Everyone who is anyone in the world of SEO is talking about Google’s new core update. It started last week, and is expected to take up to a month to roll out. It’s a biggie! Let’s go over what we think it will mean for our pet businesses.

Key Takeaways

– Google’s March ’24 update will take a month to achieve and is already showing signs of big disruption to results pages
– The update is designed to fight scaled content, abusive linking, and using expired domains to improve ranking
– Most pet businesses are probably safe due to being small niche businesses, but this could hit affiliate marketers owning several domains and small businesses that have been persuaded to use dodgy SEO tactics

What are Core Updates?

Google shows your website in search results based on a number of ranking factors. Their algorithm takes a search query – what someone puts in the search box – and then carefully decides what websites should show up for that query. The algorithm that works this out is carefully guarded – it’s Google’s secret sauce – and they’re constantly updating it. Core Updates happen when that algorithm is updated.

It’s always a scary time for website owners, as websites can lose traffic overnight – something Russell Brunson termed the ‘Google slap’. SEO experts scramble to understand what the changes mean for the websites in their care, and everyone waits with bated breath to see if they’ll come out better or worse after the changes.

The March 2024 Google Update

This time, people are right to be afraid. Not only is the update larger than most, but staff at Google are promising there’ll be a 40% reduction in unhelpful content in search. That’s great news for Google users, but a scary prospect for some websites.

Does my Pet Business Need to Worry?

Google’s aim is – and always has been – to be the leading search engine by showing the most useful results. If your website is genuine, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. With this update, Google is targeting a few core areas:

Scaled content abuse

This is where pages are added to websites in huge amounts purely for the purpose of answering more search terms. This is usually done with AI and is a lot more of a problem since generative AI became mainstream. If you’re using AI to write and post hundreds of low-quality articles a month, this update is probably going to hit you hard. While most pet businesses won’t be doing this, pet affiliate marketing sites may need to be careful here.

According to the Search Engine Journal, some people have also reported that they’re targeting young websites in multiple niches owned by the same people – potentially with the thinking that you can’t be an expert in eight things. This could also be a problem for affiliate marketing companies with pet niche websites among others.

Note – it’s not just large scales. According to Pete Reynolds on X, reported in the Search Engine Journal, 8 AI-written articles were enough to trigger Google to stop linking to the site.

Personally, I’m thrilled. I’ve recently had a problem where an AI bot was creating thousands of articles and attributing them to me. They’d cloned my bio elsewhere and were claiming I’d written the articles. Several other vets were also affected. I’m fairly confident this site will now be taken down!

Lapsed domain abuse

This won’t apply to many pet businesses as this is a seriously dodgy SEO tactic, but I’ll add for completion. Google’s targeting people who buy an old, previously popular and trustworthy domain and then add a load of spammy content on it. The idea is that it will show on Google due to the domain authority previously gained by the good content. While any fool can see this is surely temporary, it’s nice to know Google is cracking down on this!

My take – what’s not to like? This stuff makes a mockery of those of us who work hard at writing useful, genuine pet content. Good riddance!

Site reputation abuse

If a website with a good site reputation hosts poor third-party content, especially on a different topic, it can be annoying to searchers. Imagine going to your favourite recipe website only to find a badly-written blog about computer software. It would be very frustrating! As a website owner I get daily emails from people offering guest blogs on a million topics we don’t blog about here, and asking how much they need to pay me to host them. I’ve never once said yes, but unfortunately, this clearly happens all over the internet, as Google has seen fit to clamp down on this too.

This is another area pet bloggers need to be careful. Paid guest posting is definitely frowned upon by Google, but for unaware pet businesses it can seem like a win-win. Being paid and getting an article out of it – what’s not to like? But if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So I’m pleased about this one too, but I’m also a little more worried about some of the pet businesses I’ve seen out there!

Which Pet Businesses Could be Affected?

The top sites likely to be hit hard are pet affiliate marketing companies, especially the large ones that have websites in several niches. If you’re in the affiliate marketing business in the pet niche, it’s likely you’ve been churning out content and reviews, both of which could get you in trouble with Google!

Next, it’s probably the small pet business owner such as dog groomers or dog trainers who have been struggling with SEO and have taken poor advice. Sorry if that’s you, but it’s time to clean up your act – ASAP!

Vet practices, you’re probably not going to get hit by this one, unless you’ve been so busy you decided to use AI to write your blog articles, in which case you might need to keep an eye on your traffic and see what happens.

What Can Your Pet Business Do to Avoid Problems?

The thing with these updates is that we can’t always predict who will get hit, and who won’t. Most pet businesses won’t have any need to change their blog content or digital marketing strategies, but if you do find yourself hit by the ‘Google slap’, it’s worth having a think about the following:

Stop posting stuff that isn’t useful

Sounds simple, right? But what does that mean? If it hasn’t got a new angle, useful experience, or doesn’t fully answer the question, it needs to go. Take a look at your blog articles and ask yourself whether they actually add anything to the collective wisdom of the internet. If not, time to shake something up.

Real reviews

If you’re a pet affiliate site or you regularly review products, Google’s pretty clear that reviews need to be substantive. Simply copying someone else’s reviews or only mentioning features that are easily found on 100 other sites is going to harm you. Instead, try to do genuine research and rigorous testing.

Use an expert

Google has said time and time again that good content written by an expert is going to come out on top. E-E-A-T is one of their highest ranking factors, especially in the pet health niche. If you can’t afford to hire a subject matter expert to write the whole piece, interview one or ask them to review your content. It will help send strong trust signals to your readers and Google.

Stop buying links

Google is also cracking down on spammy link building. That means buying backlinks from other sources and guest posting purely to get backlinks are gone! In fact, links have been demoted from ‘an important ranking factor’ to simply ‘a ranking factor’, so stop with the over-linking. If it’s useful to a human, do it. If it’s not adding anything, don’t!

Be careful of guest posts

The occasional good guest post isn’t a problem, but you need to make sure they’re keeping up with the quality you’d post yourself. Watch out for the spammy links too. If you’ve got some poor-quality third-party stuff on your website, now’s the time to remove it. They’re giving website owners two months to make changes before they crack down, so consider yourself warned!


This new update should be an interesting one, with whole websites being taken off Google only in the first couple of days of a month-long update. While most pet businesses don’t need to be scared, those of you that have been trying to find shortcuts might need to change tack. The rest of you can use this opportunity to perfect your content strategy and make sure you’re serving your customers as best you can to keep those rankings moving up!

Joanna Woodnutt

Joanna Woodnutt

Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS is a qualified vet, freelance writer, and editor at The Veterinary Content Company. She lives in the Channel Islands with her husband and daughter, as well as their naughty but loveable terrier, Pixie.