The Google Fred Update: 5 Crucial Facts to Know

May 16, 2017 Stephen Galgocy

The newly released Google Fred search engine algorithm update is already in motion. In this post, we’re sharing 5 important facts to help you understand & react to Fred.

Recently, Google rolled out an algorithm update that was unceremoniously given the name “Fred.” The Google Fred update caused somewhat of a shakeup in the SEO world and seems to have resulted in a brief moment of chaos for those impacted or in fear of being affected.

Follow along for five crucial facts we think you need to know about this new Google update.

Fact One: The Fred update happened on or around March 9, and the results were immediate.

Google Fred was an algorithm revision that caused some websites to see up to a 90% loss in traffic overnight.

Fred caused a shakeup in page rankings. In some cases, websites that had previously appeared on pages 2, 3 and 4 of the search engine page results (SERPs) were suddenly bumped all the way back to pages 8, 9 and 10.

It seems plenty of website owners panicked once they began to realize that loss of potential leads.

Fact Two: Fred targeted low-value, high-revenue sites.

Google Fred’s algorithm seems to have been targeted to websites that create ad revenue without offering much content to the site’s visitors. It also seems there was a particular focus on sites using banner ads from AdSense advertising campaigns.

Based on what I have seen, the Fred algorithm update may have also targeted websites that deploy link stuffing strategies or included search engine black hat links.

Fact Three: Google won’t confirm Fred.

It seems Google quite intentionally goes about its business quickly and quietly. During the Fred algorithm update time period, they did not announce any plans to change or update their search algorithms.

Even when doing a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) where Google’s Gary Illyes answered fans’ questions, he was hesitant to give a clear answer about Fred’s intentions or impacts. In fact, even the name “Fred” is a non-answer from Illyes. On March 9, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land asked via Twitter, “so, wanna name it?” Illyes responded, “From now on every update, unless otherwise stated, shall be called Fred.”

Despite the hush-hush nature from Google, it seems clear to SEO strategists and impacted website owners that there was an update to the search page ranking algorithms.

Fact Four: Websites can recover from the Fred impact.

Was your website on the receiving end of Google Fred’s wrath? If since March 9, 2017, there been a considerable dip in your website’s traffic and page rankings, then the answer may be “yes.”

Luckily, we have some recommendations to recover from Fred.

  1. Remove or reduce ads.Yes, that may mean a temporary loss of revenue. But to be ranked well by Google, you need to play by Google’s rules.
  2. Recheck your links. Maybe you link stuffed without really knowing it? Many people unwittingly use black hat links and break SEO rules. Simply doing some housekeeping can help a lot.
  3. Create better content. It sounds simple, but the Fred algorithm targeted sites with what was perceived as weak content. Bulk up the body of content and try to make it more relevant to your target audience.

Fact Five: You need to follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

With Google being rather secretive about this update, the world may never know the fine details of the Fred search algorithm update. However, Illyes said the sites that fell in rankings had failed (knowingly or not) to follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

To avoid a future loss of traffic and monthly visitors, familiarize yourself with Google’s guidelines.

And, as you move forward with your website –  whether you were affected by Fred or not – remember that Google is now seemingly on the lookout for low content, high-ad and link sites that don’t follow their rules.

Do you have questions about your website’s SEO or content strategy? The DMS team can help you learn about how to avoid mistakes and market without fear of Fred! Click here to contact DMS.

About the Author

Stephen Galgocy

Stephen Galgocy is the Senior Organic Search and User Experience Specialist at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Stephen handles search engine marketing (SEM), which encompasses search engine optimization (SEO), user experience (UX), multivariate testing (MVT) and conversion rate optimization (CRO). Since its inception, DMS has evolved into a full-service performance marketing company that services firms within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, automotive, jobs and careers. DMS has achieved incredible year-over-year growth, which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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