Google Fred Update – What It Is & How To Fix It
June 29, 2017 by Paul Ceppaglia
With this blog post, we welcome Paul Ceppaglia to our ranks of regular Posirank.com blog post writers. He has great experience in SEO and you will be seeing his content often, on a weekly basis. In his first offering, Paul has done a great job of de-mystifying the recent Google Fred Update. Paul, we turn this space over to you. Readers, enjoy!
A few months ago, Google’s Fred Update decimated numerous sites’ organic traffic. Let’s take a closer look at Fred, the impact this update had, and what you can do if you find yourself one of Fred’s many victims.
On March 8, 2017, many SEOs and webmasters were stunned to find a dramatic decrease in their organic traffic, literally overnight. Some websites lost 50-60% of their Google organic traffic, while some sites lost up to 90%.
It soon became clear that Google had made yet another core ranking update…but what was the exact focus of this update?
What is the Google Fred Update?
On March 23, at SMX West, Google’s Gary Illyes all but confirmed the algorithm update, and hinted at the focus by saying that the sites affected by this update were impacted because what they are doing are specifically against Google’s webmaster guidelines (per Search Engine Roundtable).
At its core, the Google Fred Update targets sites with low quality content and low quality backlinks.
Low Quality Content
Overall, sites affected by Fred are content-based sites (e.g. blogs) where the main focus of the content is to generate ad revenue, usually with little regard for the value of the content or the overall user experience.
In many instances, this low-quality content was obviously written for ranking purposes and has ads and/or affiliate links scattered throughout the content.
Keen SEOs found that a common denominator for many of the affected sites was aggressive monetization. Often, content was wrapped around the many ads, obscuring the fact that the ads were not actually part of the content.
And it wasn’t just monetization via advertising that was targeted. Affiliate offers, lead generation, and other revenue models were also whacked by the Fred Update.
Poor User Experience
In addition to low quality content and over monetization, another problem that is common with sites hit by the Fred Update is poor user experience (UX). While the factors we’ve already covered fall into the realm of UX, there are many other factors that can contribute to poor UX. These can include annoying pop-ups, poor mobile experience, broken site structure, and much more.
Low Quality Backlinks
Up to this point, all the contributing issues we’ve discussed have been on-site factors. However, Fred didn’t stop there!
Another commonality shared between affected sites is a high number of low-quality backlinks. At this point, the potential harm caused by a spammy backlink profile should be of no surprise to you, as this has been a major factor since the Google Penguin Update was launched in 2012.
Unfortunately, thin content problems and bad backlinks are often found simultaneously.
The sad truth is that these problems occur quite often when a website has utilized a budget SEO company/plan that seeks to rapidly build low-quality backlinks and low-value content.
How to Recover from the Google Fred Update
Now that you know about Fred, you might be asking yourself “how do I know if I’ve been affected?”
The easiest way to answer that question is to look at your site analytics. Did you see a drop in Google organic traffic after March 7? Did you see a decline in the keywords your site ranks for?
If the answer to those questions are both NO, then you should be in good shape.
However, if you answered YES to either of those questions, then you have some work to do! Fear not, though…the steps you need to take are quite clear.
The first thing you need to do is take an objective look at your site and your analytics. Do you have any factors on your site that contribute to a poor user experience? How is the mobile experience? Do you have any annoying pop-ups such as opt-ins or exit offers on mobile? Those can kill a mobile user’s experience.
If you have ads, affiliate offers, or other monetization on your site, make sure you aren’t being overly aggressive here. You might want to try scaling back the ads, or making them less inconspicuous…you don’t want to “trick” your visitors into clicking on an ad.
Next, you need to identify any low-quality content pages. By analyzing your traffic data, you should be able to determine which page(s) and keyword(s) were driving the most traffic before the update, and which have been most negatively affected. These pages should be your top priority.
Start by adding content to, or even rewriting if necessary, these key low quality pages. Ideally, this should become an ongoing exercise across your entire site. You should focus not just on creating new content, but also continually improving existing content.
As for poor backlinks, you should use a backlink tool to identify and disavow any low-quality or questionable backlinks. In addition, make sure that the remaining good links are optimized in terms of anchor text, nofollow vs. follow, etc. For more information on link disavowal, be sure to read Rob Andrews’ post on link disavowals.
Conclusion / Next Steps
For many websites, the Google Fred Update was a major disruptor in their organic traffic and, ultimately, their business. Upon closer inspection, however, the factors that Fred targeted come as no surprise.
To recap, to make sure your sites stay free from Fred’s wrath:
- Focus on high quality content that offers real value to your visitors
- Good user experience is key
- Do not be too aggressive with monetization strategies
- Audit your backlink profile, and disavow any low-quality backlinks
- Audit your site – look for thin content and other poor user experience factors
As always, PosiRank can help you with every step of this process, so please feel free to reach out to us with any questions. We’re happy to help!
Image courtesy Rankbrainmedia.com