What is ‘Fred’ and why has it rocked the SEO world?



April 11th, 2017 / Nik Ranger

Every now and then Google rolls out a major change to their algorithm which has all of us on our toes trying to figure out and measure how that will impact our work. While most of these 500-600 changes a year are minor, this update dubbed by Gary Illyes, chief strategist at Google as “Fred” has everyone talking. So what is it? More importantly, how does it change best practice?

Fred Google Update

To put it simply, what we’re seeing is an update that has changed the ranking algorithm and many websites are experiencing a significant drop in their traffic (some report as much as 90% drop). It’s looking like Google is systematically targeting ad heavy, low value content sites. Search Engine Round Table has already done a lot of the heavy lifting analytics-wise and after reviewing over 70 sites affected, they concluded that all of them seemed to be content driven, either blog formats or other content like sites and all are very heavy handed on their ad placements.

SEO Traffic Impact

Watching these articles come through on American sites, here at Predikkta we realise that it takes a while for those changes to affect Australian hosted sites. However, this does give us an advantage to be able to advise our clients and build strategies that can look out for these speed bumps. Not only are content driven, heavily advertised sites affected, but it also seems that more of the link quality aspects are also been rethought. A lot of the changes and commentary have surfaced from Blackhat World and Webmaster World, all support this theory that poor quality content sites aimed at revenue generation have been singled out. Assess your site, what are your goals, why are you generating your content and what are your advertising goals. Strategy wise, you may need to reassess how you accomplish your goals. Some Webmasters have reported huge recoveries by removing their ads, this may help you in the meantime. Many of the automated tracking tools reported on by Search Engine Round Table currently show significant volatility and fluctuations, which is an indicator of an update. Of course Google has yet to confirm any of these updates, preferring to staunchly remain in anonymity but that won’t stop us from looking at the resulting data and speculating. 

Two ways to check whether your site has been affected by Fred

1. Search Console / Webmaster Tools

Log in to your Google Search Console and check the top panel for any messages from Google. We have seen some updates to notify you how Google has changed how it accesses your site, notifications of new errors as well as manual actions (hopefully this isn’t the case, as this means that your site has been manually penalised by Google staff).

Once you’ve checked your notifications, you can download a spreadsheet that checks whether there has been any sudden changes to the links on your site. To access this spreadsheet, in the “Search Traffic”, “Who links the most” and “Links to My Site” sections, click “download latest links”. If your site has been affected and indicating changes in the quality of links, generally this is a major cause of search result drops. You’ll need to fix these errors if you want to restore traffic flow.

webmaster tools

2. SERP tracking sites and forums

Check search engine results pages (SERP) tracking sites/forums for signs of an algorithm update:
• Australian sites: Algaroo
• American sites: Mozcast

How to fix Fred penalties

  • Look at your content strategy, Fred is specifically targeting content published for the the sake of getting sponsorship and/or ad revenue. Make sure that if you’re going to publish on your site that it focuses primarily on quality. Some websites as mentioned above have turned off their monetisation and have seen an improvement in traffic, but mainly I wouldn’t follow all your outbound links to sponsors and advertisers.
  • Since Fred seems to mainly target sites that Google deems as “spammy”, make sure you’re monitoring your traffic methodically and testing what does and what doesn’t work especially while you’re changing your content strategy.
  • Similarly, if the SEO company you employ has been using private blog networks to build your links, these sites will have been targeted and their links devalued, which will take your site’s SEO value down with it. I would suggest following up with your SEO company to restrategise or seeking advice from another agency.

Fred is all about low-quality content and too many ads. If you’re monetising by selling ads into content, then it’s likely Fred is the culprit for your traffic drops. Diagnosing and treating penalties by Google is a process that often requires a deeper knowledge than you can get from analysing the data from a single post, I would advise speaking to an SEO expert to strategise what’s best practice moving forward. Visit our website, give us a call on + 61 (03) 9388 0008 or email us and we’ll help you with any concerns you have.




ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Every now and then Google rolls out a major change to their algorithm which has all of us on our toes trying to figure out and measure how that will impact our work. While most of these 500-600 changes a year are minor, this update dubbed by Gary Illyes, chief strategist at Google as “Fred” [...]
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*Predikkta has sourced several external independent global tools to analyze websites.These tools do not reflect on occasion the internal website analytics, but are recognised global tools and provide accurate comparative results for measurement against competitors.

**The views in this article are those of the author