Central Blog.