Understanding Google’s New “Fred” Update

Any major Google update will draw wide reactions within the SEO community, and a recent update called “Fred” is no exception. Confirmed by Google’s Gary Illyes, the Fred update is believed to mostly target sites with low-quality content and backlinks, and sites that prioritize revenue above helping their own users.

Many of the details of the update are still up for debate, with Google only confirming limited details publicly. However, basic research and observation by those in the internet marketing sphere have uncovered a few potential realities about the update. Here’s what we know for now, and what you should do currently.

Sites Affected

In the early weeks after the update hit (it appeared to take effect on March 7 or 8), it appeared a few specific kinds of sites were being negatively affected:

  • Sites heavy on advertising
  • Sites heavy on affiliates
  • Certain local business sites
  • Sites with shallow or limited content

There’s evidence that low-quality content sites were being targeted specifically, and that those with both low-quality content and a high level of ad placement were in particular danger. Many of these sites saw drops of 50 percent or larger in overnight Google organic traffic. Further investigation since the roll-out seems to confirm that sites that were aggressively monetizing content at the expense of users took a major hit.

Don’t Panic

If your site is among those affected, do not panic. These kinds of changes are normal for Google and other search engines, and they’re affecting plenty of people beyond you. Don’t rush to delete pages or tweak URL structures compulsively – take reasonable steps, with the appropriate urgency.

Webmaster Guidelines

The one thing you can do is adhere to one bit of public information Google has released on this subject: That targeted sites have not been adhering to webmaster guidelines. Your best approach is to tailor your site to these guidelines, with a foundation of solid, meaningful content. This will allow Google to find, rank and index your site in the proper ways. Don’t get too bent out of shape over this single update – it’s large, but it remains just one of a number of major SEO factors. In our next section, a few examples of results since the update can give you clues on how to operate, depending on how your site was affected.

Examples

In the months since the Fred update was rolled out, there has been a major impact to many sites. Here are a few different examples of how various sites have been affected:

  • Soaring: Rather than being negatively affected, certain sites majorly benefited from the Fred update. The key here appears to be site managers who implemented positive content changes over a long period of time – and then stuck with those changes, rather than falling back to old monetization habits. Once you’re back in Google’s good graces, do your best to stay there.
  • Gray area: Large-scale sites that drive lots of traffic via organic measures have long been in a gray area of Google’s algorithms, but many of these problems are disappearing on a similar timetable as the Fred update. A site in a gray area can see impact with each major update – Fred did this for many of these sites. Look to exit this gray area as quickly as possible if you’re in it – post great content, fix quality and tech issues and more.
  • Notably negative: Many sites did get hit very hard by the Fred update, with some losing up to 90 percent of their organic traffic virtually overnight. These site managers must diligently look to identify major problems, while referring to the Quality Rater Guidelines. Fix problems permanently, not just with Band-Aids. Work on areas like building the brand, publishing quality content and building links naturally over time. Periodically audit your site through a quality lens, and revisit regularly. There isn’t a set update in place for the next ranking update focused on quality, but this will be the time when you can see what kind of movement your efforts have instigated.

To learn more about Google updates or any of our services, speak to the experts at SEO Werkz today.

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