Google algorithm updates have and likely always will keep webmasters at the edge of their seats. They seem to rear their head at unforeseen times and can wreak havoc on even the biggest sites.
So no one’s truly safe. And that alone is the reason why you should have an SEO strategy that falls in line with what Google wants — quality, relevant content.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but not entirely impossible. Plenty of sites have and are doing it every day.
The key is to stay abreast of the most recent Google algorithm updates and fix any issues that may have caused your site to lose its rank.
Whether the recent Google Fred update affected your site or not, it’s important to learn all you can about the algorithm changes.
Now, let’s get into the changes Google Fred created in our virtual world.
Did the Google Fred Update Really Happen?
Hopefully, you’ve been paying close attention to the new and improved Google search engine ranking system. After all, it has a new update in tow called Google Fred.
This came about in March 2017, yet there are some who claim nothing happened at all. And that maybe it was just a product of paranoid web developers’ imaginations.
But tell that to the large number of sites that suffered a huge blow to their rankings this past spring. This includes high-profile sites like thefactsite.com, electrical-engineering-portal.com, europeforvisitors.com.
We didn’t hear much once the update rolled out, so there are skepticisms about what Google Fred is and whether it was actually released. Needless to say, Google hasn’t denied it and the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
But we’ll get into that later. First, let’s do a quick review of Google’s past algorithm updates.
Panda: Google’s Quest to High-Quality Search Engine Results
We all know that Google’s top priority is ensuring users have access to high-quality search engine page results (SERPs). And all this means is a list of sites that are highly relevant and written for the user (not search engines).
Google spends a lot of time finding ways to beat webmasters who abuse their algorithms for profits and gains. While Google doesn’t mind you earning an income through their search engine, they do mind you doing it in a shady way.
For example, keyword stuffing — no one wants to read a poorly written web page filled with weird key phrases.
And this brings us to the first Google update called Panda. This sprung about back in February 2011 and penalized many of the websites in its SERPs.
This included sites with low-quality or thin content, which were replaced by better sites. And what determined this was the relevancy of the content based on the user’s search query.
So any site found with plagiarism, little or no content, or content that’s difficult to understand without context dropped in the ranks. Then the inbound links also played a role in your ranking. The lower quality the links, the more it hurt your rank.
The sites flagged by the Panda update received penalties as a whole. So the entire site went down, not just specific pages. This forced webmasters to take a different approach to their site content and design.
Needless to say, the Panda update greatly improved Google search results, filling it with sites with higher-quality content. This is likely due to the monthly updates Panda rolled out during the first two years.
Slowly but surely, the updates integrated into Google’s algorithm, making them less noticeable.
But as always, people found loopholes in Google’s algorithm and attempted to exploit them.
Then Came the Penguin
After learning how to work the new Panda system, webmasters used over-optimization techniques to boost their site rankings.
Most of the techniques were blackhat SEO tactics, which normally consist of cloaking, keyword stuffing, duplicate content and doorway pages.
At the time, these sites weren’t negatively impacted by Panda because they weren’t necessarily low-content enough. However, Google noticed these tactics ruined the user browsing experience.
This is when the Penguin update rolled out, which is pretty much a spam blocker. The purpose of this update was to eliminate any and all sites that used excessive black-hat techniques.
It’s alright to have a little bit of keyword usage throughout a page, but if it’s rampant, then your site gets penalties. The only difference here is that the site as a whole isn’t penalized, just the specific page.
However, if the entire site has the same issue, then the entire site gets penalized.
So What’s the Google Fred Update?
The Google Fred update rolled out without any announcement from Google. So the lack of warning really hit SEOs and webmasters by surprise. So after they viewed their analytics data the day after, they went into a panic.
What makes the Google Fred update a mystery is the fact Google took a while to confirm the update. This left some wondering whether it happened at all. The only evidence we had was the fallout seen by certain websites.
What’s the Purpose of the Google Fred Update?
Since Google isn’t owning up to the update, they aren’t revealing the intent behind it either. But if you look at the history of Google updates, the motive always revolves around improving the quality of the SERPs.
However, it does seem to specifically target how aggressive your monetization tactics are. It appears that those using aggressive methods got the worst impact.
Which Websites Did the Google Fred Update Target?
Many of the websites affected by the Google Fred update were analyzed and it showed there are similarities between a lot of them. In fact, about 95% shared two things in common.
One, the sites were content driven, such as blogs or other content-heavy sites. And two, they had heavy ad placement.
For some of the sites, it seemed their sole purpose was to generate ad revenue rather than to benefit website visitors.
