Google Core Update March 2024 Concept

Key Takeaways:

  • The March 2024 is the most sweeping core update in years, and was accompanied by a spam update
  • The updates are designed to reward content that is useful to real people and punish content made solely to attract clicks
  • The algorithm update had a big impact on search rankings and deindexed hundreds of websites
  • Quality website content and positive user experience should be the focus of websites looking to improve SEO

You may have heard some rumblings in recent weeks about the March 2024 Google core update and its impact on website rankings, including those for law firm websites. Here at The Modern Firm, we have been getting questions from many of our clients who are concerned about how the March 2024 update will affect them. Because this is an issue of such broad concern, we wanted to address some of the most common questions and provide some answers.

What is a Google Core Update?

A core update is a significant update to Google’s algorithm that can affect website search rankings and organic traffic. In essence, the point of a core update is to give users better, more relevant search results. These updates usually involve changes to the way Google’s algorithm evaluates websites and ranks them on their results page. Unsurprisingly, Google prefers sites with high-quality content, positive user experience, relevance to search queries, and trustworthiness.

Core updates are not unusual; Google rolls them out roughly every two to three months, always with the goal of providing a better search experience to users. From the perspective of a law firm, business, or other website owner, a core update may create a boost in search rankings and traffic to the site—or a drop. Although any core update can cause a fluctuation in search rankings, most are not too disruptive, and pass without much notice.

How is the March 2024 Google Core Update Different From Previous Updates?

The March 2024 Google update was much more complex than previous updates. It affected websites in a more profound way, upending search rankings. Some SEO professionals have referred to it as a “seismic shift” in the SEO industry. The March 5 Google announcement asserted that the changes were “designed to improve the quality of search by showing less content that feels like it was made to attract clicks, and more content that people find useful.” 

In other words, the plan is to boost content that is original and useful, and disincentivize click-bait and regurgitated content. Google has suggested that the update will remove up to 40% of low-quality websites that provide useless info and poor user experience. The company is using more sophisticated and complex means to evaluate the quality and relevance of website content, and moving away from more traditional metrics.

In light of this, you might be wondering: can Google detect AI content, and does Google penalize AI content? While AI-generated content wasn’t specifically referenced in the announcement of the Google SEO updates in 2024, most in the industry have drawn the inference that sites with content produced by AI are likely to fare worse than those with high-quality original content. It’s not that AI-generated content is automatically bad, per se; it’s just that it is necessarily generated from information that is already out there. (And, yes, some of it is just plain bad.)

In addition to the Google core update, Google rolled out a spam update almost simultaneously, targeting such practices as expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse. 

Who is Affected by the Google Updates in 2024?

Imagine a town with a large and thriving business district. Naturally, the businesses with prime locations on Main Street are going to see a lot of traffic. Shops on side streets may still get people stopping in, but the further away they are from the heart of the business district, the less foot traffic they are likely to see. Then picture still other businesses, located in an abandoned district several miles outside of town with no street signs and no addresses on the buildings. The odds of a customer finding them are slim-to-none. 

Now imagine that the mayor of the town had the ability to instantly reassign businesses to various locations based on how useful she decided those businesses were. Overnight, a business with a plum Main Street storefront could find itself on a distant side street; another that was doing a brisk business not far away could be banished to a hidden alley on the outskirts of town. 

In this analogy, the mayor, as you have probably guessed, is Google. The town’s business district is the SERP: the Search Engine Results Page, which displays organic search results as well as paid advertisements and other features. The higher your organic search ranking on the SERP, the more traffic your website is likely to get. The shops and businesses in our fictional town are websites, and their location in the business district affects how much traffic they will see.

Those businesses in the forgotten, unmarked district outside of town? Those are the websites that have been deindexed in the March 2024 Google core update—they are no longer included in Google’s search index.

Past Results Are No Guarantee of Future Performance

Paige Silver, Online Marketing Manager at The Modern Firm, notes that “Just because you did well before in previous updates doesn’t mean you’re safe in this one.” Hundreds of sites, including small ones, have been deindexed in the March 2024 core update. Thousands more saw their rankings change overnight, though some sites whose rankings initially tanked with the 2024 Google SEO updates have rebounded. 

