A March update from Google is said to have killed traffic to a lot of sites – mostly because of their aggressive monetization tactics – and while there has been no official naming from Google, it is said that the update is called Google Fred Update.
Initially there was a lot of confusion surrounding the update, but it turns out that Google Fred has been cracked. The update appears to target low-quality content and backlinks. Fred works against sites that put revenue generation before helping the user’s experience (UX). The issue of ad placement appears to be affected too. For example, if your website has too many unrelated adverts that are used to drive revenue over quality content for the user, you will be marked down in the search engine rankings.
The websites that may have noticed a change in traffic are likely to be sites that rely heavily on ad income and prioritize revenue over quality content. It appears Fred targets a lack of topical relevance and expertise displayed on the site. It’s all about having targeted, relevant and high quality content for the user to find easily.
So what’s Google’s take on Fred?
Initially Gary Illyes from Google confirmed that Fred update exists. During an AMA with Google session at SMX West, Illyes confirmed the Fred algorithm update that targeted low value content on March 7th/8th.
However, a few weeks down the line, Google’s John Mueller said through a hangout session said that “from our point of view there was no Fred update.” There has been extensive analysis of the Fred update and the traffic decline for many sites in the month of March and specifically those dates and many experts have concluded that there was an update and that it took a toll on low-quality content sites as well as those who created sites solely for the purpose of making money and not to deliver value.
Mueller’s statement could be taking in this context – Google is not recognizing this update as Fred, because Google isn’t calling it the Fred update and could have named it something else.
What more did Mueller Say about the update?
John said “this is a name that was given externally to a bunch of updates that we’ve been doing over time.” So it is a matter of semantics. “It’s not the case that there’s this one thing that is changing in search,” John said. “We make changes in search all the time,” he added.
Here’s the transcript:
This is a name that was given externally to a bunch of updates that we’ve been doing over time. So it’s not the case that there’s this one thing that is changing in search. We make changes in search all the time and we’re always working on trying to find ways to bring more relevant, more high-quality content to users, and that can be affecting a variety of websites. And variety of areas where we show content and search.
Check out the video below:
Did you get affected?
If you are one of the affected webmaster who saw 90% decline in their website’s traffic, then you need to gear up and work on improving your site if you want to recover.
The short way to tell what you need to do is to create great content that’s aligned with search intent. Fred is just one of the daily updates Google makes to its algorithms in order to mirror the heart, mind and needs of a customer. Focus on your customer as the algorithm, and you won’t have to worry about these updates as often. These are some of the things you need to look at:
- Scaling back the amount of ads on your site;
- Review the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) and follow them as closely as you possibly can;
- Review the placement of ads on your site. Do they contribute to poor user experience?
- Review the user experience of your site, and make a schedule to do this periodically;
- Keep upping the ante of your content; and
- Review the content to be sure it serves a purpose, and that purpose is outlined in the form of metadata and tags
If you didn’t see a drop in traffic or keyword rankings after Fred, just keep doing what you’re doing — go forth and continue to create great content. But if you did, let Fred serve as a warning to you, because this certainly won’t be the last Google quality update. Straighten out and fly right today.