Google released an unconfirmed update on March 8th, 2017 which is being called the “Fred.” As per initial reports, the sites affected by this update saw up to 90% drop in organic traffic.
What is the Google Fred algorithm update?
While it remains vague as to what this update is specifically targeting, Fred is believed to be one of those updates which go by unnoticed until you start seeing changes in your website rankings or traffic. The chatter in the SEO community suggest that the Fred update affects these kinds of sites:
- Sites with low quality and thin content - Research findings from Barry Schwartz suggested that most sites that lost the most in terms of search engine rankings and organic traffic were those that have “SEO content” – content that is created solely for improving ranks in search engines and not around the user’s search intent. This is a clear indication that Google is keeping true to its goal of serving quality content that focuses on customer needs.
- Sites with low quality backlinks, i.e., where a number of the sites that link back to your site are low in domain authority.
- Sites with ads that have low or no relevance to the content on the site.
- Revenue or lead generation sites with lots of ads and not enough content created around the target audience’s search intent.
5 things you can do to safeguard against the Google Fred update
1. Build quality content – Quality content is not entirely about high word count or keyword density. Make sure that your content -- even if it is low on word count -- is relevant, provides unique value to the reader, addresses the needs of your audience and appeals to them.
- Use a website auditing tool to analyze what kind of content is ranking and driving traffic to your website by keeping a watch on key metrics such as bounce rate and time spent on page. This will help you understand what is and isn’t working to make the necessary content changes.
- Focus on creating unique content that clearly answers relevant queries -- content that people want to read, not what you want them to read.
2. Monitor website traffic – Keeping an eye on website analytics will help you understand how these updates are affecting your site ranking and traffic. When you begin to see unusual changes in your ranks or traffic, check the dates of the changes against the dates of the algorithm updates.
3. Audit the ads on your site – To avoid being penalized by Google:
- Get rid of deceptive ads which can be deemed to be black hat SEO and harm high-quality content.
- Ads placed within articles and videos that auto-play when the user lands on the page affect user experience and in turn increase the chances of attracting a penalty.
- Ads with a dofollow link can be deemed to be black hat. Make sure all ads on your website have a nofollow attribute. Similarly, make sure all your ads on other websites have a nofollow attribute.
4. Quality backlinks – If you find that a site irrelevant to yours has linked to you, reach out to them and ask them to remove your link or use Google’s Disavow Tool to disavow these links. Doing so will allow you to avoid a manual penalty from Google. If you have any affiliate links, make sure all the affiliate links have a nofollow attribute on them
Use a link audit software to keep check of backlinks from other sites. Here are some Backlink analysis tools you can make use of:
- Moz Open Site Explorer
- Majestic SEO
In addition to these, there are multiple tools out there that can help analyze the quality of your backlinks.
5. Improve user experience – Focus on keeping your site user-friendly by optimizing for all platforms, eliminate unnecessary UX barriers and make the site easy to navigate, use schema markups to create well-presented search results and overall create a good site architecture.
Focus on content quality and SEO compliance
There is no doubt that Google is rolling out updates on a regular basis, and you may not get confirmation on every update. The best thing you can do to avoid being a victim of penalization through these updates is to constantly make sure that you are always serving quality content to your users which are not centered around search engine algorithms or created only for revenue generation.
In addition, keep close watch for Google algorithm updates so that you can reduce the chance of being caught unprepared.