The next big Google shakeup occurred on March 8, 2017. It was an unconfirmed yet major algorithm change called none other than the “Fred Update.” The name sounds innocuous enough but doesn’t negate the fallout that many websites have experienced since it rolled out. In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of the update, its implications and what you can do to protect your law firm’s website.
Why is it called Fred?
Most major algorithm updates get their names from various animals (e.g. Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird), so the name “Fred” may see a little out of place. If you’re wondering how it came to be, it was dubbed by Google webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illlyes. Here’s a screenshot of the Twitter conversation that led to it being called Fred.
So there you have it. It’s basically a joke. But the steep decline in traffic that many websites experienced isn’t funny at all.
Google is quite secretive and never actually confirmed the update, which is a pretty regular occurrence. However, SEO experts know for a fact that many sites were affected. According to Search Engine Land, “Google won’t comment about the ‘Fred update,’ but based on our own analysis, many affected sites saw up to a 90 percent drop in traffic.”
90 percent! That’s ridiculous.
This isn’t to say that a 90 percent drop was the norm. For many sites, it was far less dramatic, but it does put some perspective on the implications of the Fred update.
The Reason Behind Fred
Google is engaged in an eternal cat and mouse game with “SEO manipulators” who continually try to game the system in hopes of getting great rankings and those who compromise the user experience by putting low-quality, spammy content on their sites. By all accounts, the Fred update was designed to penalize sites who use an excessive number of ads/affiliate links and who have low-quality backlinks.
Here are quotes from two experts.
Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land – “About 95 percent of the sites that got hit were ones with content that look[s] to be written for ranking purposes and then has ads and/or affiliate links sprinkled throughout the article… they seem to have content on a vast array of topics that are not adding all that much value above what other sites in the industry have already written.”
Sreelal G. Pillai of TechWyse – “Affected sites also have low-quality backlinks in common — meaning that the sites that link back to them all have low domain authority.”
The bottom line here is that going overboard with promotional ads/ links as well as having a poor link profile can hurt you.
This isn’t necessarily anything new considering how Google has been waging war on spammers for years and punishing those who utilize underhanded black hat SEO techniques. The Fred update is just another reminder that you should work diligently to create a positive user experience for your visitors. What is new is that you should also be careful if you place ads or affiliate links in your content. Try to keep these at a minimum to avoid any potential backlash.
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