Recently, 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.