Written by Aaron Rains March 13th 2024

The March Core and Spam update is currently running alongside manual actions being dished out by the thousands. And boy, so far, these updates have been impactful. The core component that should better reward helpful content is starting to roll out.

Website’s Losing So Far During The Core Update.

large number of manual actions have been dished out. Many sites with manual actions have been wholly deindexed, including John Mueller’s site?!? More on that in a moment. Some pages have popped back in the index, but most of these manual actions have been quite punitive.

While many sites given manual actions used AI to write content, many did not. These actions are not about AI. They are about abusing methods to manipulate rankings that don’t comply with Google’s guidelines.

I have access to several manual actions in the GSC profiles. If you get a manual action, it usually appears as a red bar at the top of the page, although in some cases, you actually need to go to Security & Manual actions to see it.

sample of Google's manual action search console

I have seen several types of manual actions this week, including thin content, misleading content  and, most commonly, pure spam.

Pure spam is interesting wording, as the impacted sites are not gibberish. I think that most fall under the part that says, “egregious violations of Google’s spam policies for web search.”

request review of manual action

I want to show you the content for the site from which I grabbed that screenshot. You should consider it well-written and helpful, not spam. It is a blog that reviews products in a particular niche. It is human-written. Here are the notes from the review we provided them five years ago when assessing a traffic drop:

  • Poor page speed on mobile
  • Thin content and copied
  • Lack of authority in their space
  • Poor reputation compared to eompetitiors
  • The site does not porvide vaule beside what they offer

Until recently, sites have been for years based on knowledge of SEO and writing for search engines despite having mediocre content. This site did not build links (although that may have changed in the years since our review.) The content was human-written. Its primary concern was that there was little original or unique about it. It wrote on a topic they knew well but needed to be known for. And they were writing content that people could find elsewhere.

Here’s a tip if your content is helpful. Ask yourself, “If my site disappeared from the web, would people complain?”

I have not fully dug into this pure spam penalty, but I suspect the issue is this:

This blog was created to make money online rather than out of a desire to help their existing audience or a passion to share about their topic. It was decent content, but not in any way more helpful than other pages on the web. We will see more sites like this impacted, and these updates roll out.

I also think our understanding of what is substantially helpful will change in the months to come as we analyze the changes we are about to undergo.

The manual actions likely were given to sites that are succeeding so well with SEO that they would still do well once the algorithmic portions of the March updates roll out.

Consider these helpful content questions if you were given manual action.

Website Performing Well During The Update.

I am still waiting to see too many reports of improvements, which is to be expected as we have many more up-to-date updates. Although, this thread has some. I have a few sites that saw nice spikes, although the first one shown here is coming back down again. And there are a few sites with what looks like the beginning of improvements. I suspect these sites have increased because Google is clearing out spam that competed against them. When the core / helpful content component kicks in, many of you who have been working hard to improve the helpfulness of your content will see gains.