What ‘Fred’ means for your SEO


On March 8 2017, the SEO industry noticed evidence of Google updating a major ranking algorithm change.

Many in the industry are calling the update ‘Fred’. As a result of Fred, some websites have experienced a heavily significant drop in traffic. However, Google has only just confirmed that these updates have taken place in recent days. So what does this mean for your company’s SEO?

Who has lost traffic to Fred

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land was able to contact and review over 100 websites to gather information as to what the update was targeting (Search Engine Land). Through his research, he concluded that the URLs he reviewed shared a commonality. These were low-value content sites that did not provide any value to their users. Instead, these sites focused on revenue. The content was typically in blog format and addressed various topics. The content was seemingly written to improve ranking with ads and affiliate links embedded within it. The majority of the sites were not produced by industry experts. However, all of the sites Schwartz reviewed had lost 50 to 90 per cent of their traffic. There were a few sites that received a decline in traffic due to other infractions such as link penalties. An observation from a commenter stated that large websites with useful content and only three to four Google ads had completely disappeared. Some websites found that when they removed the ads from their website, their traffic rates returned to the usual flow.

How you should proceed

The best way to test your site is through trial and error, as Luke Ward of Fact Site did, and remove all ads to see if that has any effect. (The Stack). Ward removed a large, above-the-fold ad, two Taboola ads, and a few others and noticed that his traffic flow returned to normal after six hours. However, when he enabled one Taboola sidebar ad, his ranking dropped significantly again. This is not to say that Taboola is a target of the ‘Fred” update. Instead, it appears that network advertising schemes in general are the targets.

Opinion on whether Google’s ‘Fred’ update is only targeting low-content, ad-heavy websites is divided. However, SEO industry experts are in agreement that there is some sort of significant change to Google’s algorithm. If you think you have been affected, try disabling some or all of your ads and give it a few hours to see if your traffic rates and rank improve. The best thing to do is to contact our content managing experts at ALHAUS. We can help find out what is hurting your traffic and make sure to get you back on track!