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Google Spam Policy Content Strategies, March 2024

If you’re reading this article, odds are you or your company are aware of Google’s recent March 2024 spam policies. For thousands of content creators, these new policy changes mean updating content strategies at risk of violations and manual actions from Google.

This article serves as a policy breakdown and provides guidelines for copywriters and SEOs to follow in the wake of this update. As of today (March 3rd, 2024), Google predicts a 40% decrease in spam content across the internet. 

No one wants to be in that 40%. So, while creators wait for the update to finish rolling out in early May, educating ourselves on what content strategies will fly and what will leave you a sitting duck in Google’s crosshairs is best.

Let’s start by reviewing the March 2024 spam policy and breaking it down to understand Google’s new direction.

An Overview of Google’s New Spam Policies

Before discussing the 2024 spam content policies, we’ll have to review the 2023 and 2022 content changes, as the end-year HCU (Helpful Content Update) coincides with the most recent changes.

Google has been moving in the same direction for about a decade now (arguably since the penguin update in 2014) regarding its stance toward spam content and content abuse and its preference toward high-quality, helpful content, whether AI or human-written. 

At the end of 2022, we saw Google roll out the first HCU, which targeted the following:

  1. Content Lacking Depth or Value: Articles or pages with thin content that offered little relevant information or insight on the topic they purported to cover.
  2. Overly SEO-Driven Content: Over-optimized content made for search engines with excessive keyword stuffing or created to rank well in search results rather than to inform or help readers.
  3. Automatically Generated Content: Content produced using automated tools or AI to quickly create large volumes of content, often resulting in low-quality or nonsensical text.
  4. Content Covering Topics Beyond the Site’s Expertise: Websites that publish content on a wide range of topics without real expertise or authority aim to capture traffic from trending topics rather than provide valuable insights.

These stipulations resulted in qualifying websites suffering from lower rankings, reduced traffic, a loss of authority, and even Google taking manual action against severe and repeat offenders. 

Even newly published content was penalized on these sites; needless to say, this was a nightmare for many who hadn’t foreseen the update and acted accordingly. 

2023’s HCU brought similar changes:

The 2023 HCU built upon the foundation laid by the initial 2022 update, further refining and emphasizing the importance of creating valuable, high-quality content for users over search engines. 

Like its predecessor, the 2023 update continued to target content that failed to provide genuine value to users while introducing more specific guidelines and enhancements to identify and reward beneficial content. This update campaign is excellent for creators who create honest, helpful content and bad news for those who refuse to change their ways.

Notice a pattern?

Like 2022 and 2023, 2024’s HCU brings more changes that target abusive content creation practices while rewarding helpful content:

The critical factor the update centers around is ranking content that is helpful to users instead of keyword-stuffed, over-optimized, conversion-based copy.

Aiming to rank for popular search queries once worked like a dream.

Nowadays, AI can spam hundreds or thousands of search intent-targeted articles a week and abuse keyword research. You may have even encountered articles that fail to answer your question or are entirely unrelated to your search intent.

To further combat this, the 2024 HCU (the final HCU, according to Google) brings the following changes to the algorithm:

Algorithmic Enhancements for Better Quality Ranking

  • Core Algorithm Improvements: Prioritizing valuable information and minimizing unoriginal content to ensure users access top-quality content.

Revamped Spam Policies for Cleaner Search

  • Expanded Spam Policy Coverage: Addressing a broader spectrum of low-quality content and introducing sophisticated spam detection methods.

Advanced Spam-Fighting Techniques

  • Enhanced Detection and Mitigation: Identifying and combating new tactics that lead to spammy, low-quality content, including keyword-targeted content.

Scaled Content Abuse Policy Tightening

  • Focus on Quality and Originality: Targeting mass-produced content with minimal oversight, emphasizing the need for genuine, high-user-value contributions.

Site Reputation Protection

  • Safeguarding Site Credibility: Marking low-value content exploiting established site reputations as spam to maintain trust in the information provided to users.

New Rules Against Expired Domain Abuse

  • Crackdown on Domain Misuse: Taking explicit action against repurposing expired domains to enhance low-quality content ranking.

All right, we have a pretty clear outline of how Google responds to content abuse and spam; now what?

Most people will have enough evidence from metrics to discern an exact game plan that works only on the estimated update completion dates of May 5th or May 11th. 

However, we can speculate on a content strategy based on the information Google provided and what’s already working for those unaffected or positively affected by the update.

Updating Content Strategies for the 2024 HCU

Finally, with the HCUs wrapping up, creators can start making concrete, “fluid” long-term content strategies for the coming year.

Here’s how you can navigate these changes without hitting the panic button:

First and foremost, if you host a negatively impacted site, take a deep breath and channel rationale. Build resolve. Your best move is to make cautious, data-influenced decisions when responding to initial fluctuations. Understand that volatility is a normal part of the update process; some days will look much better and worse than others.

Next, focus on taking actionable steps toward recovery. Content audits are your best friend in this phase. Look for poorly ranked articles that lack depth, demonstrate keyword stuffing, or stray too far from helping users with helpful info.

In this phase, you should deindex or alter plagiarised, duplicate, or low-quality spam content to avoid manual actions from Google. 

Then, for non-abusive content falling short of their guidelines: enhancedon’t overhaul.

Sweeping changes, as previously mentioned, will trigger red flags for Google. Instead, try incorporating types of content that prove helpful, such as expert opinions, relevant and updated statistics, case studies with accompanying images, and other helpful content that enhances authenticity and originality.

Bring something new to the table that others still need. Your goal is to differentiate your content from competitors and the internet as a whole. Competitor and industry research is indispensable to this phase.

If you maintain user-centric content creation, you’re on the right track to recovery or growth. The bottom line here is this: 

SEO-optimized content isn’t enough to differentiate from abusive competitors, so remember that your content strategy must target helping the user!

Alphalytics’ Concluding Thoughts on the 2024 HCU Spam Policies

Huge changes in Google’s algorithm are intimidating, we know. 

It’s only been a few days into this HCU, and most creators praise or curse Google for these spam updates. Whether positively or negatively affected, vigilant, rationalized thinking and resolve will help you stay afloat in the coming algorithm upheaval.

Partnering with SEO specialists is a great way to stay vigilant and employ the required guidelines. Opportunely, Alphalytics stays on top of Google update guidelines and alters its SEO strategies for continued client growth and user-centric content creation.

To learn more about our insights on Google’s helpful content updates or for more guidance on content strategies, check out our related posts or contact us.

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