Google’s March 2024 core update completed on 19 April

Posted by Edith MacLeod on 2 May, 2024
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Google has also updated its documentation on debugging ranking drops in Search.

March 2024 update completed.

Image: rawpixel.com on Freepik

The March 2024 core update finished rolling out on 19 April, though Google didn’t announce this until 26 April. The update was described as more complex than other core updates as it involved changes to multiple core systems. In the end it ran for 45 days - 5 March to 19 April.

This was a big update with a big impact. It was aimed at tackling low quality and spammy content, and Google said it expected to see a drop of 40% in this kind of content.

This figure was revised to 45% in an addition to Google’s blog post after the update had completed.

Update April 26, 2024: As of April 19, we’ve completed the rollout of these changes. You’ll now see 45% less low-quality, unoriginal content in search results versus the 40% improvement we expected across this work.

Google updates help on fixing traffic drops

On the same day as announcing the update had completed, Google also published updates to its documentation for site owners on how to debug drops in ranking.

The biggest change is an expansion of the section on algorithmic update (formerly called algorithmic changes).

Google says if you think your traffic has been hit due to an algorithmic update, there may not be anything fundamentally wrong with your content. To see whether you need to make any changes to your site, you should review your top pages in Search Console and see how they were ranking.

There are two separate categories, depending on how big the drop was:

  • Small drop in position? For example, dropping from position 2 to 4.
  • Large drop in position? For example, dropping from position 4 to 29.

For a small drop, Google’s advice is:

In Search Console, you might see a noticeable drop in traffic without a big change in impressions.

Small fluctuations in position can happen at any time (including moving back up in position, without you needing to do anything). In fact, we recommend avoiding making radical changes if your page is already performing well.

For a large drop, Google’s advice is:

In cases like this, self-assess your whole website overall (not just individual pages) to make sure it's helpful, reliable and people-first. If you've made changes to your site, it may take time to see an effect: some changes can take effect in a few days, while others could take several months. For example, it may take months before our systems determine that a site is now producing helpful content in the long term.

In general, you'll likely want to wait a few weeks to analyze your site in Search Console again to see if your efforts had a beneficial effect on ranking position.

It’s also worth noting that the opening sentence in the documentation has been amended to omit the phrase "most drops in organic traffic can be reversed".

It now reads:

A drop in organic Search traffic can happen for several reasons, and it may not be straightforward to understand what exactly happened to your site. This guide explains how to use the Search Console Performance report and Google Trends to investigate the reasons for a drop in Search traffic and how to address it.

The previous version read:

A drop in organic Search traffic can happen for several reasons, and most of them can be reversed. It may not be straightforward to understand what exactly happened to your site; to investigate the reasons for a drop in Search traffic, you can use the Search Console Performance report and Google Trends.

Read the full documentation here, and access the previous version via the Wayback Machine.

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