Major Google update During March 2017 – who is Fred?
“Who is Fred?” This is the question on everyone’s lips in the SEO community, following what appeared to be a major algorithm update in March. Signs that a Google algorithm ranking update took place on 8th March led to widespread speculation in the world of SEO marketing.
It took more than two weeks for the reports to be officially confirmed, despite Google’s webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, jokingly referring to it as, “Fred” prior to this when speculation was rife. Although he later stated this wasn’t an official confirmation, the name stuck and it became known as “the Fred update”.
Drop in Traffic
Following reports of a widespread impact in the SEO community, this saw some affected sites experiencing a drop in traffic of up to 90% and now that the dust has settled, Page1 has collected together the relevant information to provide our clients with the facts on this latest Google update.
It wasn’t until 24th March that Illyes confirmed the update via his Twitter feed, in response to repeated questions from followers. He tweeted: “Obviously, there was an update. Why would we deny that?”
It was something Google would have found hard to deny, since the automated Google tracking tools had showed strong signs that it had taken place, targeting the link quality aspects of the algorithm. However, it’s rare that Google confirms an algorithm update, although this doesn’t stop industry insiders from reporting large shifts in search results that suggest it has happened.
Users of SEO community chat forums interpreted the update as encouraging the use of more high-quality content on sites. As one user pointed out, “If someone didn’t put fresh content up for a long time, then they need to look back and check old content. If the old content matches with the Fred update guidelines, then that’s okay – otherwise, immediately change it. Put fresh content into the website to get better results.”
The automated tracking tools showed significant fluctuation and volatility – so combined with much industry chatter and webmasters either complaining about ranking declines or celebrating ranking increases, Illyes was simply confirming what everyone knew anyway.
Some trends analysts had collected sample URLs from webmasters who had been hit by the Fred update – and after reviewing more than 100 sites, it was suggested that sites with low-value content, who were putting revenue before helping users, had been targeted.
They showed a 50% to 90% traffic decline from Google organic search in the days after the update. Many of those affected had content wrapped around ads, with the ads hard to distinguish from the content.
The answer to why some sites got hit was in the existing webmaster guidelines, according to Illyes, although he did not confirm the update had targeted low-value content sites aimed more at revenue generation than helping their users.
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