Facebook Pixel
Join our Facebook Community

Has Google’s ‘Fred’ Update Left Your Rankings Dead?

Posted By Jim Stewart 5th of April 2017 Search Engine Optimization 0 Comments

Has Google’s ‘Fred’ Update Left Your Rankings Dead? | ProBlogger.comRecently, Google’s ‘Fred’ ranking update hit the search pages. While Google hasn’t confirmed the update, it’s certainly live. Webmasters across the board have been impacted by Fred, but not every page is created similarly.

Low-value content and poorly configured sites are taking a heavy blow. Meanwhile, SEO-jammed pages prioritising revenue over quality material are running for the hills. Fred targets websites seeking a high rank among the hundreds of affiliate-link-sprinkled, meta-tag-riddled, and SEO-exploiting pages abroad. Many of the sites impacted by Fred aren’t industry expert sites. That said, some websites might be impacted by Fred. Here’s what we know:

What is Fred, Anyway?

The Fred Update, while still obscure, has been described as likely a spam algorithm established around links.

I disagree though. Every site I have looked at that suffered a rankings drop on March 8/9 had other quality issues. Fred, itself, is a name coined by Google’s Gary Illyes. For a while, Google has targeted “black hat” SEO practices without scrutiny, banishing page-pushers who exploit Google’s intuitive keyword relevancy system. These days, Google rarely confirms algorithm updates. Fred can still be identified for what I believe it is, a heavier weighting on known quality issues.

Fred’s Impact on Websites

Google’s yet-to-be-confirmed Fred Update, allegedly, has reduced traffic directed towards low-quality sites by as much as 50 to 90 percent. This is a massive organic rating decrease, and it likely reflects websites that have ignored basic quality issues like internal duplication, content quality and/or visibility.

While the Fred Update was likely spawned from good intentions, it has hit quality websites with penalties, too. Sites with quality content that was duplicated are also experiencing ranking declines. Some webmasters, indeed, have reported great recoveries after removing either all or specific advertisements. This is most likely a Panda-related issue and making the content more visible has returned rankings.

We’ve worked with other webmasters where simply removing duplication of content, titles and headings has seen rankings return. There’s a chance Fred is still too new to target low-quality websites with precision. Either way, Google’s newest algorithm update may be a difficult pill for some to swallow.

Will You Be Affected?

None of our clients suffered a ranking drop with this latest update. We had one phrase drop significantly on our own site. It was an outlier phrase with not much importance for us. On closer inspection, it had a near duplicate title with another post.

The Google Fred Update—that was first sighted on March 8th—is still hard at work and will likely only increase in efficiency as time goes on. If you have a content-driven website, via either blogs or cross-channel content marketing, you may be hit by Fred’s broad sweep if you are not paying attention to the structural quality of your site and its content.

Fear not, however, because you might have been targeted due to your display advertisements that are taking up too much screen real estate. If your content was created to establish links, pull traffic and prioritise SEO over quality, you may have a problem.

If You are Hit, Do the Following:

To recover your webpage’s rankings, and to protect it from future algorithm updates, keep a few things in mind.

First, do a site:mywebsite.com check in Google. Look for pages that should not be there and remove them. If you are on WordPress make sure you don’t have all your tag pages or archives indexed. Check Google Search Console HTML suggestions and look for Google complaining about duplication or missing titles. Fix those things. Make sure your sitemaps only have in them what you want in them.

Check out your display ads, and make sure you are not cluttering above the fold. If you’re tracking your site’s keyword performance, look for any fluctuations. Then, check out your Google Search Analytics in Search Console and do a date comparison before and after March 8 to get an idea of the keyword groups that dropped. This will give you some idea of where you need to focus. That data only lasts for 90 days though so the clock is ticking.

You should adopt a wholehearted “quality over quantity” mantra. Your backlink quality matters and it’ll sustain your traffic in upcoming years. Just make sure you focus on building your audience NOT your backlinks and the great backlinks will follow. 


About Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart, CEO of BloggersSEO, is a recognised digital marketing expert. Jim is ProBlogger’s SEO expert and will share his vast SEO knowledge to equip you with the systems and skills to optimise and monetise your blog using tried and tested techniques. What Jim doesn’t know about SEO and blogging isn’t worth knowing.
  1. Nice write up on Fred update. I too observed 10% decline on couple of my websites. Time to remove low quality and duplicate pages from the website. BTW, how many ads do you recommend above the fold?

    • Hey Rinkesh,

      Many of my friends have seen 50% decrease in their traffic. And as per my experiment i will guide you to use not more than three ads in a blog post and overall 4 ads.
      Do experiment and decide what suits your niche best.

    • Well it depends on the ad. Don’t obscure the content and make sure a reader can find easily what they searched for.

  2. Hello Jim

    My blog didn’t get hit by this update. Whilst I have seen an increase in my blog organic traffic. My ranking have increase for most of my keywords. So, I think this update has been positive for me.

  3. Hadn’t heard of the update, but also haven’t noticed any drop in rankings either. If anything, one of my sites has improved quite significantly in the last month, so I guess I’m doing something right.

    I honestly have never even bothered worrying about backlinks though, as I just write because I enjoy it. So that is probably one reason why I haven’t noticed a change. No spammy backlinks :)

    And I do wonder why so many people do still seem to involve themselves in getting illegitimate backlinks? Google has said time and time again these sites that engage in blackhat practices will be found, and will be punished. Yet so many site owners still seem to think that doesn’t apply to them.

  4. My one of the site also affected my this update and work to improve my site to get my rank back on search engine

  5. Hi Jim,

    With any Google update, if you blogged effectively, with your intents based on helping people, promoting other bloggers and making friends with top bloggers in your niche you will never, ever, ever be punished by Da Big G. Because all updates simply level/kill (search engine wise, at least) bloggers who did silly stuff from a space of fear versus from a space of fun and service.

    Your list up top covers common fear-based mistakes: desperate focus on revenue over content, thin or poor content, or poor navigation, all those mistakes you’d never make if you were in blogging for the right reasons, those are the blogs and bloggers being penalized. Big league wake up call for these folks. Kudos to Google for raising the vibe in the blogosphere and for rewarding folks who are blogging primarily to spread the love.

    Thanks for sharing :)


  6. How exactly would I go about tracking my keyword performance?

  7. That’s a very nice post. Content will always be King and the most important factor for a blogs success. I can’t really say i was affected by “Fred”. Actually some of my rankings improved but nothing spectacular. But many people have been hit pretty hard from Google’s latest update and some of them have very good quality content. I was a bit surprised by that. The way you display our ads is a pretty important thing.

  8. Fred update also effect my ranking but after publishing some quality content and removing some outbound links website is back on the track.

  9. Nice article JIM.

    Beside your mentioned Low Quality Pages & Ads above the fold; I think too many affiliate links in a page also affected by Google Fred.

    At least my experience prove this.

    What do you think?

    • We have found that is the case with at least one affiliate. With their site I felt the links were a little deceptive and it was not clear there was a relationship between the two sites.

  10. Great post Jim…. Thanks for the info about this Google update. Personally, I really do fall on the side that this is a more link-spam and over optimized content algorithm. And, I believe what you are saying about quality over quantity of content is something that should be heeded going forward…

  11. Hey jim,
    Great post… your article is really informative and also updated us on the new algorithm of google “Fred”, Your article will really educate the online marketers to follow white hat tactics for the SEO of any website to gain long term benefits.
    Thanks for sahring

    • Hey Jim Stewart

      Nice and one of the informative article on Fred’s update. this article made me to be conscious on white hat techniques and stop your site being banished from search ranking, Thank you Jim

  12. Hey Jim Stewart

    Nice and one of the informative article on Fred’s update. this article made me to be conscious on white hat techniques and stop your site being banished from search ranking, Thank you Jim

  13. Hey,
    My few sites faced a drop in rank after the fred updates.

    But after checking all the backlinks and removing spam links and updating content, my sites are back on tracks.

