By Kaitie Frank
12 Jun 2024

Insights from Elizabeth Tucker's Keynote at SMX Advanced


On June 11, 2024, SMX Advanced started with a keynote presentation by Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product Management at Google. Tucker was the one to announce Google’s March 2024 Core Update, which included considerable changes to the algorithm and updates to Google’s spam policy. Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz interviewed Tucker. Here are the takeaways:

How can content creators build content that Google likes?

Content creators have been asking this question since the Helpful Content Update (HCU) rollout in September 2023. Tucker states: 

“My suggestion is to think about what we [Google] are trying to do, what our north star is, and where we are going. Think about those things that we consider critically important so that people love the open web. You know, think about content that's helpful, satisfying, and provides good experiences. 

If you aim for that, we will be aligned, and content will both rank on Google and be content that people love and want to come back to.”

Tucker also stated that content creators should anticipate where content is going, not where it’s been. This point of view can help people build content that serves the user and ranks well in Search. 

Common SEO Misconceptions

Schwartz asked Tucker if any misconceptions had been floating around since the March update rolled out. She replied: 

“I think the ones that may be concerning the most in terms of sending people down the wrong road are when people get super caught up in some of these technical details. Like, do ‘X, Y, and Z,’ and you'll get a lot of traffic. Or some of these comments like, ‘Oh, well, search really likes, (and I'm gonna make this up) really likes pages with pink backgrounds on orange backgrounds,’ or ‘Google really likes content on Reddit and not short-form video’ or something like that. 

I do worry that when people kind of get down in the weeds on specific technical details or signals that we may or may not have, it might take away from that big-picture question of ‘is this helpful, satisfying content? Are people going to have a good experience?’”

Instead of focusing on minute details, Tucker advises keeping Google’s North Star in sight and concentrating on the big picture of user experience. 

Why did the March Core Update take 45 days?

Tucker states that the March Core Update was the most significant update in Google’s history, which explains why it took longer to roll out than other updates. 

Tucker explains that there were two major components to the update:

  • Update to spam policies (along with manual actions)
  • Multiple core systems were updated. 

Tucker explains:

“It was a lot of changes. We made a lot of changes to a bunch of different core systems. We had to roll this out carefully. We actually had a mini war room going on. We have wonderful site-reliability engineers. We were doing live monitoring of capacity and latency in our data centers because it is unusual for us to roll out so many different teams. We did so successfully. However, there were a few times where we noticed hiccups, we paused, we slowed down, and we made sure things rolled out smoothly. So, yes, it took 45 days.”

How did you get rid of 45% of spam?

In Tucker’s announcement of the March Update, she stated that Google aimed to delete 40% of spam from the search results. However, after the update, Google claimed it reduced 45% of spam results. Where did the extra 5% come from? Tucker explains:

“We do tons and tons of testing before we launch anything. We want to make really sure that our systems are working as intended. Before we roll something out live, to a hundred percent Google traffic, we are testing in a testing environment. I also know as a data scientist that sometimes there can be a little bit of a difference in performance that we see in a testing environment versus a full rollout.”

Tucker also explained that Google measured multiple points during the live rollout of the update, meaning that the 45% reduction is a reliable measurement. 

What is low-quality content?

Schwartz explained that many SEOs are confused by Google’s definition of low-quality content. While Tucker informed the audience that Google doesn’t have a formal definition of quality, some resources can help shed light on the matter. Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines give examples of low-quality content, detailing characteristics like:

  • Accuracy
  • Talent and skill
  • Page experience
  • E-E-A-T

She states:

“We have a lot of things we think about and they play different roles depending on the different types of content. So take a look, it’s all there.”

Why are there considerable fluctuations in Google rankings?

After the update, there were rumors of “mini-updates” because the search rankings were highly volatile. Tucker denied the existence of these “mini-updates,” stating that she would know if any rolled out. However, she did explain what causes search volatility:

“The things people search for change radically, day by day. And the content on the web constantly updates. So when we monitor and look at the kinds of results we're showing on search, what people are engaging with, and so on, we see some pretty radical fluctuations, even if we don't change a thing.  Having said that, we have systems that are constantly refreshing on different cadences and make lots and lots of small improvements. I don't know of any baby core updates, but I'm sure we've had several search improvements go out.”

SEOs play a vital role in Google Search 

In closing, Shcwartz asked Tucker where she saw SEOs playing a role in helping clients. According to Tucker, SEOs play two vital roles:

“One is really helping these content creators—these publishers, build websites that are not only great for users but also websites that Google Search can understand so that we can surface the best of the web. The other thing is that I think SEOs have been a really critical and wonderful group for feedback and for holding us accountable to our own high standards.”


Tucker advises SEOs to keep sending feedback to Google because Google is listening and trying to implement as much feedback as possible. 

Kaitie Frank

Kaitie is a copywriter and content writer for Page One Power who specializes in SEO-optimized content. She has written for various niches and prides herself in knowing random tidbits of information. In addition to putting words to paper, she indulges in physical fitness and telling her cat why he is, in fact, a good boy.