Meet Fred – the short name for Google Fred Update. Is your website one of those that has been hit by the March 8 rollout? Did your traffic decline by 50% (or higher)? Why did Google name it, Fred? Should the SEO community, particularly the in Australia worry about this? How does the algorithm update work and which websites does it impact at this time?
By this time, you are surely one of the members of the SEO community surprised by Fred. Did you love it – or hate it? So many questions may be playing on your mind. Are you quite clueless? If yes, continue your read because we’ll help you learn everything you need to know about the Google algorithm update.
According to Google…
The name Fred was coined by Google Expert Gary Illyes when asked about the name of the algorithm update. He said in jest, “From now on every update, unless otherwise stated, shall be called Fred.”
He confirmed during the AMA with Google session that it targeted low-value content. However, he did not discuss the algorithm update further as the “search leads” decided against it. He said that the sites affected by Fred might be doing things against the webmaster guidelines of the search engine. Now, what are these ‘things’ that violated Google’s golden rules? Everything is written in the existing webmaster guidelines, he said. Illyes did not reveal even a single entry on these guidelines. It’s for everyone to discover through its own hard work.
What White Hat SEO Community Knows
The SEO community wasn’t surprised with Google’s indirect response. To some, confirmation of the Google Fred Update should be enough to shed light on the issue and to specifically ‘warn’ those that practice black hat SEO. However, considering the huge fluctuations in traffic, many wanted – and waited – for a direct response this time – but failed. Still.
Everyone in the industry (including those that offer SEO and ranking monitoring services) knows this is not the first time an algorithm update was introduced as Google launched several unannounced updates before. The white hat SEO community is likewise well aware that Google performed updates to encourage everyone to publish only high-quality content. So expect Fred to have ‘siblings’, ‘children’ or ‘friends’ because Google will continue to perform updates to ensure the excellent, comprehensive and trustworthy content on websites.
There is nothing to worry if your SEO is in the hands of someone that knows what they are doing and employ genuine white hat SEO practices.
But because the industry experts want an answer, they did not take this sitting down. They began to do their own investigation.
What the Industry Experts Have Found Out
SEO experts and webmasters are not new to Google algorithm updates as the search engine performs this on a regular basis. Remember Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird? Illyes even said in his tweet that Google makes changes to its algorithm each day.
However, Fred isn’t just like any of them as it shook the whole SEO community, with website rankings showing rollercoaster effect.
Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land did not waste any time and spent the whole weekend gathering and analysing samples of URLs of webmasters affected by the Google Fred Update. He came up with this evaluation: The majority of the sites (a big 95%) hurt by the March 7 algorithm update, with 50% to 90% declines in traffic, offer low-value content and focus on gaining profit rather than providing information and helping site visitors. Sites’ content differed in topics but was written for one purpose: to rank higher on Google search engine. These websites, which are not industry expert sites, featured ads and/or affiliate links. Some affected sites, however, have no ads (or you’ll see a few ads only), but it’s apparent that they are after revenue generation. Schwartz added that some of these webmasters who shared their URLs with him reported significant recoveries after removing their ads.
A few SEO industry experts, Colton Miller wrote, believed they had discerned the targets of the updated Google algorithm: ad-heavy, low-value content sites. Specifically, these are the sites that have little content but have several ads or that have no reason for existing except to generate AdSense revenue. Others affected by the update have terrible link profiles.
After the report made by Schwartz, Juan Gonzalez, a Master in International Business Administration student fascinated with SEO, got a clue on how to investigate and began examining the 300 domains on Google Spain, Germany, USA and the UK that suffered from lost visibility after the update. He got the same analysis as the others. The majority of the sites try to drive traffic using low-quality content to gain profit through affiliate programs.
Which Sites Does Fred Impact?
Websites use either of these two SEO techniques: The white hat SEO and the black hat SEO. If your site practices the former strategy, then you have nothing to be afraid of. Apparently, the sites that use the latter strategy were and will be affected. The primary reason, if an assumption will be based on the words of Illyes, is because black hat SEO offers tricks that are not in accordance with the search quality rating guidelines of Google. It focuses all of its efforts to rank on the first page of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) thus it manipulates content to a point when it no longer helps users find the information they need and instead concentrates on flooding the sites with ads and link profiles – low quality at that. Yes, Fred is also a link quality algorithm update. Google Fred Update evaluates a website with the other sites that link back to it. The relevancy of the links to the framework of the website is examined. If Fred found zero value or that the backlinks came from spammy or low-quality sites, then it is sure to receive a penalty.
