At 21 Handshake, we have been keeping an eye on Google Fred algorithm update since it appeared to happen a couple months ago: Because Google is operating more on a real-time update basis, many wondered if we’d ever see a major update again, or what it might portend. But so far it looks like the Fred update really did happen, and it’s time to talk about the effects this has had on page ranking for sites around the web – including yours.

The Fred Update

The Fred update appears to have occurred around March 8th, 2017. Like most Google updates in the past few years, it’s designed to hit hard against websites that have what Google deems poor SEO practices that lower the general quality of online content in pursuit of higher rankings. Google tends to be unforgiving on this point.

What is the impact of being hit by the Fred update? Not pretty! Sites found to be offending the latest standards and practices set in place by the Google update saw their internet traffic dip by as much as 80%. This isn’t the sort of update you can just ignore or assume will be harmless to your own site.

Techniques Getting Slammed by Fred

So, what is Google frowning on with Fred? Fred appears to be focused on several popular techniques that were once upon a time more in the “gray hat” column, or a little manipulative but certainly not illegal or unprofessional. Google has now, using its position as leader of internet searches, pushed such practices into the black hat category. This includes:

  1. Shallow content: Restrictions on shallow, repetitive content are now harsher than ever. Google wants content to actually do something beyond serve as a vehicle for keywords and prefers that content be created by professionals – or at least people who know what they’re doing. Outsourcing content to cheap overseas mills is now even more difficult than before.
  2. Too much advertising: Websites now layered in thick ads that disturb the experience will be scored more harshly than before.
  3. Too many affiliate links: This has hit a lot of websites hard: Affiliate links are how many sites make extra profit by linking to a seller and frequently receiving a commission in return. Google is now punishing sites that have too many affiliate links. Fortunately, this is more of a B2C than B2B problem.
  4. Repeating long tail keywords: Google isn’t stupid. It knows that some sites just plug in common keywords into analytics and use whatever similar long tail keywords that don’t have much of a presence online. The problem is that Google sees this as scamming the system. Doing it a few times is probably fine. Doing it over and over again with the latest industry keywords is no longer a strategy.
  5. Broken links: Google has never liked broken links, and most updates include harsher penalties for broken links. Fred is no exception, except it takes an even closer look at link profiles, anchor text, and link location. Always aim for quality links, and fix broken links ASAP!

What to Do If You Are Nervous

Don’t worry too much. If you were going to be hit by Fred, it would have probably already happened. But this is a good time to get your digital house in order and avoid all the problems listed above. Focus on quality, and don’t try to cheat the system.

If You Get Hit by Fred

If the problem appears to be your content, then it’s time to clean house. Get rid of old content, especially content that is repetitious, filled with too many links, or generally over-optimized. Start creating new content more focused on appealing to users rather than to Google’s algorithm. Be patience, and wait for improvement.

If the problem appears to be your linking problems, the solution is faster and more automated. Check for broken links, then repair and remove them. Make sure your affiliate links aren’t out of control and remove any if necessary. If you have a ton of internal links on each page, you should start avoiding that practice in the future, too. If you want to get rid of a host of links across a domain, use the Disavow tool from Google.

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