Fred: A Link Quality Update?

The webmaster community felt a monumental tremor in the SERP rankings in March 2017 which led to speculations on whether Google rolled out an update. Google guys John Mueller and Gary Illyes provided the typical cryptic answers on Twitter, but the tweets actually gave the update its moniker.

What’s It For

Although Fred wasn’t officially confirmed by Google, Mueller and Illyes’ responses as well as the SERP shakeups led to assumptions in the webmaster community that the team tweaked the search engine’s algorithm. The update was believed to improve on how search bots judged the quality of links associated with a page or website.

However, more reports showed that Fred wasn’t a single update but multiple ones with different functions or goals. It’s possible that, on top of link quality, the changes may have enhanced how Google evaluates website quality and other factors that influence the relevance of your page content to users’ queries.

Apparently, the update cracked down on sites with low-value content. These were the ones that prioritized revenue more than catering to the needs of users. The typical nature of most websites affected by Fred are blogs that offer information on a wide array of topics. Their damning quality was that they were obviously written with ranking and revenue in mind through unnatural keywords and too many affiliate links sprinkled within the article.

What Were Its Effects

The update caused quite a stir in the webmaster community. There were websites that were able to tide the waves in the SERPs while several affected sites experienced a considerable hit with some getting as high as a 90 percent drop in traffic.

One webmaster reported that a substantial amount of their keywords were affected, leaving only five percent of their search terms ranking normally. Another shared that their organic traffic coming from Google appeared to have stopped.

What It Means for You

Affected websites that cleaned up their massive advertising inventory got significant gains in traffic afterward. Aside from ad placement, Fred also cracked down on poor-quality backlinks such as those from websites with low domain authority, broken links, or paid ones. Other issues targeted by the update were deceptive ads, poor user experience, and low mobile-friendliness.

Since Fred was a series of algorithmic updates, there were a lot of factors that it improved on. This made the process of identifying the exact cause of traffic drop quite taxing and confusing. Nonetheless, there are still things you can do to protect your website from future changes.

Here are a few tips on how you can improve your site to help it stay afloat when Google tweaks its search engine:

  • Monitor the Overall Quality of Your Domain More than looking into the details and stressing yourself out in pinpointing which element led to your website losing its position in the SERPs, you must instead focus on how the different parts of your domain work together to bring value to your readers. Ensure that your site is relevant and useful by publishing high-quality content, addressing user experience issues, and fixing technical SEO problems.
  • Audit the SEO of Your Website An SEO audit is crucial since it helps you make sure that your website and pages continue to be useful with regards to search visibility. Keywords and backlinks are still ranking signals, but more factors influence your position in the SERPs such as site speed, responsiveness, domain authority, and technical code.

A few questions you should ask are:
How many backlinks does my website have?
Do they come from authoritative sources?
Are there broken links in my pages?
Have I implemented Schema?
How fast is my site’s loading time?
Is my URL structure optimized?
How does my website look when viewed through mobile phones?

  • Publish with a Quality Over Quantity Mindset While publishing content regularly boosts the freshness ranking signal, the progress you make by posting new articles daily may be harmed when these pages don’t provide useful information to your readers. With this, you should ensure that you have in-depth and relevant content first before making them go live.
  • Evaluate Your Link Profile Your link profile shows how many websites are linking to your domain. Google has always used the number of hyperlinks that direct users to your site as a signal that you are an authority in your niche, depending on the quality of those backlink sources.
    Some tools let you know if your links come from reputable or questionable websites. Remove broken links as well as low-quality ones to associate yourself with authoritative sources and protect you from penalties.