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Surviving the 2024 Google Updates with Better Content

Google’s algorithms are always changing. Most of the time, these are small enough that only a very few site owners will notice a difference – but every so often, Google takes two weeks to a month to roll out something major. If you’ve heard an SEO executive somewhere mutter about Google Updates, it’s these big rollouts we’re talking about.

At First Digital Media, this month’s blog looks at Google’s 2024 updates and whether your website’s content is good enough. For more information, don’t hesitate to call us in Lancaster on 01524 544 346.

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Why Update?

Online search is a huge business. In 2023, Google’s revenue from online advertising broke $200 billion. So dominant is their market share that it’s easy to imagine they’ll always have control of the online search market – but the only way for them to stay ahead is for Google search results to have more value to the user than anyone else’s.

This has been the driving force behind every big update to the algorithm, going back years. Lately, they’ve happened more and more often – there were nine big Google updates in 2023. In 2024 we’re a little way behind that pace, with only four updates so far, but they started with a bang.

How Do the 2024 Google Updates Affect Your Site?

Continuing a trend set by the Helpful Content Update in last September, the focus of Google’s updates this year is on improving the relevance and value of the top-ranked pages for any given search. In March, Google did something unprecedented: as well as launching two big updates in the same week, they actively deindexed hundreds of offending sites.

One of the updates was a Google Core Update. Often, Google can be quite vague about these, but in this case, they provided a lot of information. The goal of the Core Update was to improve the search engine’s ranking systems – making it quicker and easier for Google to recognise top-quality, relevant content, as well as making it harder to ‘fake’ high quality content through any of the dozens of dubious tricks employed over the years – including the latest option, creating an AI-driven content farm.

At the same time, they launched the final Helpful Content Update. Remember, Google wants to keep users from changing search engine, so the content users find has to be helpful to them.

What Does Google Mean by Helpful Content?

Tired of your current SEO service provider? Seen a drop in your Google results & positions? We work with you to optimise your website, improve your Google rankings and combat Google’s ever-changing updates.

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What is Site Reputation Abuse?

In May, Google launched an update designed to stop content on one site from outperforming content on another site just because of advantages in site reputation. Sound confusing? It is – but let’s break it down.

If you have a successful website, when you add a new page to it, Google will often give the new page a better ranking than it’s had time to earn. There’s good reason for this; your site is successful, so your content to date is probably good, so there’s a better than average chance that this new content will be good too.

So far, so good. But if you have, for example, a site that’s become popular because it has good financial advice content, that doesn’t actually mean your new content talking about reality TV is going to be better than the average – but until May, it got the benefit of the doubt.

A lot of highly successful sites in one niche, adding content for another niche, immediately replicated that success. Some of these sites were repurposing content from smaller sites to create these new sections, then outranking the sites they’d taken content from. Obviously, this isn’t the right way to do things!

Making it worse were two systems for monetising this advantage. Major sites would effectively sell advertisers a subfolder on their site, and the content in that subfolder would get a bonus despite being created to cash in, not even by the people whose quality content made the site valuable. Sometimes this was used to hide advertising by presenting it as top 10 lists on a third-party website.

And just earlier this year, a DJ turned black hat SEO explained a strategy where he bought the addresses of dead websites – belonging to magazines that had shut down, usually. These had a strong reputation so content on them performed well, even though the content he was putting on them had nothing to do with that earned reputation.

By levelling the playing field, the smaller sites producing the most valuable content should have a chance to climb to the top again – so long as their content really is the most helpful available.

The Google Spam Update

Now in June, Google have announced a Spam Update. Very simply, if a site violates Google’s spam policies, this update is designed to make sure it’s penalised.

Some of the tricks we mentioned in Site Reputation are also violations of the spam policy. But so are automatically generated content designed to increase rankings without providing more value, copycat content, and a whole suite of tricks using hidden redirects.

Lastly, thin content – that is, too little content on a page for it to provide value – is also a violation. There’s no minimum word count, so if you have fifty words on a page introducing a series of pictures of work you’ve done for clients, that probably won’t be thin content; on the other hand, five hundred words might be too short for a page explaining how to fill out your tax returns.

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What Does This Mean for Your Content?

For years now, Google have told us the best way to create content to perform on their platform is to produce good content that actually has some value for the person reading it; these changes are a push to make that promise real.

However, standards are higher than ever. You can’t just copy the homework of the next site along, even if you rewrite it; you have to find some way to build on it.

Contact First Digital Media

At First Digital Media, we always aim to produce content that covers everything and makes it clear and simple. We want to showcase our clients at their best, and we’ll help you take your industry knowledge and experience and present it as clearly as possible. Users should come back to a website, knowing they’ll learn something useful and knowing they can trust what they learn.

If you’d like to learn more about where your site content needs to be futureproofed against current and upcoming Google updates, contact us today for a free consultation or fill out the form and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

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