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Google 2024 March Core Update: Possible Recovery Tactics for Niche Sites

The recent Google March 2024 Core Update may have left you wondering why your high-quality content isn’t achieving the expected rankings.

This article expands on Eric’s recent awesome analysis of the Google update. I have the same thoughts as Eric’s insights and have observed similar trends in our test and client sites. It is not about human or AI content. More on this later…

Lastly, I’ll discuss additional potential strategies that we will adjust to the new update.

If you haven’t read Eric’s article, check it out here. It’s a detailed article, but I recommend focusing on points #10 and #12.

A new site-wide “fulfillment score”?

As you know, local businesses, e-commerce, forums, and resource/tool sites have had minimal impact on recent updates.

Niches/Affiliate sites with high-quality content don’t rank well regardless of Human or AI content.

Eric mentioned that a site-wide score multiplies all the page scores on different types of websites. If you have a low site-wide score of 0.5, and if your content score is 80/100, it will change to 40/100.

I prefer to call it a “fulfillment score“. This reflects the comprehensive assessment of how well a site meets its intended goals and the satisfaction it delivers to its users.

Niche/Affiliate sites primarily focus on sharing reviews and information – “knowledge fulfillment”- but do not score well on this metric. This low metric multiplies all pages’ scores, which can lead to a lower overall ranking.

website-hit-by-update

Non-affiliate sites clearly have “physical fulfillment” or “functional fulfillment” such as delivering services, selling products, and consuming online services. These seem like high fulfillment scores, when multiplied to all pages, making them rank over high-quality content on the niche sites – easily.

Here are a few examples to back our points:

  1. Local Service Websites: We have local service sites that rank in local keywords, transactional keywords, and commercial keywords like “product brand,” “product price,” and “best product,” even though they use “fake” e-commerce setups without a real “add to cart” button, instead featuring an affiliate “Buy now at XXXX” button. To make this work, we build traffic through local services and later integrate e-commerce stores and review articles.
    local-site-with-ecom
  2. E-commerce Sites: Our clients’ sites with minimal content can perform well in searches for high-volume transaction keywords. When we add review articles, even generic ones, these sites begin to rank well for commercial keywords, too.
  3. Forum Sites: Introducing review articles on forums can significantly improve their rankings for commercial keywords.

Recovering from the Google March 2024 Core Update

“Disclaimer: The strategies described here are based solely on our own testing and experiences. They are provided for informational purposes only. If you choose to implement any of these strategies on your site, please be aware that you do so at your own risk. We do not take responsibility for any outcomes or consequences that may result from your implementation of these strategies.”

How exactly can we boost the “fulfillment score”?

Eric recommends transforming the traditional affiliate website model by adding a “resources” section and increasing traffic via other social media platforms to the resources section.

The “resources” section could feature a variety of content, including videos, PDFs, forum discussions, and tools. This variety is likely to contribute to what we call “knowledge fulfillment”.

However, the effectiveness of this approach for niche sites remains uncertain. I have seen one site that adopted a similar approach in October 2023 to recover from the HCU update but didn’t see the desired results.

But I might be wrong, as this is just one instance and may not be conclusive.

Based on our test case, “physical fulfilments” seem to have a more significant impact.

Lily Ray discusses this in her video (skip to the last 5 minutes), explaining how recipe sites have rebounded from Google’s HCU updates.

These sites go beyond just publishing recipes; they might include a magazine, operate a bakery, run cooking courses at a summer camp, or manage a vegetable farm where they explain both the cultivation and cooking processes.

Such extensive “physical” activities can significantly boost a website’s overall fulfillment score, potentially leading to better rankings for search engines.

While this looks like a real business with a lot of effort, there are always creative ways to deliver this “physical fulfillment”:

  • Start with a Local Site: Begin by setting up a local site using the rank & rent model. Once the site becomes popular and gains traction, you can start “selling” (display) related products in an e-commerce store to earn an affiliate commission. This local service approach helps increase your site-wide “fulfillment score”, which can boost the ranking of your affiliate content. Additionally, you can rent the site to local businesses to provide their services, effectively hitting two targets with one effort.
  • Partner with Local Businesses: Collaborate with friends or neighbors who own local businesses. You can help them set up a website or offer white-label services on their behalf. This strategy allows you to use the business’s established reputation to expand into affiliate content.
  • High-Value Courses or Consultations: Offer a premium course or consultation related to your niche as the main feature of your site. The goal may not necessarily be to sell these services but rather to enhance the “fulfillment score” to boost the ranking of affiliate content.

Fulfillment-scores

If you’re committed to your niche sites, managing them like a legitimate business is best.

Here are more strategies:

  • Interactive Challenges and Trackers: Start interactive wellness challenges like 30-day yoga, mindfulness, or fitness programs on your site. Users can sign up, join in, and keep track of their progress.
  • DIY Project Kits: Offer DIY kits that go along with tutorials on your website. For instance, if your site focuses on crafts, you could sell kits to make the popular projects featured in your posts.
  • Live Workshops and Webinars: Run online crafting workshops where people can sign up to learn new crafts or skills from experts.
  • Virtual Tours and Experiences: Collaborate with local guides to provide virtual tours of famous places or hidden spots.
  • Custom Travel Itineraries: Create personalized travel plans for users based on what they like and how they’ve used your site before.
  • Ingredient Subscription Boxes: Sell subscription boxes that send all the necessary ingredients for recipes shown on your site.
  • Cook-along Live Streams: Organize live cooking classes where people can cook with a chef and learn recipes from your website.
  • Interactive Pet Health Tracker: Develop an app or a website feature that lets pet owners track their pets’ health, like vaccinations, vet visits, daily activities, and what they eat.
  • Live Q&A Sessions: Hold regular live streams with vets and pet care experts where users can ask questions and get advice directly.
  • Artist Collaboration Projects: Create group art projects where users can add to large artworks or crafts. These are then displayed online or in a physical location.
  • Monthly Craft Challenges: Launch a monthly craft challenge with themes. Provide a place for users to post their crafts and vote for their favorites.
  • Expert DIY Workshops: Offer virtual workshops taught by experts in skills like tiling, painting, or simple carpentry.

This might not work yet…

However, these strategies might not lead to immediate recovery, especially if your site has already been penalized.

As explained in the Koray video (watch below), if your site is experiencing a downward trend, you need to stabilize it and bring it back to normal.

This can often be achieved by removing or unpublishing pages that aren’t performing well, effectively reducing the size of your site to improve the average number of high-quality articles.

This is similar to managing a stock portfolio, where you cut losses by selling off underperforming stocks and reallocating your resources (Resource/Crawl budget from Google) to more promising areas.

After updating the website, send traffic from social media or paid traffic to your site. This will “notify” Google about user engagement and the new “fulfillment” on your site.

Once your site’s performance stabilizes, you can then begin to add more high-quality content. For more details on this approach, check out Koray’s video.

Upcoming Tests and Plans

We plan to test our older affiliate sites and start some new local service websites to see how they do. After the Google March 2024 update, you, as a site owner, need to make some changes because of the “fulfillment score”.

To keep up with others and get better rankings, it’s important for you to try new things with your content and services.

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