"Fred" Update in SEO — March 8, 2017

Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. Gary Illyes jokingly referred to is as "Fred", and the name stuck, but he later made it clear that this was not an official confirmation

What is Google FRED:

If your rankings dropped in March, 2017, you’re not alone. In mid-March, the search community went abuzz with rumors of a new Google algorithm update aimed at black-hat SEO tactics. Named Google Fred, this update caused a huge shift in rankings and traffic for sites deploying black-hat and heavy ad monetization tactics.

What’s in this FAQ:

  • What is Google Fred?
  • What websites were affected?
  • How to tell if your site was affected by the algorithm update
  • Google Fred recovery
  • Google Fred update SEO tactics

So What Is Google Fred?

What is Google Fred? Google Fred is an algorithm update that targets black-hat tactics tied to aggressive monetization. This includes an overload on ads, low-value content, and little added user benefits. This does not mean all sites hit by the Google Fred update are dummy sites created for ad revenue, but (as Barry Schwartz noted in his observations of Google Fred) the majority of websites affected were content sites that have a large amount of ads and seem to have been created for the purpose of generating revenue over solving a user’s problem.

Schwartz, one of the industry’s leading SEO experts, reported that the websites he analyzed saw 50 to 90 percent drop in traffic from the update.

A website penalized by Google Fred. The ads are highlighted in yellow, and are the most prominent pieces on the page. The content is thin and unclear on the purpose.


The majority of the websites affected had one (or more) of the following:

  1.  An extremely large presence of ads
  2. Content (usually in blog form) on all sorts of topics created for ranking purposes
  3. Content has ads or affiliate links spread throughout, and the quality of content is far below industry-specific sites
  4. Deceptive ads (looks like a download or play button to trick someone into clicking)
  5. Thin content
  6. UX barriers
  7. Mobile problems
  8. Aggressive affiliate setups
  9. Aggressive monetization
  10. How To Tell If Your Site Was Affected By the Google Fred Algorithm Update
  11. If you saw a large drop in rankings and organic traffic around the middle of March and are guilty of one of the above, your site was probably impacted.

Google Fred Recovery – How to Overcome Rankings Drop
The Google Fred algorithm  is focused on limited black-hat SEO tactics for aggressive monetization, so the biggest fix is to scale down your ads and increase the quality of your content.

Warning: You may not see an immediate boost in your rankings after fixing your problems. You have to wait until Google releases the next update, which has in 2017 been every month-ish. You should instead focus on long-term recovery with quality content (defined at the bottom of this page) and keep your user experience tight.

For a full Google Fred recovery, we recommend:

Scaling back the amount of ads on your site
Review the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) and follow them as closely as you possibly can
Review the placement of ads on your site. Do they contribute to poor user experience?
Review the user experience of your site, and make a schedule to do this periodically. Keep upping the ante of your content
Review the content to be sure it serves a purpose, and that purpose is outlined in the form of metadata and tags
The number one thing you can do is to manually browse through your site. Is it user-friendly? Are you greeted by ads everywhere you go? Is your content scraped or extremely thin? Think about your users. If it’s not something you would enjoy seeing on other websites, you need to take it off of yours.

Download and view the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines here >>

What Are the Best Google Fred Update SEO Tactics?
If you’re looking for Fred update SEO tactics, we recommend you memorize the Google Quality Rating Guidelines and be sure every piece of content on your site is compliant with the best practices. These are the factors Google considers extremely important when it comes to quality:

Clear indication of who the website belongs to
Clear indication of what the page is about
A well-maintained and updated page, which means it’s error-free, loads quickly, and has few technical errors
Excellent website reputation (quality of backlinks, industry awards, positive user reviews, and expert testimonials all contribute to excellent reputation)
Content that demands at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill


Google Webmaster Hangout where Google Fred Is Discussed

What Is Google Hummingbird?

What Is Google Penguin?

What Is Google Panda?

Google Algorithm Change History

Google FRED Update SEO Moz

Google FRED algorithm



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