In this month’s edition of SEMantics, Bring Digital’s monthly SEO newsletter, Aimee Jones recaps a March of algorithmic madness, Google’s attack on “low-value” AI content, and its endless new ways to utilise AI in new search experiences.

Google’s Spam update creates a different kind of March Madness

Google’s latest Spam update finished rolling out as of 20th March. The second part of this update, which Google says targets sites “abusing authority”, begins rollout on 5th May.

Alongside this, the March 2024 core update is still rolling out. Google did caveat this update by saying it may take up to a month to complete, so we should expect to see this finish soon. But as of 8th April, this is still in progress.


Screenshot of Google Search Status dashboard showing March updates
Source: Google Search Status Dashboard


Google’s attack on “pure spam” sites

Hundreds of low-quality websites were completely de-indexed​ by Google following manual “Pure Spam” action. This happened within hours of the update beginning its rollout, and many of the sites featured heavy use of low-quality AI content. A pretty simple lesson here: DON’T use purely AI-generated content on your site, especially in bulk. 

There haven’t yet been any recoveries of sites that were de-indexed with “Pure Spam” manual actions, with over 1,000 websites’ visibility tracked across both ahrefs and SEMrush. Search Engine Land columnist Glenn Gabe showcased some examples in a post on X on the 20th March, with screenshots from ahrefs and SEMrush.

Screenshot of Glenn Gabe's post on X spotting Google manual actions
Source: Glenn Gabe on X

​Google starts testing AI overviews from SGE in the main Google search interface

Google is now testing AI overviews in the main Google Search results, even for those who have not opted into the Google Search Generative Experience labs feature. Google said this is an experience on a “subset of queries, on a small percentage of search traffic in the U.S”.

Screenshot of Google's new AI-led search generative experience
Source: Search Engine Land

In May 2023, Google opened up a Search Labs section for searchers to opt in to see and use the Google SGE results, that contained AI overviews. Now some users in America may see these AI answers without specifically opting in to see them.

While it’s primarily been a US feature, some evidence suggests that AI overviews are making their way to UK search, too.

Google using AI to come up with search answers in UK test

On Thursday 4th April, it was revealed that Google has begun testing search answers written by AI  in the UK following tests in the US.

Initially, only a small proportion of logged-in UK users will see an AI-generated “overview” at the top of some search results. SGE/AI overviews could potentially change how people search and the amount of organic traffic a site gets from Google. 

​Google offers advice for those affected by HCU

In a recent interesting interaction on Twitter, Google’s SearchLiaison answered a question asking for advice on how to diagnose content that’s lost rankings because of the Helpful Content update

SearchLiaison offered advice on how to step back and think about what the problem could be and if there even is a problem to consider.

Google confirms that “high-quality content is crawled more often”

In a recent podcast episode, Google’s Search Relations team revealed that high-quality, user-centric content is the key to increasing crawl demand, debunking some long-standing crawl budget myths.

Here are the highlights from what was shared:

  • There is no fixed crawl budget that websites must stick to.
  • Google prioritises crawling based on content quality
  • Focusing on producing high-quality, user-centric content is the best way to increase Google crawling your website.

A new type of local spam emerges

A new type of local spam has been observed out in the wild. Spammers have been spotted moving all competitors’ map location pins into one place, meaning they won’t show up in local search box results.

You can read a bit more about this in this post on X from Joy Hawkins. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a bit more widely reported.

Joy Hawkins on X spots local search spam attacks
Source: Joy Hawkins on X

Bing search potential

A recent article on SE Roundtable has stated that SEOs aren’t utilising Bing as much as they should. X user Lily Ray spotted that Statcounter showed Google losing about 2 market share over the past year globally — and the majority of that 2% growth went to Bing (in the US, at least).

Bing Principal Product Manager, Fabrice Canel, highlighted that “Bing powers several other search engines, including DuckDuckGo, Yahoo, Ask, Ecosia, Swisscows and more […] This isn’t just a matter of click volume; it’s about the business value derived from those clicks, which correlates well with searchers satisfaction.”

In a world where Google is experimenting more and more with “zero-click” SGE, Bing is certainly becoming a more appetising prospect for search marketers.

So there you have it, another fabulously relevant newsletter full of SEO updates for you. Keep your eyes peeled for May’s edition.