Every now and again, an algorithm update comes along to shake up our reports. On March 8th, Google quietly rolled out the loosely-confirmed Fred algorithm update. According to industry reports, sites affected by Fred saw drops in traffic of 90% (yes, ninety percent) and upwards. While this happened, agency teams, writers, and SEOs went to work on figuring out just what happened and how to get back Google’s love.

Here’s the quick response to what the Fred update is: Another step towards better web content for users. Fred works to align result with intent more accurately. Just like as marketers we intend to align brands with the hearts of users, Fred intends to align content with the hearts of its users. 

Fred has friends

Per Google’s Gary Illyes, there wasn’t just Fred around the time of Fred’s release. There were several smaller updates that each had an agenda. While per Illyes, “all updates are Fred”, it appears Fred wasn’t alone and brought friends to March’s house cleaning party. Now that we have the quick response to what Fred is, what does it mean for agencies?

What sites were affected by Fred?

It appears the sites hardest hit by Fred are those with low quality, ad-heavy content that are also heavy in spammy links. So, was the update quality-related or link-related? Both. We can look at Fred as spring cleaning for the sites leftover by the Panda and Penguin updates.

Sites that were affected by Fred seem to follow these profiles:

  • Content that has been overtly written for SEO; this includes heavy headings, keywords, and exact match links
  • Content that barely scrapes the surface of value
  • Sites heavy in duplicate, re-purposed and/or re-spun content
  • Sites with heavy advertising; such as low-value sites that have been developed with the goal of generating revenue with ads and links
  • Sites with spammy backlink profiles. Tip: check Moz‘s spam score on your links
  • Sites with automatically generated content that provides little value to users
  • Sites with thin or minimal content

How can Fred-affected sites be fixed?

Those who have made a buck writing content especially for the SERPS may see their journey come to an end. What was once ‘content is king’ has become ‘user is king’. Everything we design, write, publish, and promote needs to be designed to provide value. Marketing is now beyond inbound. Marketing is storytelling. It’s engaging, it’s user-friendly, it’s something you bring to the party, and everyone wants to get to know. Content should be inspiring, passionate, real, hand-crafted, and genuine.

At the end of the day, many of the sites that took a plunge bounced back by April — a trend which is customary following an update. While it may seem apocalyptic at first after an update is released there’s often a bounce back. The update is launched in beta and needs some fine tuning — we saw this with both penguin and panda. While an agency’s first reaction may be to jump in and begin checking links, analyzing content or checking search console, waiting for the dust to settle and seeing where the site lands is a good idea. In other words, if you make changes right away and the algorithm is still adjusting you wouldn’t know if your adjustments worked for the initial rollout or the adjustments. Just watch the site and check back next month.

What has Fred done to your sites?

Have you gotten them back into good graces or were you not affected? Did you see an increase or benefit? We want to know. Tell us in the comments section. Cheers! Team Savy