Google makes between two and three updates to their algorithm every single day, but the major ones that generally shake the search engine world do come every couple of months. The aim of the updates is to target web site owners who are not keeping up with providing value to their site visitors but instead are fixated on manipulating the search engine results using a myriad of black hat tactics.
Google will rarely be open about when it makes such updates and divulge finer details – and this is for obvious reasons – however, the update which came in early March, the Google Fred update, was big enough to be noticed by SEO experts and website owners around the world.
What is the Google Fred Update?
As usual, Google remained tight lipped about what Fred specifically targeted, but various SEO experts and reports have suggested the update was going after sites with low-quality content, high ad to content ratio and bad backlinks. If you have been around SEO for a while, you will agree that these spam tactics work almost hand in hand and they are mainly from webmasters and web site owners whose sole SEO strategy is to hire cheap companies that create low-quality content then spam with equally low-quality backlinks. In summary, you might have been a victim of the Fred update if:
Your site has thin or outdated content
If your website relies on targeting exact match long tail keywords or you have a lot of low quality or old content on your website, then your rankings might have been affected by the update.
Full of low-quality backlinks
Google has always been against websites investing in buying or building low-quality backlinks. If your site has a lot of generic backlinks such as .edu profile spams, comment spams or you got your backlinks through sites such as Fiverr, then you may also have been penalized.
You have a high ad: content ratio
Googles still advocate for a greater user experience. When building a website, the focus should be on offering an excellent user experience as opposed to designing the site for the search engines.
Sites with lots of ads or affiliate links tend to lower this user experience, and the Fred update was delivered to target such sites.
How to know if your site was affected by the Fred Update
If you noticed the rankings for your sites drop around early March, your first step towards recovery is to make a determination whether it was indeed the algorithm update that affected your rankings. Other factors might have caused the drop in the rankings, and unless you are certain, you could be diagnosing and treating the wrong ailment.
Here are a few of the ways you can tell if you were affected by the Fred update:
- You noticed a significant drop in the traffic numbers or the keywords you were ranking for around early March. Conduct a keyword gap analysis so that you can compare the keywords that ranked a month before the update and the current rankings. Suppose you find a significant drop in the numbers, then it may be that they are considered as low value, and Fred has penalised them.
- Your website has more general content than high-quality content that your readers would love to share.
- You have lots of affiliate links or ads on your website, which significantly affects the user experience.
- Your content is designed to earn your revenue as opposed to provide value to your site visitors.
If your website relates to any of the above issues, then there are higher chances that you were a victim of the Fred update, and you should start working hard to recover from it.
Recovering from the Fred update
Just like any other Google update, recovery can be a long and arduous process, but entirely possible. Since you know what might have caused the penalties, the easiest way to set your website on the path to recovery is to make the necessary fixes. These will include but not limited to:
Improving the quality of the content on your website
The Fred update is not the first nor the last update targeting sites with poor quality content. The best way to recover and insulate your site against such future updates is to change your focus to creating very high quality and authoritative content and which should be updated on a regular basis.
When creating such content, your focus should be on providing real value to the site visitors and not trying to appease the search engines more than your readers.
Carry out a backlink audit and remove all the bad links
Conduct an audit on your backlinks and remove all the bad ones. Ensure the link graph or link profile on your website appears very natural. In the determination of the value of your link profile, Google will consider link data-points such as no-follow to follow ratios, link location, the type of the link, and the anchor text amongst others. These factors are what will ultimately determine the value of your inbound links towards your site ranking.
To do the backlink audit, you can use SEMrush for checking the backlinks, or you can alternatively use the Google Search Console to identify bad links. You then need to create a disavow file to tell Google which links to omit when determining your rankings.