Like many of the search engine’s unconfirmed algorithm updates, Google Fred has had a significant impact on websites worldwide. Although Google rarely confirms how its algorithms work, every element of Fred points towards enhancing the average web user’s experience. As such, it’s necessary for site owners to understand what Fred is, how their site is affected, and how to bounce back from penalties.
What Is Google Fred?
Around March 2017, Google introduced a series of updates that came together to form “Fred.” Without ‘officially’ confirming anything, everything about Fred’s updates points towards punishing sites that are self-serving, rather than those that meet the user’s needs. Such sites include:
- Those that feature lots of ads
- Those without useful content
- Sites featuring bad backlinks
- Sites focusing on promoting affiliate programs
In other words, if the site didn’t serve the needs of the customer; its traffic plummeted. Looking at the list above, such sites were those that wanted to generate revenue, without putting effort into making their pages useful. In some cases, site owners saw their traffic drop by 90-percent overnight.
Fred Is a Virtual Wakeup Call
While there was once a time where site owners could create thin and repetitive content, throw in a few ads, and scatter affiliate links to make money, now they’ll have to invest some serious effort. As Search Engine Land highlights, sites with low-value content felt the impact the most.
While those producing content for such sites may invest time in writing, it’s apparent that they aim to rank rather than provide useful information. In a lot of cases, said sites are lacking in niches; making their money-making aims even clearer to Fred.
Dodgy Backlinks Are Penalized, Once Again
While Google is no stranger to penalizing sites that target backlinks en-masse, Fred is taking a more stringent approach. Site owners whose site features low-quality backlinks, backlinks from irrelevant niches, and a lack of variety on the anchor text front suffered significantly.
In other words, any site owners that attempted to trick Google into ranking them with specific grey SEO tactics saw a plummet in traffic. Together, Google’s new dislike for lazy backlinking and content that prioritizes revenue over usefulness has jolted digital marketers into changing their tactics. Those who saw their traffic drop significantly throughout March were likely affected by Fred.
Seo Is Now All About Customer Service
Google has been taking a customer-focused approach to search engine rankings for a while now. Features such as ‘snippets’ that answer questions at the top of the results page and an emphasis on SERP indicate that the search engine wants to keep its customers satisfied. In the world of Google, those who are performing searches are the customers; not website owners who are trying to make money.
Site owners now need to steer away from tactics such as keyword stuffing, automated backlinking, and tricking users into thinking affiliate links and ads are a part of their content. Like customer service in the ‘real’ world, customer service in the Google world means putting users first and taking an honest approach to what is content and what isn’t.
However, it was only a matter of weeks before Google identified those that served a search purpose and those that didn’t. A good example of providing value and better customer service to site users can be found in high-quality, natural posts about subjects people want to know more about. A good example of providing value and better customer service to site users can be found in quality, natural posts about actual court cases on law blogs. These type of blog posts instantly engage interested readers and posts are less about selling services and more about providing value, which is essentially what Google Fred likes to see.
How Site Owners Need to ‘Behave’
Fred is like a teacher who has come along to reprimand site owners. As such, there are ways members of the SEO world need to behave to either recover or avoid being penalized:
- Content needs to become truly useful. There is a difference between content that’s useful and content that provides users with information. Content that’s useful answers the user’s questions incorporates relevant resources and provides them with actionable advice. That means content will be longer, but Google likes that too.
- Cut down on the ads. If the first thing a user sees when they reach a page is an ad that stops them from reaching the content they want to read, the site isn’t useful. Site owners don’t need to ditch ad revenue entirely; Google requires ads as part of its revenue after all. However, they should become less dominant. Similarly, advertisements should clearly be identified as ads. Site owners can no longer incorporate text ads into their content under the illusion it’s conducive to the user’s experience. Google recommends using no more than three ads per content-rich page.
- Take a slow and steady wins the race to backlinking. Backlinking en-masse continues to be a ‘no-no,’ and using rush backlinking services could mean an entire traffic halt. Site owners need to aim for quality backlinks rather than focusing on quantity. Aiming for quality might mean taking a slower approach, but it’s more effective.
Finally, for those who own either e-commerce sites or those that earn money from ad and affiliate revenue, Fred doesn’t have to lead to a death rattle. Instead, rather than writing posts that focus on scattering affiliate links throughout, they need to alternate between content that’s useful without affiliate or product links, and material that makes money. Overall, continuously keeping the Google customer in mind combats the effects of Fred.