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The Google Fred Update, which we saw rolling out on March 8th, has been generating lots of questions from the SEO community. From one day to the next, many websites noticed ranking fluctuations and traffic losses. SEOs can’t seem to understand thoroughly what Fred is and what specific tactic it’s targeting… Is it poor quality links? Is it ads or ad heaviness? Is it PBNs? One thing we are sure of is that this Google Update seems to want to combat link spam.
So, you’re probably asking yourself why “Fred”? “Fred” is just a funny euphemism that Google expert Gary Illyes invented on the spot when asked for a name. In fact, he also joked that all updates could be called “Fred”….
Some love him, some hate him…He’s probably here to stay so let’s find out more about this latest update.
The Google Fred update has to do with penalizing content driven sites that are too inundated with ads and motivated by driving ad revenue where they become troublesome for users trying to view content.
There are no exact details on what Fred does, but a lot of SEO and ranking monitoring services have been seeing huge fluctuations in Google rankings. We’ve also seen more chatter and reports of changes from within the “black hat” SEO community, which usually means that it’s a spam algorithm update around links.
More precisely, Google Fred Update reprimands sites that are filled with ads and focus on bringing in ad revenue which makes it complicated for users trying to view content. In other words, it looks like Fred is Penguin’s friend and is trying to remove webspam.
Furthermore, Fred is targeting low quality websites that focus on ads (generating revenue) or placing excessive affiliate links which usually means that they are focusing on the owner rather than focusing on helping readers.
These sites are created to maximize revenue by gaining lots of web traffic with main objective to getting the user to click on an ad or an affiliate link. They usually have these points in common:
→ consequence: If you have too much advertising content “above-the-fold”, you will be affected by the Google Fred Update and your site will not rank as highly going forward.
→ consequence: Lacking of a consistent and integrated content strategy can affect your rankings. We all know that creative and unique content can seriously boost your website visibility.
→ consequence: For most SEOs, PBNs are a way to create backlinks for their money sites. It’s usually used by “back hats SEO” that want to maximize whatever loophole there is in Google’s algorithm. It’s clearly not the way to win Google’s love.
→ consequence: Siloing a website serves to clarify your website’s subject relevance. If Google’s bot can’t understand quickly what your site is all about, it’s going to hurt your rankings.
→ consequence: if your website’s #1 goal is to generate revenue, it can possibly be seen as a spammy site by the Google bots.
Below, we took Googler Gary Illyes’s example of a good affiliate site VS a site that was reported by its owner after experiencing a significant drop in traffic and rankings. Besides the fact that one is generating revenue by affiliate links and the other through Adsense revenue, you can clearly see the differences in the quality (visual aspect but also in content and how it does or doesn’t provide value to a reader.)
https://thepointsguy.com/ and http://www.easydiyandcrafts.com
Gary mentions that “there’s no inherent problem with affiliate links. The problem is when a site’s sole purpose is to be a shallow container for aff links”. Like he says in the post below, it’s all about how the content is presented to its user.
According to SE Roundtable, some sites reported over a 50% drop in traffic due to the Fred penalty. Your site might of been impacted in a negative way if it contained too many external spammy links or other way around, your site might of received a little raise in Google rankings due to the massive clean out.
If you want to have Fred on your side, we suggest you to adjust your site with these quick tips:
For a while, Google had neither confirmed nor denied the Fred update but on March 24th, Gary Illyes officially confirmed it on his Twitter account.
Ups and downs happen on a daily basis on Google’s SERP. Sometimes they are indeed related to an algorithm change and sometimes they’re just a part of Google’s volatility.