What does Google’s Fred update mean for my business?

As we’ve covered in previous blog posts, Google have a habit of sneaking out updates to their search engine fairly regularly. Sometimes these tweaks are obvious, sometimes less so. It’s very rare that these updates are formally acknowledged by Google. In March 2017, after members of the SEO community noticed some big traffic drops on certain websites, Google’s Garry Illyes was questioned via Twitter and jokingly replied that any update should be referred to as ‘Fred’.

The Fred update

That name seems to have stuck. Since then there have been a fair few blogs popping up with SEOs speculating on exactly what the update did and what it means for businesses. Now that the dust has settled we thought it was time to take a moment to review the consensus about the Fred update and let you if there’s anything you need to do.

The headlines (the Fredlines)

The general conclusion from those who have analysed the Fred update falls into two parts. The first is that it targeted sites which were had large amount of advertising on them. Specifically this refers to sites which had a high proportion of Ad Sense advertising on their pages. Using Ad Sense advertising is a means for website owners to generate income by integrating advertising into their pages, achieving valuable impressions and clicks for the companies who appear there. With the Fred update, Google appears to have reduced the rankings of sites which use lots of these ads in a way that affects the experience of users visiting the site. This isn’t exactly surprising, good user experience has always been favoured by Google and responsible SEOs, so they’re basically just repeating and reinforcing that message.

The other conclusion many have come to is that the update targeted sites full of low value content. What do we mean by this? Low value content would be endless articles filled with keywords, offering very little helpful information that could genuinely address a user’s search query. This type of content would typically go hand in hand with the ad heavy sites targeted by the update. Sites like this would use their keyword stuffed content like a monstrous fishing net to catch as many web surfers as possible, then present them with a page full of ads to generate revenue whilst providing little of value to the user. Not hard to understand why Google wouldn’t want to put sites that like at the top of its results pages, is it?

What should I do about Google’s Fred algorithm update?

If you have an ad supported blog separate to your website, it may have suffered. This includes build-your-own services such as Blogger and Tumblr. How do you remedy this? We’ve always stressed the importance of having all of your content in one place. Using your primary website as your blog platform offers the most compelling SEO benefits and provides a means for your site to grow into the kind of useful resource that Google wants to display prominently in the search engine results pages. If you haven’t done this yet, now is the time to consolidate your content onto your website and focus your efforts there.

How to recover from a drop in traffic

It is possible to recover from a drop in traffic or rankings with a properly planned, sustained, white hat SEO strategy. Our SEO strategies are always ‘white hat’, which means they follow Google’s guidelines and include only good useful content, properly written and researched. Algorithm updates typically affect sites which haven’t followed white hat practices. If you need a hand with your SEO or would like to help recovering your site after a sudden drop in traffic, get in touch for a chat. We’ll diagnose the issues you’re facing and come up with a strategy for reliable and stable search performance increases for your site.

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