In short, anyone can find their website affected by the shakeup caused by the March 2024 Google algorithm update. But there are measures you can take to protect your law firm website’s position in the search rankings—and the good news is that many of those measures are smart moves that you might be making already.

How Can I Protect My Law Firm Website’s Search Ranking?

The 2024 Google SEO updates might seem threatening to a law firm owner who depends on their website to generate business. But in reality, Google’s stated goals for the update are probably pretty well aligned with your own goals for prospective clients who are searching for a law firm. 

Quality Content

You want people to see you as an experienced, authoritative expert they can trust. Google has asserted the importance of EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) in their algorithm; websites that display those traits are more likely to rank well—especially in fields, like law, where trust and credibility are paramount.

As we’ve always said at The Modern Firm, “Quality content is king.” Our blog posts and website pages are designed to appeal not just to search engines, but to real users: people looking for a lawyer or legal information. It’s why we take the time early in our business relationships to learn who the client is for our client: Where do they live? What are they worried about? What do they want to know? Quality website content is specifically catered to the website’s audience.

In addition to targeting content for a specific audience, The Modern Firm also uses only writers who are attorneys to generate content. Writers who are well-versed in legal concepts can write more fluently and intelligently, with more insight and nuance. In other words, they can more easily produce well-researched, substantive, original content—not information cobbled together from other sites or by AI.

When a law firm website effectively speaks to visitors’ needs, they stay on the site longer and are more likely to reach out to the firm. And now, they may be more likely to find the website in the first place, thanks to the March 2024 Google core update.

Focus on User Experience

To carry on with our business district analogy above, a website’s content is like the merchandise on the shelves. A business with a good product is going to be more useful to customers and be rewarded by the mayor with a better location.

But just as merchandise isn’t the only thing that matters to customers of a store, content isn’t the only thing that matters to website visitors; user experience is critical, too. You wouldn’t want to shop in a store that is dirty, cluttered, and disorganized, with poor customer service. By the same token, your prospective clients don’t want to spend much time on an outdated law firm website with broken links, where pages take forever to load, navigation is hard to use, and their information doesn’t feel secure. 

The Google SEO updates in 2024 reward websites that provide a good user experience. In addition to providing relevant content, these websites are mobile-friendly, load quickly, and are secure and easy to navigate. Paige Silver advises that “It’s always a good idea to keep up with your site from a technical standpoint—things like broken links and excessive redirects can negatively affect SEO.”

What Can I Do if My Law Firm Website Isn’t Performing as Well After the Update?

If you are noticing less traffic to your website, or fewer leads coming from it, you may want to monitor your site’s performance in Google Search Console to verify your suspicions. 

From there, take a good look at your site and ask yourself: 

  • Is the content on the site substantive and original? Does it seem like it is designed to answer the questions that real clients are likely to have?
  • Does your content convey that you have firsthand experience with this subject matter and real expertise in this area of the law? Is your site an authority on this subject? Is it trustworthy?
  • Is your website user-friendly, mobile-responsive, and easy to navigate?
  • Is there a lot of spam on the website? Have you used “black hat” SEO techniques to try to “game the system” with Google?
  • How is site speed? Are pages loading quickly, or are they frustratingly slow?
  • Are there a lot of broken links or redirects on the site? 

If you have been taking steps all along to create informative content designed for your audience, and ensured that the technical aspects of your site are functioning well, you should be in good shape. If you’ve addressed the issues above, but your rankings still aren’t where you’d like them to be, it may be time for some help. 

Get the Help You Need to Navigate the March 2024 Google Core Update

Because the March 2024 Google core update and spam update have had such an impact on search rankings and indexing, the Online Marketing Managers at The Modern Firm have been paying especially close attention to the developments. As the dust settles with the rollout of these updates, we’re learning more about what can negatively affect SEO, and how to address it. 

If you want to make sure that your website continues to perform as well (or better) than it did in the past, contact us or email