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    3 mins

    Google Fred Update

    06 June 2023

    Google’s Fred Update: A Game-Changer for SEO Practices

    The Fred update was unleashed by Google in March 2017. It aimed to refined search results by targeting websites that violated Google’s webmaster guidelines (now called ‘Spam Policies‘) and pushing aggressive or misleading monetisation strategies.

    Understanding the Fred Update

    The Fred update took the SEO community by surprise when it rolled out. Officially unconfirmed by Google, it was named “Fred” by industry experts due to a casual remark made by Google’s then “Chief of Sunshine and Happiness”, Gary Illyes, who jokingly suggested that all future updates be named “Fred.” Nevertheless, the Fred update quickly made its presence felt, impacting a huge number of websites and leaving SEO practitioners scrambling to understand its implications.

    The good news about Fred was that, as so often happens, web publishers that followed Google’s Webmaster Guidelines (now “Search Essentials“) were largely rewarded by the update. So, you only really had to worry if you were following black hat techniques. To quote Gary Illyes:

    “Every single update that we make is around quality of the site or general quality, perceived quality of the site, content and the links or whatever. All these are in the Webmaster Guidelines. When there’s something that is not in line with our Webmaster Guidelines, or we change an algorithm that modifies the Webmaster Guidelines, then we update the Webmaster Guidelines as well.”

    Targets of the Fred Update

    The Fred update primarily targeted websites that employed aggressive monetisation tactics or focused on generating revenue at the expense of good content and a great user experience. Google has always emphasised the importance of user-centric content, and the Fred update was yet another step towards ensuring that websites offering valuable, high-quality content are rewarded with higher rankings.

    Non-Compliant SEO Practices

    To comply with the Fred update, it’s essential to understand the SEO practices that Google sought to address. Several practices commonly associated with non-compliant websites were heavily affected by the Fred update:

    • Thin Content: Websites with low-quality, shallow, or duplicate content were significantly impacted. These sites often focused on generating ad revenue rather than offering substantial value to visitors.
    • Ad-Centric Layouts: Websites that plastered their pages with excessive ads or had an overwhelming ad-to-content ratio were deemed non-compliant. Such layouts hindered user experience and detracted from the quality of the content.
    • Aggressive Affiliate Marketing: Websites excessively promoting affiliate products without adding value or providing genuine recommendations faced penalties. The Fred update intended to discourage affiliate marketing practices that lacked transparency and authenticity.
    • Low-Quality Backlinks: Sites relying on poor-quality or irrelevant backlinks faced scrutiny from the Fred update. Google has been consistently cracking down on manipulative link-building practices, and the Fred update was no exception.

    SEO Best Practices to Comply with the Fred Update

    The Fred update served as a reminder that focusing on user-centric content and ethical SEO practices is key to maintaining and improving search engine rankings. To ensure compliance with the Fred update and align with Google’s Search Essentials and Spam Policies, consider implementing the following SEO practices:

    • High-Quality Content: Focus on creating valuable and comprehensive content that addresses user queries and offers unique insights. Conduct thorough research, provide well-structured information, and strive for originality to stand out from the competition.
    • Balanced Ad Placement: While ads are an essential revenue stream for many websites, it is crucial to strike a balance between monetisation and user experience. Avoid overwhelming users with excessive ads, prioritise content visibility, and ensure ads are relevant and non-intrusive.
    • Transparent Affiliate Marketing: If you engage in affiliate marketing, be transparent about your affiliations and offer genuine recommendations. Provide detailed product reviews, comparisons, and informative content that helps users make informed purchasing decisions.
    • Natural Link Building: Focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks from authoritative and relevant sources. Build relationships with industry influencers, create compelling content that naturally attracts links, and avoid manipulative link schemes that violate Google’s guidelines.


    Conclusion – Quality, quality, quality

    The Fred update served as a wake-up call for websites that prioritised profit over user experience and content quality. As Google continues to refine its algorithms, it becomes increasingly crucial for SEO practitioners to adapt their strategies to align with the search engine giant’s guidelines. By focusing on high-quality content, balanced ad placement, transparent affiliate marketing, and natural link building, websites can not only comply with the Fred update but also establish a solid foundation for sustainable and long-term SEO success.

    If you have any questions about Fred, get in touch with the brilliant SEOs at Go Up! We have a huge amount of experience in recovering from Fred related ranking declines.