On March 6, 2024, Google began applying “manual actions” to websites. Affected websites received a “Pure Spam” penalty and were removed from Google’s search results (deindexed).

What is a “Pure Spam” Manual Action?

A manual action is manually applied by a human reviewer at Google. Sites may be algorithmically curated for human review, but the penalty is manually applied.

The March 2024 Pure Spam Manual Action description reads: “Pages on this site appear to use aggressive spam techniques such as automatically generated gibberish, cloaking, scraping content from other websites, and/or repeated or egregious violations of Google’s spam policies for web search.”

pure spam screenshot

How did Google identify websites to target?

The vast majority of sites had very terrible AI generated content and were plastered with ads. But, a wide range of websites received the Pure Spam Manual Action in March, for a wide variety of reasons.

Some of the reasons for the Pure Spam action include:

  • Inaccurate, terribly worded AI generated content.
  • A tremendous amount of ads on site.
  • Very spammy backlinks.
  • Domains associated with known spammers. I have no evidence of this but the chatter on the street is that Google looked to turn up spam networks by looking at domain registration, Google Search Console connected accounts, etc.

How To recover from a “Pure Spam” Manual Action:

In most cases I personally would simply scrap the domain name.

In the extremely rare event a domain has high quality links and terrible content, to recover, you would want to:

  1. Identify and remove AI content, or other low quality content
  2. Write excellent, helpful content
  3. Request a review.

Is all AI content spam?

No. While I personally do not use AI tools, Google has been very clear on AI generated content.

Regardless of if your content came from an underpaid content writer in India, or an AI tool, it can be extremely low quality. If you’re not sure, you could try reading it out loud, or having a friend read it. If you still aren’t sure if your content is any good or not, you might want to find a new career path.

In February 2023, Google put out guidance about AI generated content. In it, they provide examples. Many spammers generate mass content via automated tools. In fact, a section of the aforementioned document specifically states that “When it comes to automatically generated content, our guidance has been consistent for years. Using automation—including AI—to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies. Google has many years of experience dealing with automation being used in an attempt to game search results. Our spam-fighting efforts—including our SpamBrain system—will continue, however spam is produced.”

For additional clarity on “helpful content”, see Google’s guide to creating helpful, people-first content.

Examples of deindexed, Pure Spam websites:

Originality.ai created a large list of sites which were deindexed from Marth 5th – March 7th. In that list, they mention a few sites which went from over 1 million organic hits per month straight to zero. Those sites are:

  • zacjohnson.com
  • beingselfish.in
  • equityatlas.org

Search Quality Rater Guidelines Updated March 2024:

In March 2024, Google also released the latest round of the Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

X user Natzir (@natzir9) pointed out that there is a new section dedicated to AI often producing untrustworthy content, giving it the lowest E-E-A-T. qrg screenshot


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