Interested in staying up-to-date with the latest SEO news? In May’s round-up, I’ll discuss the latest happenings that have occurred in the world of SEO over the last few months.

May SEO summary

After what felt like an eerily quiet few months for algorithm roll-outs, in March and April we were spoiled with two updates that were rolled-out on the same day! The first being a core update labelled the March 2024 spam update and the second labelled the March 2024 core update.

The March 2024 core update caused more chatter than previous roll-outs with Google announcing that moving forward, core updates would contain elements of the helpful content system.

Google execs communicated that with this transition, they were hoping to remove 40% of unhelpful results - signalling that this was potentially going to be a big one.

What were the results of this update?

Very quickly into the update, sites were heavily penalised and some found themselves completely deindexed from Google. In most instances, it was websites which were found to be violating Google’s guidelines or employing questionable SEO tactics that were impacted.

Another pattern that emerged from this update was websites (both big and small), which were seen to be publishing content with the intent to gain organic traffic (mostly in the form of mass generating AI content), had either declined in rankings or were completely removed from the index.

Update info:

March 2024 core update

This roll out occurred between March 5th and April 19th.

Quick Facts (pulled-in from seroundtable):

  • Name: Google March 2024 Broad Core Update
  • Launched: March 5, 2024 at around 12 pm ET (16:00 GMT)
  • Rollout: Completed 45 days later on April 26, 2024 at around 4:09pm ET (20:09 GMT)
  • Targets: It looks at all types of content
  • Penalty: It is not a penalty, it promotes or rewards great web pages
  • Global: This is a global update impacting all regions, in all languages.
  • Impact: Google said it will result in a 45% reduction in low-quality unoriginal and unhelpful content in its search results.

March 2024 spam update

This roll out occurred between March 5th and March 20th.

Quick Facts (pulled-in from seroundtable):

  • Name: Google March 2024 Spam Update
  • Launches: Week of March 5, 2024 and then May 5, 2024 and may take two weeks to roll out
  • Targets: General search spam plus scaled content, expired domain abuse and in May 2024 site reputation abuse.
  • Penalty: It penalizes spam techniques that are against Google's spam policies.
  • Global: This is a global update impacting all regions and languages.
  • Impact: Google would not tell me what percentage of queries or searches were impacted by this update.
  • Recover: If you were hit by this, Google said you should review its spam policies to ensure they are complying with those.
  • Refreshes: Google will do periodic refreshes to the spam update. It can take many months to recover, Google said.

What to do if your site has been impacted?

If your site has seen a decline in performance around the dates the update was rolled-out, it is likely you were impacted. The first step should be to familiarise yourself with the official documentation provided by Google and assess your content against the official criteria. If not all questions asked by the search engine in the document can be answered with a straight forward yes or no, then focusing on producing helpful content may help performance to recover overtime. If you find your website is producing helpful content, we recommend talking to an SEO professional to assess the situation and provide suitable recommendations.

SERP Volatility Sensor

May serp volatility graph image

Monitor Google algorithm updates

Interested in staying up-to-date with confirmed algorithm roll-outs? Google provides a log of all current and historic confirmed updates on the Google Search Status Dashboard.

SERP Evolution

1. Discussion and Forums Q&A Box appearing on Google SERPs

In recent months, users have noticed an increase in the appearance of the discussions and forums Q&A box appearing on SERPs. In this box, results from popular forums such as Quora and Reddit are pulled in. Users can then choose to ‘see more’ if they are interested.

Discussion and Forums Q&A Box appearing on Google SERPs

What’s interesting is that Quora and Reddit have both seen incredible levels of growth in the last 6-8 months, even without a dedicated SERP feature. Interestingly, many have seen the promotions of these user generated content (UGC) sites as Google’s way of fighting the rise of AI content.


Reddit Organic Traffic Surge


Quora Organic Traffic Surge

What could this mean for the future?

These tests signify that Google remains intent on promoting sites that offer user generated content. Whilst a small blog or site is unlikely to appear in these forum boxes, introducing UGC content to your site may help future rankings.

2. Microsoft Bing adds AI-generated captions to some search result snippets​

Users of Microsoft Bing may be seeing AI-Generated captions rather than one added by webmasters. These captions have been appearing in different regions, across a variety of searches. According to Bing, they are using GPT-4 to innovate and make the search results “more relevant and informative”.​

Bing’s approach is to use GPT-4 to generate captions by analysing the search query of the user, it then “extracts the most pertinent insights from web pages, and skillfully transforms them into highly relevant and easily digestible snippets”.​

What could this mean for the future?

This does mean that with no instructions in place, you may find your captions adapted or changed completely on Bing. It is suggested that this is done with the best intentions and can have a positive impact on your site’s click-through-rate. However, the downside is that the changes are out of the webmasters control and the new caption may not accurately represent the content on the page.

The good news is you can block this from happening by using either the NOCACHE or NOARCHIVE tags. These directives inform Bing what they can or cannot do with your content.

  • Taking no action means the content may be included in Bing Chat answers and used to train Microsoft’s AI models.
  • Adding a NOCACHE tag means only titles, snippets, and URLs can appear in Bing Chat or train AI models.
  • Adding a NOARCHIVE tag prevents any usage in Bing Chat or AI training.

If you think your site has been affected by any of these updates and need to talk to an SEO specialist about options, get in touch

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Meet the author ...

Jessica Sellers

SEO Manager

SEO is Jess’s passion. She has over six years of experience in digital marketing and has thoroughly enjoyed her journey in SEO so far. Working both in-house and agency side across a ...