Who is Fred? Google’s latest update

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You’ve likely heard a lot about Fred over the past few weeks. So who — or should we say what — is Fred?

Fred is actually the name of Google’s latest update, which took effect on March 7th/8th 2017. It was officially confirmed by Google’s Gary Illyes on Twitter on March 24th. So what impact is Fred having on the search engine results pages?

Well, in true Google style, the search engine has remained tight-lipped about what exactly the update impacts. However, analysis of the rankings post-update suggests that it’s in response to content and link quality.

While they agreed not to discuss the update, Google has suggested that the sites impacted are those which do not follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In his Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller answered one query about the update with a strong emphasis on quality and user experience. He said:

“Essentially, if you are following the Google guidelines and you are doing things technically right, then that sounds to me like there might just be just quality issues with regards to your site. Things that you can improve overall when it comes to the quality of the site.”

“… There is no simple kind of answer, like there is no meta tag that would make your web site higher quality. It is just in general, you probably need to take a step back, get random people who are interested in that topic to review your site compared to other sites to kind of go through a survey to see what you can be doing better to improve the quality of your site overall.”

So what impact has this update had? According to data gathered and analysed by Search Engine Roundtable, some sites experienced up to 90% drops in their organic traffic. Those affected were largely content websites that have been created purely to generate revenue from a number of ad placements rather than enhancing the user experience. A number also had questionable backlink profiles, which will likely make them a target of the new update too.

How should you react to the update then? The good news is that this update is not new information — we’ve known for years that Google is moving away from black-hat SEO tactics and towards a more user-centric approach. If you’ve kept up-to-date with the latest updates, you’ll likely evade Fred’s rampage.

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