Google rolls out updates all the time. In fact, every year Google changes its algorithm 500 to 600 times. And most of these updates are minor – but when something big happens that starts to affect rankings around the world, it usually means a big one has hit.

No official confirmation has been given from Google per se, but Google’s Gary Illyes has unofficially confirmed the update – jokingly called ‘Fred’ – via his Twitter. John Mueller from Google also went some way to confirming the update which, from our research, appears to target low-value sites which are light on content and heavy on ads and/or affiliate links.

The word is that the update is targeting sites where there are intrusive interstitials (pop-ups/web pages that display before or after your expected web page), and things like chat boxes or pop-ups that take over content can also cause penalties for your site.

Take a look at your search analytics from the 9th of March.

Depending on how your site was affected, you may have a fair bit of data missing during that time, as that was when the update was rolling out. The sites which will be hit the hardest are the ones with poor backlinks or low-quality content and information – especially content sprinkled with ads that make it hard to distinguish where the content stops and the ad starts.

Key Issues Targeted by Google Fred

After exploring a large number of sites affected, we believe that the biggest issue people will have is if they are rocking a low-quality web page. What we mean by this is that if you have duplicate pages, duplicate page titles or even low-speed issues, you might be hit by the Fred update.

Many of the sites hit looked like they were fairly content driven with a fair amount of ad placement. In many cases, it appears as though the sites affected were set up to create revenue for the site owners, without any real benefit to the user. SEO toolset data collection company Sistrix confirmed this with their own analysis toward the end of last month.

In a lot of cases, the people who were affected by the update reported a huge drop in traffic – around 50-90% – but that a big recovery was made when they removed their ads.

What You Can Do Today About the Fred Update

If you’re worried about how the latest update from Google may be affecting your site, never fear – we have a list of ways to mitigate any potential damage from Fred.

  • Look at your analytics. Specifically, pay attention to the traffic for the dates between March 5th and March 20th. If you noticed any kind of drop in traffic or in the number of keywords you ranked for, then read on!
  • Explore your content. Try to sort your content into two groups: current and high-quality content, and out-of-date and low-quality content.
  • Try and match your lost keywords with any of the low-quality content.
  • Get started with updating and upgrading your content immediately. You can add content, rewrite content and make your low-quality pages a lot better. A great place to start is with the pages that were delivering you the most content before the Fred update.

If you have any questionable backlinks, you should use a backlink spam tool to find and get rid of any of the problematic backlinks. As an example, you should look at no-follow to follow ratios, anchor text similarity and other similar credentials, which are all things that Google explores when looking at the value of your backlinks.

How to Avoid Fred Penalties (And Future Penalties Too)

Google wants to provide a great search engine so that when people search for something, they find high-quality content at the end of their search. That’s their ultimate goal. So, the most reliable way to mitigate potential penalties is to ensure that all of your content and backlinks across your site are of high quality.

If you have ever paid for questionable backlinks, Fred might penalise you. Websites with a lot of old content will be punished as well if the content is out of date.

The bottom line?

Always ensure your SEO strategy is focused on delivering impressive results from high-quality content and backlinks. It’s as simple as that.