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Google Releases Core Algorithm and Spam Updates, Spam Updates Immediately Circumvented

April 1, 2024 /
All industries  /   Algorithm Updates 

This past month, Google released its first large-scale core algorithm update of 2024. These are routine updates which are necessary to ensure the general health of ranking algorithms, a collection of minor tweaks that aren’t worth note individually. Google did however highlight its additional March spam update, stating that the latest patch should result in 40% less spam content across the search engine. This came in response to the mass adoption of AI, a tool that greatly increased the volume of spammy webpages. Google tried to push back against this glut of low-quality content and in doing so, proved that bad actors were more than ready to counter any cleanup attempts Google made.

AI generated spam sites defeated Google’s March 2024 spam update and are still crushing the top of search results. Google took a multi-prong approach to detecting spam but each of them were quickly quashed by spammers. The first method Google used was the detection of what it determined to be “scaled content”, this meaning any content that produced volume for the sole purpose of ranking rather than increasing its helpfulness to users. The second target was “parasite SEO”, this being the practice of spam websites linking to authoritative third-party domains, flooding them with fake positive reviews or other content that then linked back to the spam website. The final main spam-fighting method was the crack down on “expired domain abuse.” This is the practice of buying expired domain names and repurposing them with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content. All of these targets seemed like something that would reduce the amount of spam on Google, but bad actors demonstrated their ability to circumvent these new practices in under a month.

Expired domains used to be a massive issue, but spammers are far keener on using “domain squatting”, this being the practice of creating a domain and doing nothing with it other than intending to sell it or use it for an otherwise nefarious purpose when needed. Why this is now more common is that AI can generate subdomains far faster than any spammer could generate top-level domain content. One would think this would then be counteracted by Google’s new “scaled content” policy but this policy fails to detect any difference from good actors who simply expanded their content from their usual core niche from bad actor scaling their spam. The policy too lenient, spammers are scaling subdomains rather than abusing expired top-level domains. Spammy subdomains first started to crop up on November 30th, 2022, the same day that ChatGPT saw a public launch. These websites were half-finished and dormant until Google’s new March spam update. As if the spammers were always ready to spring their trap, they flooded the search engine the moment domains became useful.

The factor of subdomains still doesn’t circumvent the “parasite SEO” problem that Google planned to resolve but because of AI’s ability to generate spam so quickly, parasitism was irrelevant. Google naturally gives new websites a two-day grace period to rank better than normal, allowing smaller pages a chance to be viewed by new users and stop search engine results pages from stagnating (and in turn making expired domains even more of an issue). This 48-hour span of time is all spammers need to rank, steal their leads, and then throw away the spam-detected webpages. AI generated spam doesn’t need genuine SEO to rank their pages for multiple days, it can generate low-quality content so quickly that they “churn and burn” their websites.

What all this means is that Google needs to reconsider how it’s tackling its spam problem. It’s made some progress in in Maps offerings and is constantly improving the reviews on its platforms, but AI generated spam is preemptively finding ways to get around updates. Google also needs to find methods to unify its spam updates when it is running different versions of its algorithm in different geographies. The EU for example shows different search results due to recent compliance with the Digital Markets Act. Is this compliance why a bug in European regions is now making TripAdvisor,,, and other legitimate website links clicking through to spammy websites? It’s doubtful even the software engineers at Google know the answers to that question and in the coming months, we are sure to see the many new attempts Google will make to combat spam.

What does all this mean to the common webmaster and online business owner though? Whenever Google updates its search ranking algorithms, it means that your site can do better or worse in the search results. Knowing when Google makes these updates gives us something to point to in order to understand if it was something you changed on your website or something Google changed with its ranking algorithm. The best response to these updates is the same thing you should do whether there is an algorithm update or not, follow SEO best practices and maintain an organic ranking that is less prone to algorithm volatility. When it comes to spam, there will be ups and downs with this as well. Report spam that you see consistently outperforming your legitimate business but if it’s short-lived spammy webpages you’re dealing with, you’ll have to leave those for Google to play whack-a-mole with for now.