Google’s Crackdown on Low-Quality Content 

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By Omnizant Team
Law Firm Marketing Agency

Beware the ides of March! Et tu, Google? March was a big month for Google, with a core update targeting spam and low-quality content. Your website may be affected—possibly negatively.

SEO is a tenuous game, as every website owner and developer knows. Our only hope to rank is to stay on top of Google’s ever-changing policies to avoid being stabbed in the back. (You’re Caesar in this analogy!)

The most recent 2024 March Google update should be taken very seriously. Google wants to reduce unoriginal, low-quality, and spammy content from the SERP. Any website that overly relies on machine-generated content, black hat SEO techniques, and SEO-targeted content may notice a drop in ratings or even de-indexing.

Here’s a guide to the newest core update to Google and how law firms can adapt to continue thriving in light of the new algorithm.

Quick summary of March 2024 Google changes:

The 2024 March Google update has two major parts: 

1) It aims to significantly reduce the amount of “low-quality, unoriginal content” in the SERP by 40%. 

2) It targets content abuse, reputation abuse, and expired domain abuse with stricter spam policies.

WHY: In simple terms, Google is aware that some online content was created to satisfy search engines instead of people. 

HOW: To fix this, Google is improving its ranking systems to better understand which sites are actually useful and send more traffic to these helpful, high-quality sites. This process includes algorithmic changes and manual actions.

WHAT: You might have web pages that will be impacted by these changes. This is especially true for any pages created for highly specific search queries or with poor user experience.

WHEN: This update is now live. However, the site reputation abuse policy is scheduled to go live on May 5, 2024 to give site owners time to adapt.

How the changes may affect your website

It’s the age of empires out there, and we can’t all be the Emperor!

Early reports indicate that sites are already experiencing one of three possible impacts:

  • Rising in the rankings
  • Falling in the ranking
  • Total removal from Google 

Who might rise: Don’t have spammy or AI-generated content with no human oversight? Great! You’ve followed our advice on creating helpful content and your site may benefit from this update.

Who might fall: Do you rely on AI and non-expert authors for the majority of your content? Are your posts primarily written to target complicated queries like “top-rated divorce attorney in NYC with free consultation”? You may be penalized with a drop in rankings.

Who faces removal: Here’s some good news: You probably won’t face de-indexing unless the majority of your content was created by artificial intelligence (AI). One study found that 100% of deindexed websites had signs of AI content, and more than half of these deindexed sites had more than 90% AI content.

Note that Google uses real people alongside its algorithm. You could be affected by both, but manual actions will appear in your Search Console with a notification from a human reviewer whereas algorithmic impacts don’t trigger notifications.

Change #1: Scaled content abuse (aka fighting spam)

It’s true that Google already penalized low-quality or unhelpful content, but its new spam policies permit more targeted action against manipulative SEO tactics.

Creating low-quality content at scale is now more strictly penalized.

This is not limited to AI! This change affects pages created by AI, humans, or a combination. 

Ultimately, if you’re producing a ton of content that doesn’t provide helpful value—and pretends to do so, just to gain traffic—Google’s reviewers will demote you and notify you.

How it affects you (what you need to do about it)

The good news is that quality matters most to Google. Sites with spammy content, too much AI content without oversight, or highly specific pages that aren’t actually helpful will be penalized with a drop in rankings. You may also see a notification in your Search Console.

It’s not too late to change. 

Law firms with inconsistent content marketing must pivot to creating high-quality content. You must also remove unhelpful, low-quality content.

Start by auditing your existing content. Rework any machine-written content and hire a skilled human writer or editorial team to oversee the process.

Going forward, begin to adjust the way you incorporate AI into your workflow. Use it to streamline the brainstorming and outlining process, not to craft content from scratch. Certainly, there are pros and cons to using AI, but Google has stated that it will reward high-quality content, even if it’s generated in whole or in part by AI

Change #2: Site reputation abuse (coming in May 2024)

Site owners may attempt to artificially inflate their site’s perceived reputation or authority to help improve its ranking. They do this by piggybacking on an established site’s reputation, although the actual quality of their content is low. 

Here’s an example of site reputation abuse in the legal field:

A law firm specializing in personal injury claims collaborates with a legal advice forum to publish articles promoting their services, aiming to gain backlinks and improve search engine rankings. However, visitors may mistake the promotional content for unbiased advice from the forum, potentially misleading them and compromising the forum’s credibility.

Google is taking stricter action to penalize site reputation abuse tactics, where low-quality content is placed on higher-reputation sites with insufficient human oversight.

Google lists additional examples of site reputation abuse:

  • Fake reviews
  • Paid backlinks
  • Websites hosting low-quality content provided by third parties to capitalize on the hosting site’s reputation
  • Using expired domains to boost the search ranking of low-quality content 

How it affects you 

If you’ve bought links, solicited fake reviews, or listed your site on nonreputable sites, now is the time to divest.

There is a major distinction between good SEO juice—high-quality links and earned media, for a start—and poisonous SEO juice. 

Unskilled or unscrupulous SEO marketers may promise there’s no difference, and in the early days of SEO, they were right. At that time, the algorithm was not sophisticated enough to weed out spammy content and understand reputation. 

But Google’s new update is concrete proof that black hat SEO techniques will be penalized.

In the future, prioritize reputable directories. Scrutinize earned media opportunities. Never pay for placement on a site. Embrace off-site optimization techniques that don’t put your site at risk. You have until May 5 to clean up your online footprint.

SEO is complicated and ongoing. It may require you to dig yourself out of ditches as often as you establish a new stronghold or forge an alliance. 

Get expert help if you’re struggling to manage your site’s growth. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

How do algorithm updates work again? (Google for dummies)

Google periodically adjusts its search rules to ensure that users find the best content. 

Google’s updates happen primarily via algorithm changes, which change the way Google understands a site’s content and determines its usefulness. These factors impact how well a site ranks in the SERP

From Big Daddy to RankBrain to Fred, there have been hundreds of updates to Google—but some were bigger than others. 

For lawyers and legal marketers, staying informed about these changes is the key to search engine success. Understanding the rules of a game improves your chances of winning, right?

Review and next steps

Google’s new update went live in March 2024, impacting primarily websites with spammy low-quality content. It’s a new era for SEO, and that means adjusting your content strategy to keep your site at the top of the SERP—or edge out your less-informed competitors.

Book a routine checkup for your website with SEO experts. You may be noticing the impact of this update already, or you might be unsure whether your site can withstand the new changes.

About the Author
Since 2006, Omnizant's team of digital marketing experts, designers, developers and writers has helped over 2,000 law firms develop powerful websites that drive business growth.
Posted in SEO