Google Fred Update | How to Save Your Site
Google Fred Update and What It Means to You
Between the first and second week of March 2017, web marketers were scrambling to discover the meaning and far-reaching effects of the Google Fred Update. Understanding Google updates usually requires a bit of science—guessing and checking, if you will—because Google tends to refuse to comment on its updates. Let’s face it, its algorithm is what makes Google who they are and no one is going to give away the secret sauce.
With a team that specializes in business-to-business digital marketing, we were watching traffic closely and keeping our ear to the Web, so we could see how our clients would be affected by the update.
Here’s the good news: the overwhelming majority of our clients at least were unscathed by the Fred Update. And, the reason for that is relatively simple: we tend to work with sites that are often tutorial in nature, with high value content—all the things that Google wants to see. Most Google algorithm updates penalize those who provide low quality content or are otherwise gaming the system. That’s the cardinal rule: give people and Google what they want and your site is less exposed to the latest Google update.
What Does Google Fred Target?
Over the years, various Google updates—we’re looking at you Panda and Penguin—have had both broad and specific targets in their sights. Google’s Fred Update is no different, and it has caused a lot of debate and discussion among internet marketing professionals. The key takeaways from those who have been able to track down sites that have apparently been affected by Fred is that low content-value niche sites that exist to generate revenue, or low value sites providing little more than lead forms, seem to have been most affected by Fred.
Those sites are reporting as much as a 60% drop in organic traffic. That's pretty massive.
Niche sites are websites that target slivers of markets. If you want to sell car parts, that’s a pretty big market. If you want to sell only car tires, you’ve narrowed it down. If you are focusing on car tires only for Porsches, you have a niche site. There is nothing wrong with a niche site. However, if that site is providing no useful content and making its money through recycled/white label content surrounded by ads, it will most likely be hit by Fred. There have been many reports of people owning sites like this who have turned off their ads and watched their rankings return. Some have gone so far as to turn ads off and on a few times, just to verify how much better their sites were now doing without ads since the update.
Fred Is Not Done
Earlier, I mentioned how the Google Fred Update took place between the first and second week of March. The reality is that is when we first started seeing its effects. It can take weeks or months for an update to roll throughout the Google algorithm and all the websites indexed by Google.
That is to say: just because you have not been hit been the most recent Google Update yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future.
How to Protect Your Site from Google Fred
Broad consumer websites often do not fall into the category of niche sites. If you have one of those, make decent sales, are not selling a ton of advertising on your site, and add or swap out products on a regular basis, you’ll probably be okay. For the business-to-business side, however, there is a good chance your site is niche by its very nature. How wide of a market are you actually targeting?
If you are using "best practice" landing pages with little content, no links off them except for the form completion, etc.: consider "no indexing" those pages. While they are great for conversion, they are low quality content in Google’s eyes.
If you do not have a blog or news section that is regularly updated, get one. Don’t buy your content from a white label content mill, either. Write it in house or hire a professional writer or writing team to create the content specifically for you.
Look over your core pages. If you have a lot of short, low value pages, look at combining them into fewer, more robust pages.
Work on your internal linking, so your content plays off itself and Google sees that it is more closely related.
Content is Still King, But . . .
While there are a lot of ways to build traffic, with things like the Google Fred Update there are just as many or more to lose traffic. Keeping on top of these updates and doing your best to provide what both people and Google want requires study of trends, applications of psychology and marketing knowledge, and understanding of machine learning.