    Google is really unpredictable.

  14. Worth reading jim,

    Thanks for sharing. We were not getting the output, I believe this was the main reason for it.

    Eyeopening, good job.

  15. Hello Jim,

    Till now not much affect from Fred but in future maybe.
    Thank you for sharing useful informative blogpost.

  16. Talisa says: 04/13/2017 at 10:07 pm

    “If you are on WordPress make sure you don’t have all your tag pages or archives indexed.”

    How do I check this on my WP blog & rectify it?

  17. Thanks for the update, I didn’t even know about Fred and what this was all about. Quality of content and doing all the right things will definitely keep you ranking well even though it is real work indeed.

  18. Gonna try to leave another comment here, seems my replies are not getting published for some reason…may be user error…I guess we all know this was a pretty big update. What I have found that after an initial drop in traffic, I am seeing my site jump up now for a lot of keywords and traffic. It returned to normal and actually increased after a couple weeks. I am not sure if it is that my competition has been affected by this more or something else. Anyone else here notice an initial dip and then a good bump up in traffic? Seems weird to me but, I have seen this on more than one site now.

  19. My site was hit very hard.
    I have even abandoned it and started working on a new site.
    I will take a step back and try to figure out what went wrong using this guide.

  20. Hi Jim,

    To tell you the truth, I don’t really keep an eye on the Google updates anymore. I used to in the past, when SEO was my main focus. However, with this blog it’s different.

    Yes I still optimize my blog posts, why wouldn’t I, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do it and if a post ranks high because of it, that’s awesome.

    This time around, I am more focused on helping people than spending so much time trying to rank my site in the search engines. I learned from the Google Panda update, that it’s not good to rely completely on Google.

    If we provide quality content that helps people, then we’ll be fine.

    Thanks for sharing these tips, have a great day.


  21. Well to be honest few of my websites got hit badly but surprisingly my main website which is up for 3 years is untouched.After a deep analysis I found out that sites with less or generic content and more ads got hit and the one with no ads on it survived.May be its just one thing which I experienced and there is lot more hidden in upcoming updates.Cheers.

  22. Tia Peterson says: 04/19/2017 at 12:06 am

    My own site is new and I haven’t even tried to rank it for anything in particular yet, but I do a lot of content writing for SEO guys and I would just caution people against the continued practice of duplicating content. I still see requests come through for a “rewrite” and I just have to wonder if people truly think that’s the best thing for the readers or not. For everyone’s sake we should try to make better content. I’m just now coming back to the blog world after a five year hiatus and so much has changed. I think it’s largely due to exploiting the tools for material gain but not providing real value in exchange.

  23. Thanks for sharing these details. I think it will help me in making few changes in my site and make it fred update friendly. This is the first time I am hearing about this update.

  24. My site ranking for slightly improved and I was wondering the reason. So, here it is- Fred Update. Thanks for the information.

  25. Armchairs at 20 paces says: 05/21/2017 at 1:01 am

    “You should adopt a wholehearted “quality over quantity” mantra.” Yes, for reasons other than Google. Does Google know what ‘quality’ is or will it ever value genuine ‘quality over quantity’? I think not. Google is not that sophisticated. Stop trying to pretend that it is.

    • Mike Cunningham says: 05/31/2017 at 5:58 am

      Yes, i totally agree mate. Google is not that sophisticated. I create many PBN sites with Argo Content Generator and not even one of those has been hit with any of the latest Google updates! In fact, they rank better than ever :-D

  26. Nice Blog

  27. Hello, my site was at good standing but on 17th april it was dropped suddenly … anybody help me to fix its ranking?

  28. Haven’t had any of the blogs/websites I manage get hit. Nonetheless, I find this article worthy of reading. Thanks for sharing.

A Practical Podcast… to Help You Build a Better Blog

The ProBlogger Podcast

A Practical Podcast…