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Google's "Fred" update in a nutshell

3rd April 2017

Paper clipsWe saw the Google Fred update roll out in early March, and it has been generating lots of questions both from the SEO community and website owners.

Day-by-day, many websites administrators noticed significant ranking fluctuations and losses of traffic.

What is the Google Fred update?

The Google Fred update has to do with penalizing content-driven websites that are too inundated with advertisements and are motivated by driving ad revenue to the extent where viewing the content becomes difficult due to said ads. 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 SERPs. There has also been a considerable amount of reports of changes from within the black hat SEO community, which usually means that it’s a spam algorithm update around backlinks.

More specifically, the Google Fred update penalises websites that are overpopulated with adverts and focus on bringing in ad revenue which makes it difficult or complicated for users trying to view content. In layman's terms, Google is essentially trying to remove webspam by hitting the sites that use it most in an effort to make reading content easy (as it should be). In addition to this, Fred is targeting low-quality websites that focus on ads (generating revenue) or placing an excessive amount of affiliate links for similar reasons.

What counts as a "low quality" website?

These websites 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 which each other:

  • An unnatural number of prominent adverts or affiliate links within the content and around the website. If you place too many ads at the top of your web page, users will find it difficult to find the actual content and will have a bad experience. In other words, users want to see the content right away and not have to scroll down. If you have too much content “above-the-fold”, you will be affected by the Google Fred Update and your site will not rank as highly going forward.
  • Content is text based and in article form meaning you’re unlikely to see original video content on these websites. 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.
  • Includes too many private blog network links. For most in the SEO industry, 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.
  • Websites with poor silo structure. 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.
  • The website is usually tailored towards generating revenue as opposed to solving a user’s search query. If your website’s #1 goal is to generate revenue, it can possibly be seen as a spam-worthy website by the Google bots.

Why "Fred"?

You may be asking yourself why “Fred”? “Fred” is a comical name that Google expert Gary Illyes invented on the spot when asked for a name.