Google March 2024 core update rollout is now complete

Google’s March 2024 core update is now done rolling out, it started on March 5, 2024 and completed 45 days later on April 19, 2024. This was a big core update, where Google said that this core update is more complex and involves changes to multiple core systems, while also ending the standalone helpful content update.

Google did not tell us until April 26th, 52 days after the rollout began, that it finished on April 19th.

A Google spokesperson told us, “As the web and spam tactics continue to evolve, we’ll continue to work to reduce low quality, unoriginal content in Search. As always, we appreciate and encourage feedback from users and site owners alike.” Google added:

The March core update ranking improvements, which tackled spam and low quality content on Search, are now finished rolling out. As a reminder, on March 5th we launched a number of meaningful enhancements to our core systems, as well as several updates to our spam policies, to reduce content created for search engines on Search. 

45% reduction. Google originally told us there would be a 40% reduction in low quality and unhelpful content. Well, Now Google said it ended up being closer to 45%.

A Google spokesperson said, “The updates led to larger quality improvements than we originally thought – you’ll now see 45% less low quality, unoriginal content in search results, versus the 40% improvement we expected across this work.”

Other changes. Google also updated help center page outlining how site owners can debug drops in Google Search ranking.

Feedback. Google also created a new feedback form for site ranking changes that you’d like the Google Search team to review more closely.

Overlapping updates. Google also rolled out the March 2024 spam update that started on March 5 and was completed on March 20. Google also released a swarm of manual actions related to pure spam issues after these updates started rolling out. Finally, Google changed its core web vitals to use INP instead of FID during this time period.

Because we had so many overlapping changes, it would be hard to pinpoint which Google change may have impacted your site’s performance in Google Search.

More on the March 2024 core update. “The March 2024 core update is a more complex update than our usual core updates, involving changes to multiple core systems. It also marks an evolution in how we identify the helpfulness of content,” Google’s Chris Nelson wrote.

Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product, Search at Google, told Search Engine Land that the update will help reduce unhelpful content in Google Search by 40%. But Google has updated that number to say 45%.

“We expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%,” Tucker wrote.

This update, unlike some previous core updates, includes enhancements to several components of the overall core system. This March core update will have multiple updates within it, since this update touched on several systems within the core update, Google decided to push out updates to those core systems over the past few weeks.

Google said this update has refined how it understands which webpages are “unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people.” This “could include sites created primarily to match very specific search queries,” Google added.

With this March 2024 core update, Google will stop announcing new helpful content updates, since the helpful content system has been incorporated into the core update system.

The last helpful content update, the September 2023 helpful content update was a large update that impacted several sites. Hopefully, some sites impacted will see relief from this March 2024 core update, but it is hard to say at this point. The classifier for the helpful content system was overhauled and is now baked into the March 2024 core update.

Mordy Oberstein wrote about the wrath of this March core update, calling it not linear.

What to do if you are hit. Google has given advice on what to consider if you are negatively impacted by a core update in the past. Google has not really given much new advice here.

There aren’t specific actions to take to recover. A negative rankings impact may not signal anything is wrong with your pages.

Google has offered a list of questions to consider if your site is hit by a core update.

Google said you can see a bit of a recovery between core updates but the biggest change would be after another core update.

In short, write helpful content for people and not to rank in search engines.

“There’s nothing new or special that creators need to do for this update as long as they’ve been making satisfying content meant for people. For those that might not be ranking as well, we strongly encourage reading our creating helpful, reliable, people-first content help page,” Nelson explained.

Previous core updates. Here’s a timeline and our coverage of recent core updates:

The November 2023 core update was on November 2nd and ended on November 28.

The October 2023 core update was on October 5th and ended on October 19

The August 2023 core update was on August 22nd and ended on September 7.

The March 2023 core update was on March 15th and ended on March 28th.

The September 2022 broad core update was less impactful than previous core updates and finished on Sept. 26.

The May 2022 broad core update was a significant and fast update.

The November 2021 core update 

The July 2021 core update.

The June 2021 core update, which was slow to roll out but a big one.

Why we care. Google algorithm updates are critical for all brands, businesses, and organizations to be aware of because they can impact how your site performs in search results. Any change in rankings from a core update – positive or negative – can impact your organic traffic, conversions and revenue.

Knowing when Google makes these updates enables site owners to know if traffic fluctuations resulted from a change to the site or something Google changed with its ranking algorithm.