What does Google’s algorithm update mean for eCommerce?

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Andrew Flynn
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Google launched substantial updates to its search algorithm and Core Web Vitals metrics this month:

  • Google Core update
  • Google spam update
  • Replacing First Input Delay (FID) with Interaction to Next Paint (INP) 

Let me take you through what we know about each update, what it could mean for eCommerce websites, and what actions website owners should take.

What is Google’s algorithm?

First, let me quickly explain Google’s algorithm.

Google uses automated programs called crawlers to browse the internet and discover new or updated website pages.

Once the crawlers collect information, it is organised into an unfathomably large database called the Google Index.

When you use Google to search for something, it uses a sophisticated algorithm to pull from the Index and provide you with useful results.

The algorithm is made up of dozens of factors like keywords, website quality, relevance and user experience, which is calculated through Google’s Core Web Vitals.

Constantly evolving, Google regularly releases broader updates to their algorithm and Core Web Vitals.

These are called Core updates.

Google’s March 2024 Core update

Google has been characteristically vague on the finer details of their March 2024 Core update.

They do state that the focus has been on “reducing unhelpful content” in the search results “by up to 40%.”

The update is focused on improving search result quality by improving the algorithm’s ability to identify and penalise low-quality, spam websites that have been designed to trick Google.

By refining their ranking system to understand if webpages will help the user, rather than cheat the algorithm, they will be able to serve more relevant and useful content in the search results.

Experts believe that the March 2024 Core update is more extensive than Google’s past few updates. The update officially started on 5th March 2024 and will take up to a month to roll out in full.

What does this mean for eCommerce websites?

Nothing in Google’s communication suggests that this Core Update directly concerns eCommerce practices.

However, as the updates appear to be targeted towards penalising low-quality content, you should pay close attention to your Google search rankings and organic traffic if you have used AI tools to generate blog or product content on a mass scale.

This Core update reinforces the importance of practising keyword position tracking for your website so you can monitor its performance every day. Ranking fluctuations are common in the aftermath of a core update.

Venditan clients who do not have this in place can contact us for support on this.

Read more: How to improve SEO on an eCommerce website

What are Google’s spam policies?

The second update concerns Google’s spam policies.

Google's spam policies are rules and guidelines that websites need to follow to ensure fair and high-quality content in Google’s search results.

Google regularly updates its algorithms and policies to combat new spam tactics.

Google’s March 2024 spam policy update

Google is updating its spam policies to remove the “lowest-quality” content from search results:

“We’ll take action on more types of these manipulative behaviours starting today. While our ranking systems keep many types of low-quality content from ranking highly on Search, these updates allow us to take more targeted action under our spam policies.”

The policy updates cover three spam tactics in particular:

  • Scaled content abuse
  • Site reputation abuse
  • Expired domain abuse

Scaled content abuse

Individuals or businesses can use automated or semi-automated techniques to create and distribute large volumes of low-quality or spammy content.

This can take various forms, including:

  • Content scraping: Automatically copying content from other websites without permission and reposting it as one's own.
  • Keyword stuffing: Repeating certain keywords excessively within content to manipulate search engine rankings.
  • Spamming: Posting irrelevant or unsolicited content, often to promote products or services.
  • Article spinning: Using software to automatically rewrite existing articles to create new content that is often of low quality and may not make sense.

One of the primary aims of scaled content abuse is to manipulate search engine rankings by creating and distributing large volumes of content stuffed with keywords or containing links to their websites.

Google is:

“...strengthening (its) policy to focus on this abusive behaviour — producing content at scale to boost search ranking — whether automation, humans or a combination are involved. This will allow (it) to take action on more types of content with little to no value created at scale.”

Site reputation abuse

This can involve various tactics designed to either artificially inflate or degrade the perceived trustworthiness, authority, or credibility of a website in the eyes of users, search engines, or other stakeholders.

In their release article they state that:

“...sometimes, websites that have their own great content may also host low-quality content provided by third parties with the goal of capitalising on the hosting site's strong reputation.”

Google’s March 2024 update sees a tightening of its ability to detect this and determine it as spam content. This policy change will come into effect on 5th May 2024, giving website owners two months to prepare.

Expired domain abuse

This refers to the practice of acquiring and repurposing internet domains that have previously been registered but have lapsed or expired.

This can involve various unethical or manipulative tactics aimed at exploiting the residual authority, backlink profile, or existing traffic associated with expired domains.

Malicious actors may attempt to hijack expired domains by registering them immediately after they expire. This can be done to exploit any residual traffic or backlinks associated with the domain or to use the domain to host low-value content.

Google states:

“...expired domains that are purchased and repurposed with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content are now considered spam.”

What does this mean for eCommerce websites?

If you have been managing your eCommerce website to best practice and have not used any of the above tactics, you need not worry.

On the contrary, you may experience a slight uplift in your Google rankings if competing websites have utilised some of these tactics.

Replacing First Input Delay with Interaction to Next Paint

Finally, Interaction to Next Paint (INP) was added as one of the three Google Core Web Vitals metrics on 12 March 2024. It replaced the older First Input Delay (FID) metric.

As it is now part of Google’s Core Web Vitals, poor INP can impact your Google search rankings.

What is Interaction to Next Paint?

INP is a Core Web Vital metric that measures user interface responsiveness. It monitors the delay of all click, tap, and keyboard interactions with a page.

A low INP means the page is consistently able to respond quickly to the vast majority of user interactions.

What are Google’s Core Web Vitals?

For those unfamiliar with Google’s Core Web Vitals, they comprise a set of specific factors that Google deems crucial in evaluating the user experience of a website.

These metrics aid website owners in understanding and enhancing their overall user experience, with a focus on loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.

With Google incorporating Core Web Vitals into its ranking algorithms, it is now critical to consider your website’s performance against these metrics, as your performance against them will naturally change as Google’s criteria evolve over time.

Final thoughts

The March 2024 Google Core Update focuses on reducing low-quality, unoriginal content and aims to show more useful and relevant content in search results.

With at least one further algorithm update expected in 2024, it highlights the need for all eCommerce businesses to keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to SEO—a practice that is constantly changing and requires a flexible and reactive strategy.

You can read more in our blog on eCommerce SEO, and if you’re a Venditan client, you can contact us directly to discuss your strategy, and where we can assist you.

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