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Google Fred Update – What is it and how could it effect my website?

by Natalie Temple

Mar 27, 2017, ,

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Who is Google Fred?

Since March the 8th there has been a lot of talk in the SEO world due to ranking uncertainty and traffic losses, which a lot of people thought was to do with unconfirmed Google Update. In true Google form, they have not yet released any information on this update, however, they have not denied that an update has taken place. This is now known as the ‘Fred Update’ due to the tongue in cheek response Google’s Gary Illyes gave to Barry Schwartz, which was that all updates be named “Fred.”

On Thursday, during the AMA with Google session at SMX West, Google’s Gary Illyes may have confirmed the Fred algorithm update that targets low value content. Gary said in his response to questions about the Fred update that they have decided not to discuss it with the public. Then Gary said he will say one thing, that the sites impacted by this update should have been because what they are doing are specifically against Google’s webmaster guidelines. Gary said the answer to why sites got hit by this is in the existing webmaster guidelines.

Google are constantly making changes to their ranking algorithm, nonetheless, Fred does not appear to have made a minor impact, he’s shaken up rankings and caused quite the stir. There’s been a lot of research to try and find out what Fred is all about, it turns out that Fred seems to be affecting sites that have been doing Black Hat SEO techniques, targeting ad heavy, low value content and affiliate sites.

How do I know if my website could be affected?

We’ve created a checklist so you can see if Google could penalise your website:

  • Do you have lots of keyword based content clearly targeting keywords?
  • Do you have an unnatural ratio of prominent ads or affiliate links within the content and around the site?
  • Is most of the content text based and in article form?
  • Is content generated usually tailored towards generating revenue as opposed to solving a user’s search query?


How can you improve your website for Fred?

  • Make your website visually appealing for users, not SERPs. If your website is particularly text heavy users may find it difficult to navigate.
  • Make sure your ad ratio to ensure it’s not over the top! Make sure your customer is not intrusively distracted to view or click on the ad over and above your content.
  • Create content to solve a customer query. This is where keyword research is key to ensure your website is valuable to your customers.
  • Make sure your content is fresh and relelvant; Content heavy sites have a tendency to publish content around the same or similar subjects. Google may devalue your page and focus on which page it thinks is the best surrounding that keyword / phrase or search query.
  • You need to have a clear agenda. Don’t simply write about products and link to them. Review similar products, give the users tips on buying, show deals, compare prices, collate reviews, give step by step guides – help the buyer make a decision or solve a problem.
  • Include other forms of content such as videos. With video popularity rising websites should leverage this advantage by producing videos and then having those videos transcribed into text to also provide value to search engines.
  • Create ‘non-profit’ content. Create pages and content that are useful for your industry. This will create content assets and could attract links or get shared, which in return will increase the authority and traffic of your website.

If you have any questions about Fred, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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