Here are some of the characteristics found in the various websites:
- Lots of affiliate links
- Junk advertisements
- Annoying pop-ups
- Majority of inbound links were low-quality
With the evidence gathered, we can’t help but believe Google Fred is out to get webmasters who are only in it for the money.
However, this theory definitely holds up, especially with other strong evidence. For instance, websites reported seeing an uptick in traffic when they removed or significantly reduced the number of ads on their site.
This further shows the connection between traffic penalties and seedy advertising. Then some websites saw major traffic gains immediately after the Google Fred update.
And what made it even more interesting is the spike in traffic didn’t have anything to do with recent SEO work. It had everything to do with SEO work done way before the update even rolled out.
This suggests that the update isn’t just some overnight change, but an algorithmic tuneup.
Based on the sites affected by Fred, it seems it’s not just about excessive heavy ad placement. We see poor-quality backlinks play a role as well.
This means if your site has backlinks from sites with poor domain authority, or that are outdated, broken or unnatural, then it’s a bullseye for Fred.
What to Do to Appease the New Google Fred Update
Now that you have some idea of what type of sites are being targeted and why, you can make some much-needed tweaks to your strategies.
Obviously, you want to stay away from poor-quality backlinks and excessive ad placement. And, of course, you don’t want thin content on your site.
Since we don’t know exactly what Google Fred’s algorithm aims to do, we have to take extra precautions.
So consider taking the following measures.
Focus On Offering Top Quality
And we’re not just talking on just some of the pages, but every page of your website – your entire website should focus on offering top-quality content.
This includes updating any thin and poorly written content with in-depth, polished text. Also, fix any user experience problems and technical SEO issues you find throughout the site.
Conduct a Complete Site Audit
You should audit each and every page on your website to ensure they all adhere to the quality guidelines of Google. Now, there are two options – you can either do the audit yourself or hire an SEO professional to do it for you.
Either way you go, it’s good to know what the job entails. This way, you can ensure the audit is done efficiently. Here’s a quick list of all areas of your strategy that require auditing:
- Link profile analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Website architecture
- Social media analysis
- SEO technical audit
- Site crawlability quotient
- Content strategy
- Keyword research
- Duplicate content
- Google analytics
- Website accessibility
- Semantic markup
So as you can see, there’s a lot of work involved, which is why it’s best to go with an SEO expert for your website audit. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your Google ranking.
Consistently Push Out High-Quality Content
Every piece of content you create should have great quality, whether it’s a blog post, guest post article or web page content. Any content that’s tied to your URL must be high-quality in every way.
This includes providing content that’s relevant, easy to read, in-depth and useful in the eyes of your audience. Overall, your content should be highly valuable, to the point where it becomes sharable on social media.
In fact, that’s one indicator Google uses to determine the quality of content. However, the key is consistently pushing out quality content. So you won’t get away with sometimes having quality content and other times not.
That one great blog post you wrote won’t carry your site very far. You need a blog filled with great content for your visitors to browse through. And if they do stick around to read other content, that’ll further boost your rank.
Get Rid of the Junk in Your Link Profile
Even if links aren’t important to the Google Fred update, it’s good to clean out the junk in your link profile anyway. Why? Because Google penalizes your site for this anyway.
You can boost your Google rank by having quality backlinks. This includes links coming in from sites with high domain authority and relevancy to your industry and audience.
It won’t help to have links pointing to your site from high-quality sites if they’re in an unrelated industry. Visitors of that site aren’t going to find your website valuable, so it’s sending them to a dead end, and Google doesn’t like that.
You can use the Moz Open Site Explorer to evaluate your link profile. Look for the strong links and seek to eliminate the weak ones.
Don’t Overdo the Online Ads
You have to make money, but there’s a proper way to go about it. If you refuse to limit the ad placement on your site, then you risk having your traffic drop tremendously. So you have to choose between losing traffic and revenue or reducing your ads.
Shouldn’t be too hard to choose.
What you want to focus on is removing unsightly banner ads and crammed together ads. Your site should look neat and easy on the eyes.
Some webmasters cram every spare pixel they can with ads, which is a horrible form of marketing. Not only is it a turnoff to your visitors, but it’s also potentially angering Fred.
1…2…Freddy’s Coming for You
Well, this may be true if you don’t take the right steps to amp up your SEO strategy. And what better way to do that than with the help of online marketing experts?
AT TopSpot, we offer a variety of SEO services that can enhance your ranking and lower your chances of receiving penalties. This includes using industry-approved methods to boost your position in the SERPs.
Some of our services include search engine optimization, local marketing, website design and digital marketing consulting. So if you’re looking to boost or maintain your rank in the SERPs, then give us a call today!