Website owners across the internet this past month have had a “sneaking suspicion” there may have been a new algorithm update over at Google which caused their rankings to take a dive.
Many sites have reported as large as a 50% to 90% drop in organic traffic during this period which certainly caused a buzz on various search engine performance sites as well as both white and black hat SEO forums while the affected owners scrambled for explanations and possible solutions.
Google, of course, has yet to either confirm or deny the existence of a major update and likely never will, however, when pressed for a comment on Twitter, John Meuller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, simply stated that they “make changes every day” and Gary Illyes, also of Google, tweeted “from now on, every update, unless stated otherwise, shall be called Fred”.
So, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then, it’s quite possible it is actually a … Fred? or, perhaps it was simply Panda and Penguin turned up to 11 on the algorithm dial.
Whatever it was, it seems to have impacted the search engine results in proportion to that of a major update.
Since this article was originally published, Google has confirmed there was an update.
While not stated directly, this update apparently targeted overall quality issues, which comes as no surprise as you will learn from reading the rest of this post.
Sorting Through The Rubble Of Fred
SEO experts, such as Barry Schwartz of SEO Roundtable, started looking over some of the affected sites in an effort try and figure out a possible cause for the loss of ranking and initially thought the update had to do with low-quality and spammy links as stated in this article, with a caveat that it was too soon to tell at that point.
This caused many website owners who shared their thoughts on some of the SEO forums, to take a much closer look at their link profiles and to even “disavow” some of them within the Google Search Console.
One such forum member received an email from one of the sites he was linked to asking him to manually remove the link, stating that their site had just been penalized in the update.
Fast forward just a few more days, after having looked at over 150 sites submitted by webmasters who were affected by the Fred update, an obviously sleep deprived Barry concluded that the update targeted “ad heavy, low-value content sites”.
You can hear Barry’s exact comments in the video below.
Additionally, Jim Stewart of Stuart Media also took a look at some of the sites that were submitted to Barry and offers his own opinions as to the issues regarding the websites he looked at, in the video below.
I found Jim’s take very interesting especially with regard to duplicate titles and tags.
Information such as this, and what Barry has offered should give us some insight as to what we should be looking out for as we build out our own sites.
How To Recover From Fred
If your site has been negatively affected by the recent Fred update, it goes without saying there are issues that need to be corrected.
In light of what we have learned so far, the first things I would take a look at are the issues described in the videos above.
Is your content low quality or what is known as “thin content” that was designed primarily to get Adsense clicks or serve as a vehicle for affiliate links?
Google has admitted that your content doesn’t necessarily need to be of the long-form variety and can be shorter in length but, it does have to be relevant, useful content that completely answers the search query.
Try updating and/or beefing up the content so there is a mixture of both long and short form content that fully covers the topic.
If you are running an “ad heavy” site with multiple ads such as Adsense (or whatever ad service you are using) and banners etc. , you may want to remove some of them.
Are these ads really making you money anyway? if not then toss them.
Chances are that these ads could be taking visitors away from your site and some of your more lucrative offers so, take that into consideration as well.
Is the ad placement cluttered or, are they positioned close to links where they might accidentally be clicked?
Also, make sure you are displaying no more than 1 ad “above the fold”.
If you have low-quality backlinks pointing to your site, send a request to the website owner to ask for removal.
If your request is unsuccessful, you can disavow them in your Search Console.
If you have cheap, spammy paid links or have otherwise participated in any link schemes, you should disavow them as well.
Look at your internal linking structure, are you using varied anchor text?
What about comment spam?
Do you have affiliate links on the majority of your pages?
The majority of the content on your site should be useful, helpful content so centralizing your links to certain money pages while linking to those pages internally from your other content should help with that.
There are some experts who agree with the 80/20 rule meaning that 80% of your content should be educational or helpful in nature with 20% being promotional.
While some of the suggestions posted above may seem a bit “newbish” to someone who has been doing this awhile, we sometimes have a tendency to “forget” or “overlook” some of the basic best practices when building out our websites.
Some may even be doing this intentionally in an effort to try and circumvent the latest algorithm or, have previously hired an SEO company who ended up sacrificing long-term stability in favor of short-term gains.
As we move forward, we need to keep in mind that Google is in the business of providing the most relevant results for the search query with a focus on high-quality content and, is constantly updating their algorithm and working to become better at doing this.
Along with these algorithm changes, it stands to reason that some of the SEO tactics that were quite acceptable a year or two ago may end up getting your website sent off to Google purgatory or, getting it de-indexed altogether, as they continue to tighten the screws on what they consider to be low-quality or attempts to manipulate the search results.
It may be a good idea to periodically do a site audit to make sure you aren’t violating any of the best practices, have spammy backlinks, broken links etc.
Figuring Google Out
I sometimes find it ironic that many people spend so much time trying to figure Google out.
You see things like this all the time:
What is Google targeting now? What are the components of their top-secret algorithm?
Google publishes tons of content, tutorials and, videos that clearly outline all of the best practices for building out your website.
They not only tell you what to do but, also what not to do.
I linked out to some of that content within this article.
They also provide free tools such as Search Console, Analytics and, PageSpeed Insights as you are probably aware.
It’s all right there, laid out for you and, I could make a wild guess that what is included in those tutorials and guidelines are what is making up that secret algorithm.
Google has taken great pains to tell you exactly what they are looking for.
Those of you who are return visitors to my site know that I belong to an online learning platform and community where we are taught to build our online businesses according to those best practices and as a result, the membership never has to worry about Google updates because we aren’t affected by them.
In fact, in our community, with thousands of members, there wasn’t even the slightest whimper of the Google Fred update having any negative impact whatsoever on anyone’s website.
To the contrary, we had a member who reported a sudden spike in traffic of 259% during the exact period of the Fred update.
Need Any Help?
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