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24 April 2024 / Opinion

Is the March 2024 Google algorithm update penalising AI content?

Amelia Thomas / Head of Organic Media

Back in September 2023, Google updated its description of helpful content from “content written by people, for people”, to “content created for people”. ‘AI-generated’ and ‘AI-assisted content’ are both listed as methods of creation, along with advice for using them in search. So why is Google’s March 2024 algorithm update penalising AI content? 

The truth is, it isn’t. At least, not exclusively or exhaustively. Here, we’ll discuss what the update is geared to do, what we’ve seen so far and how website owners can react. 

If it doesn’t penalise AI content, what does the March 2024 update do? 

Google expects this update to reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%. Let’s look at the areas of focus: 

Reducing low-quality results 

Google has been focused on reducing unhelpful, unoriginal content in results since 2022, but the March 2024 update is the first time helpful content signals have been included in a core update. 

Some core ranking systems are now designed to help understand if webpages are unhelpful, if they offer a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search first and foremost, which includes sites created primarily to match very specific search queries. 


Keeping more spam out of results 

  • Preventing scaled content abuse 

Originally, content abuse policies were designed to address sites using automation to write low-quality, unoriginal content at scale. 

Scaled content creation has become more sophisticated, written not just via automation, but by humans and a combination of the two. Updated policies take this into account, taking action on content that delivers little or no value, for example, pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content. 

  • Preventing site reputation abuse 

This is a new policy coming into enforcement on May 5th, that essentially targets spammy-link builders. This is designed to target sites with great content, that also host lower-quality content from third parties with the goal of capitalising on the site’s reputation. 

This is deemed misleading and unhelpful for users. Low-value, third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes, without close oversight from the website owner will now be considered as spam. 

  • Preventing expired domain abuse 

Repurposed expired domains that aim to boost low-quality content can mislead users, leading them to believe new content is part of an older site, with existing authority. Expired domains that have been purchased and repurposed, with the intention of boosting search rankings of low-quality or unoriginal content will be considered spam. 


What impact has the update had so far? 

There appears to be correlation between the amount of AI content on websites and those websites seeing visibility decreases, yes. In fact, hundreds of sites featuring AI content have now been completely deindexed. 

However, what Google is cracking down on is poor-quality content that doesn’t benefit its users; content created en masse in order to manipulate search engines into ranking a site highly. 

This content offers little to Google’s audience in terms of value. And with 9% of UK adults using ChatGPT weekly to look for information, and 41% of consumers having used TikTok as a search engine at least once, it’s no surprise that Google is taking action. 


Has the update changed the right approach to search-friendly content? 

In short, no. Not if you’re heeding Google’s words and creating content for your audience. Of course, we’re all building articles, videos and other content in the hope that we’ll see traffic from Google, and using quick fixes can be tempting… 

And yet, Google’s history is smattered with examples of manipulative techniques used by website owners that worked for a little while, or sometimes a more significant time period. What they have in common, is that they don’t work anymore and ultimately, if you’re using them, you probably aren’t creating content that benefits your users. So where does that leave AI content? 

The content you want to rank in search should be something you’re proud to put your brand’s name to. Something you’re happy to amplify via other channels, and something that genuinely supports your users’ wants and needs. 

If you can do all this while using AI for aspects of content creation, then you’re futureproofing for great results in search engines. But we recommend progressing with caution. 


So, what should brands and marketing leaders do?  

If you’ve taken a hit from the March 2024 update, you’ll need to assess the quality of content on your site, and potentially reassess your approach to content strategy and creation.

1. Take action now

Whether or not you’ve been pumping your site full of low-quality or unoriginal content, a decrease in visibility suggests it’s time to audit. 

Consider the extent to which your content meets Google’s E-E-A-T search quality guidelines – as well as the purpose it serves – to determine if you should keep, remove or improve it.

2. Arm yourself with data

Helping, inspiring and problem-solving for your audience is key, so you need to know them inside out. In preparation to improve old content or create new, find and analyse data that tells you: 

  • What they’re looking for 
  • What media they consume 
  • Who they trust within your industry 
  • What’s important to them at the moment 
  • What gold-standard content looks like right now 

All of this information, affectionately nurtured into a robust strategy, will ensure that you’re creating the content your audience needs; content they’ll believe in, content they can find when they want it and where they want it.

3. Put industry expertise front and centre

However you choose to create content, if it isn’t informed by human expertise, it will always be unoriginal and often low-quality, because it’s purely a rehash of preexisting information. 

Don’t underestimate the value of your expert voices; use their words as a foundation for content and make sure their affiliation to the brand is signposted on-site. Both Google and your users will appreciate the trust signals.

4. Think carefully about how you use AI

At Jaywing, we’re performing controlled tests to discover how AI tools can best be used for efficiency purposes. Using AI without a guiding set of trained principles; tone of voice, brand guidelines, length & purpose, for example, will inevitably negate the efficiency desired by utilising the tools. Therefore the controlled element here is essential, with a test and approach to achieve desired outputs. 

Our data suggests that it can be used sparingly to expedite content ideation and planning, in combination with human input and review, to create helpful content. Proceeding with caution, these tools have the potential to add value to your strategic process.

5. Maximise your amplification plan

It would be a crime to leave your incredible new content on-site, just waiting for Organic Search traffic to start coming in. 

Use the channels and tactics at your disposal to increase your reach and brand awareness. Everything from social media and influencer work to email marketing and PR can be used as part of an effective Content Marketing mix. 


Ultimately this activity can support you in boosting brand search and displaying content authority, supporting your Organic Search efforts. And with SGE SERPageddon  also a current focus in the industry, content with a variety of avenues for success is going to become all the more important. 

If you’ve seen visibility losses following Google’s algorithm update, Jaywing can help.

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