Every couple of months Google rolls out an update that targets websites that are not providing user-value, or that are trying to manipulate the search results with spam tactics. Google is usually pretty quiet about the changes they make to their algorithm – for obvious reasons – however, the change that happened the first week of March, was large enough for many website owners and seo firms to take notice.
For SEO agencies who were doing SEO correctly – they noticed a bump in website traffic and can continue to grow their clients or their own businesses. For the marketers who were trying to manipulate the search results, they will be spending their time trying to identify issues, and building plans to (hopefully) recover from the Fred update.
What Was The Fred Update?
Google said the spam techniques that the Fred update addressed are mentioned in their webmaster guidelines – these include low-quality content and spammy backlinks. Often, these spam tactics occur together, since websites have usually utilized cheap SEO companies who build low-quality content and purchase backlinks.
It’s 2017 and a lack of knowledge about what constitutes quality SEO, or a quality SEO firm, can not be an excuse anymore. Companies need to take accountability for their actions.
Thin or Outdated Content
If your site’s rankings are heavily dependent on targeting exact match long-tail keywords (as the primary topic of a page) or has a large volume of invaluable, outdated, or ad-heavy content, you’re website will probably see a rankings and traffic drop.
It’s 2017, and for close to a decade Google has been warning and taking action on websites for buying or building low-value links. If you’ve ever paid for generic or “artificial” backlink – such as comment spam, .edu profile spam, using blog networks, or using a website such as Fivrr to build links for SEO, then Fred may have just penalized you.
The Impact of Google’s Fred Update
Some sites that were hit by this Google update noticed a 80% drop in organic traffic.
How To Recover: First, Diagnose The Traffic Drop
The first step in any traffic recovery strategy is to make sure you were actually impacted, and it was not something else that caused your website to lose, or to appear as if it was losing traffic.
- Did you see a drop in the traffic or the number of keywords your websites was ranking for? Do a keyword Gap analysis and compare the number of keywords each URL ranked for the month prior to the update, compared to current numbers. Any page that lost significant number of keywords, was probably deemed low-value. If you find alot of these pages, you’ve probably been affected.
- Do you have more low-quality generic content than high-quality content that users would love to share or link to?
- Does your content have a high amount of prominent ads or affiliate links?
- Do you use/overuse call-to-action overlays?
- Is your content tailored towards gaining revenue rather than providing value towards solving a user’s search intent?
If you find yourself answering yes to these questions, then you may have been impacted by the recent Google Fred update.
How To Recover: Next Fix Your Website
Recovery can be a long process that usually is not difficult, but is very time consuming and expensive. For the Fred update there are three primary things to address.
First: Improve your content quality
This isn’t the first algorithm update Google has rolled out to encourage high quality content, and it won’t be the last. The best way to avoid future updates and/or recover from a Fred-related penalty, is to focus on creating high-quality, in-depth, and authoritative content on your site.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you’re creating value with your content.
- Did an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well write the article? If they did, you’re on the right track.
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? If your content has errors, you need to do a better job during the editing phase.
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? If it goes beyond the obvious then you’re creating original value that Google will reward.
- Does the content provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic, or are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? If you are creating short 500-word articles, your content is most likely garbage.
Second: Audit Your Backlinks and Clean Bad Links
First, ensure that your link profile / link graph appears natural. Link data-points such as, no-follow to follow ratios, anchor text, type of link, link location, etc., are all things that Google takes into account when determining the value of your backlink profile, and your inbound link’s value towards the SEO authority of your website.
To do this, use a backlink checker such as the SEMrush tool or dig into the links within your Google Search Console to find bad links, and then create a disavow file to let Google know to omit these from their calculation.
How To Recover: Make Sure You’re Not Violating Any Other Google Guidelines
Finally, since Google said this update targeted website’s that were not following their webmaster guidelines, you may want to review their guidelines to ensure you aren’t practicing any black hat or out of date SEO techniques such as:
- Automatically generated content
- Participating in link schemes
- Creating pages with little or no original content
- Doorway pages
- Scraped content
- Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
- Loading pages with irrelevant keywords