Local business sites may also be penalised if they receive inbound links from spam sites. Jim Stewart of ProBlogger wrote that while the update is launched with good intentions, some quality websites experienced a drop in ranking as well. The issue was on the duplication of their content.
Should the SEO Community Worry?
SEO Community, particularly the Sydney SEO community, has nothing to be scared of. Website owners have nothing to fear as well as long as they hire an SEO company that is after quality content and backlinks. Google Fred Update is only after the low-quality websites. If you have known that Google loves sites that help users in their search queries and you consistently provide them with excellent information, and you have been following their webmaster guidelines religiously, then fret not because Fred loves you – that’s for sure. But if your site was one of those that experienced huge fluctuation in Google ranking, then it’s time you assess and change your strategies or else, all of your hard work will go to nothing.
Below are the tips that can help you recover.
What to Do to Recover or Avoid Google Penalty
Sites not hurt by the Google algorithm update (as they practice white hat SEO) are thankful that they adopt the Google-acceptable strategies in SEO; however, they know that they should always be prepared to make sure that they keep their rankings in good standing and to shield their sites from future algorithm updates. Those who are affected are busy doing everything to quickly recover from the decline in traffic since the launch of the update. If you are one of them, you must think hard. Are you in a panic? Never do these:
• Delete pages
• Tweak URL structure
• Do anything without making proper assessment
Instead, begin reviewing your site now and find out what went wrong. StatCounter suggests these:
• Check the analytics. Investigate the drop in traffic, as well as the status of the number of keywords that were ranking from March 5 to 20.
• Assess your content. Which category does it fit:
o High quality and updated, or
o Low quality and old
• Find your lost keywords and match it against your low-quality content pages
• Evaluate the quality of your backlinks by using backlink spam checker so you can get rid of questionable backlinks.
After careful assessment, consider these tips shared by Oncrawl.com and TechWyse:
1. Balance Ad and the content ratio of your site. Ask yourself: At first glimpse, what do you see – ads or content? If your honest answer is the former, then change the design and the content of your website. Reduce the number of ads you have – or eliminate them all. Content must be the first one to capture visitors’ attention. The ads must not distract them from finding the information that they require, basing on their search query.
2. When publishing content, make sure that it focuses on the users’ requirements or queries – not heavily on you, your company or the products or services you promote. Never practice hard selling. The content must primarily respond to the specific needs of users; thus, must not have a broad range of topics in an attempt to rank on the first page of the search engine results pages.
3. Keyword stuffing has long been a no-no in digital marketing. You should be able to realize this by now. Focus your content on the users – how you can help them. Make sure that it has high quality and is authoritative.
4. Check the visual appeal of the site. Did you design it for the users or did you intentionally plan the layout so search engine robots can index it? Yes, in SEO, internal coding, as well as visual look, of a site is vital. However, users must be your focus. Design it according to how it can help users navigate your site and find the information they are looking for easily. They must find the answers to their search queries soon as they scan the page. Otherwise, you will lose site visits and worse, Google will penalise you.
5. Forget about duplicating content. Even if it is not positioned on the same page, this is not a trick that will work as nobody can fool the algorithm update when it comes to duplicate content. The truth is that this is an SEO issue that will hurt your site’s search engine ranking big-time. To explain: During a search query, crawlers will not be able to determine which article or content is more relevant than the others thus they may end up not giving your site a better ranking. If you have existing duplicate content, remove them immediately, and you’ll see progress in your Google ranking. Get in touch with us if you want to find out about possible duplicate content on your website.
6. Create GIFs and videos to attract crawlers. Videos gets indexed very fast and builds credibility if done properly.
7. Build a social following by sharing high-quality and shareable content to social media. Form an online community, where people – particularly your prospect market – talk about the company, its products or services and the content published.
8. Build a strong link profile. It’s not the quantity of the links that count; it’s the quality. Ensure the relevance of backlinks to the context as it will be the one to indicate the quality of the backlinks. Choose only the links that are appropriate to your website and to your products or services. Likewise, stop going after a link that everybody wants to chase. It will not do you any good.
9. Practice variety in anchor text. Creating a natural anchor text cloud, such as naked URLs, brand name, business keywords and generic words, is the best method to do this.
10. Avoid automated bots or tools, as well as paid links, link exchange and link pyramids to build backlinks.
In the coming days, you’ll read more news about the impact of the Google Fred Update in the SEO community, including one in Sydney & Melbourne. The numbers of sites hurt by Fred may increase – or decrease. Well, that will depend on the efficiency of the strategies adopted. Again, there are three things that you have to keep in mind: First, publish only quality and relevant content. Second, make the user experience easy and helpful. Third, implement white hat SEO link building.