May 10, 2017

Google Fred Update

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Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins

CEO - Shout Agency
[email protected]


Back in March, the SEO world was rocked by a Google update that was jokingly named “Fred” by Google employee Gary Illeys. On the morning on March 8, it became apparent that many sites were hit by a change in algorithm that was affecting their ranking on the search engine results page.

This update was unconfirmed by Google. Those who tried to get Google to confirm the update on Twitter were left disappointed as Gary Illeys and John Muller responded by saying Google makes many changes and updates every day. This response, however, is not unusual.

As sites began to see major drops in their traffic and there was no solid information as to whether this was an official Google update, the SEO industry was sent into a state of panic.

Black hat threads and white hat threads rose in hot conversation and multiple sites such as Search Engine Land and Search Engine Round Table reported on the update.

Hundreds of sites saw their organic search and rankings drop by 50 to 90 per cent. It was investigated that the Fred update targeted sites that produced low value content, heavy ad concentrations, and low link quality.

There was also wide agreement that sites that received the biggest blow from the Fred update were sites that focused on revenue rather than being user focused.

Google’s Fred Updates

The latest update from Google to their search algorithm is an example of Google’s continuing quest to ensure that sites produce high quality if they want to receive search traffic.

Sites like the one pictured below that have low value content in them are not sufficient to draw traffic from Google anymore.

of the spectrum. Sites that were low on traffic experienced some significant increases because their high-value content was finally rewarded.

Furthermore, sites that have too many ads (even Google Ads) were penalized. That is why sites like the one below saw drops. As you can see, the site discussed on SEO RoundTable has an overwhelming number of ads. They were penalized because the site focused more on monetization than helping their customers with high value content.

One last thing to keep in mind. Although Google didn’t confirm the update, it seems that the Fred update is a continuation of the policy they developed in previous Google algorithm updates.

Therefore, if your site continues to produce high quality content, you can only benefit. Conversely, low quality, limited content with lots of ads is not going to help your search traffic.

Is it as serious as it seems?

It is no secret that the Fred algorithm update caused a major panic and stir within the SEO industry and led some sites and companies to react by making changes to their webpages or deleting them all together.

Others were also quick to react by investigating the issue and widely sharing it, even after it was clear that Google would not elaborate on the subject.

The Fred algorithm issue blew up so much that only a few days after the initial uproar in the SEO world, The Washington Post released a post commenting on the update.

It seemed that most of the articles explaining the impact of the Fred update showed that it was mainly black hat sites or sites that were using black hat techniques on their links that were experiencing the big hits. White hat websites seemed to show much less to no impact relating to the update.

Coming back to the Google Webmaster Guidelines, the reaction to the Fred algorithm update in March was mostly blown out of proportion. Relating the update back to the Webmaster Guidelines shows that it doesn’t act any differently to Google’s attitudes towards website’s content and actions.

It directly acts in line with what they value such as websites ensuring their content has quality and benefits the user in some way. It is why we work with organizations like the Complex Institute of Education to ensure they have the right content strategy in place to receive search traffic.

The fact that so many sites were hit by the update shows that many websites may have ignored the suggestions Google made in their Webmaster Guidelines. As the articles, all over the SEO community outlined, the sites affected were of low-quality and were laced with ads and content that was revenue focused.

Final Thoughts

So how can you prevent your site from being hit in the way many sites were by the Fred algorithm update? It’s quite simple.

Taking a detailed look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and ensuring the way you are running your website and constructing content focuses on the user and ways to add benefits to the user, because this is what Google wants to see.

Websites that don’t follow these guidelines are likely to be snuffed out in the future, if they haven’t already been taken down by Google’s constantly updating algorithms.

If you would like to avoid that fate, then schedule a meeting with our SEO experts at Shout. We can help you understand the best strategies for improving your search traffic even with the new Google Fred changes.

Book a free 45 minute consultation today.

    Book a free 45 minute consultation today.

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      As Founder and Director of Shout Web Strategy, Michael Jenkins is at the forefront of digital marketing. Since it’s inception in 2009, Shout has built a strong reputation as one of Australia’s leading strategic SEO agencies, assisting online businesses to formulate, implement and track successful marketing strategies. Michael is a respected thought leader and digital strategist, specialising in online strategy, corporate SEO, Google retargeting, email and conversion rate optimisation, and online reputation management. Follow Michael on Google+, connect with him through LinkedIn or visit the Shout Web Strategy website.

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