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As hard as competitors like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo try, Google is still the king of search. But even royalty has flaws: You may have noticed Google’s overall search quality has diminished in recent years, returning more low-quality posts gaming the system to reach the top of your results page.

The good news is, it seems Google is sick of the SEO spam, too. The company announced on Tuesday that it is rolling out changes to search in its March 2024 core update to reduce the number of spammy posts and return higher quality and more accurate results for your queries. These changes involve updates to the algorithm powering Google’s core ranking systems, as well as improving the company’s spam policies.

First, let’s look at those core ranking systems. Google says the algorithmic enhancements they’re implementing will be better at recognizing whether a website is unhelpful, offers a bad experience for the user, or seems specifically designed to hit key search terms, rather than for readers to learn from—including sites created, “primarily to match very specific search queries.”

Google thinks these changes could potentially reduce the number of spammy and low quality sites you see on any given search result by up to 40%. That’s good for everyone, minus the sites pumping out this content. Google is also updating its spam policies with three key changes:

  • Expired domain abuse: This tactic involves taking over an expired website and taking advantage of its previous readership and credibility to float your low quality content. One of Google’s examples is “casino-related content on a former elementary school site.” So, you know, don’t do that.

  • Scaled content abuse: This looks for sites that pump out a large quantity of low quality content in an effort to get ranked on search. Google bans this practice whether it’s AI-generated pages, a site scraping the web to generate content, or publishing irrelevant garbage that happens to be riddled with search keywords.

  • Site reputation abuse: This occurs when a high-quality site hosts low-quality pages from third parties in an effort to boost those low-quality posts based on the reputation of the main site. My guess is this happens more often than you might think, since this is the only policy change Google is not rolling out already. Instead, the company is giving site owners until May 5 to clean up their acts.

Hopefully, these new changes cut down on the BS and help restore a little quality to the once faithful Google search. Sure, it won’t solve all of Google’s problems, and anyone who is primarily concerned with privacy won’t switch away from DuckDuckGo or Startpage, but stopping spam and low-quality content from plaguing the search engine most of us use is a welcome development—especially as AI-generated content continues to grow.

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