Google ‘Fred’ Update Targets Ad Heavy, Low Value Content Sites

Posted on 23 Mar 2017   |   Filed under

Google ‘Fred’ Update Targets Ad Heavy, Low Value Content Sites

By Joanna Miskin

Google updates its search algorithm around 500–600 times; sometimes up to three times per day throughtout the course of the year. While many of its changes are minor, the search engine giant will work on, and then release two to three 'major' algorithmic updates (such as Google Panda and Google Penguin) which directly affects the way your business ranks in Google against your key search terms in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).

It has been a few weeks since the last Google algorithm update - still unconfirmed by Google - nicknamed 'Fred' and thought to be released on March 8 - and it appears to largely be another attempt to combat link spam, which was then potentially supported by a tweet from Gary Ilyes, Head of Spam at Google, who posted 'there's no inherent problem with affiliate links. The problem is when a site's sole purpose is to be a shallow container for aff links'. This supports the theory that websites which invested in thousands and thousands of spammy links to falsely boost their popularity for certain keywords would be tackled and downgraded. 

The symptoms of Fred seem to mainly be affecting lots of private blog networks (PBNs) with Google possibly now able to detect them and devalue the links that are associated with them.

Barry Schwartz, Editor of Search Engine Land, who spent the week after the unconfirmed update gathering information and sample URLs from webmasters who claimed to have been hit, stated that 'the vast majority of URLs shared all show the same type of website. A content site, often in a blog format, but not always, that has content on various topics — which looks to be written for ranking purposes and then has ads and/or affiliate links sprinkled throughout the article'.

Many of the sites hit are understood to be ones that are not industry expert sites, but ones that seem to have content on vast array of topics that are not adding all that much value above what other sites in the industry have already written. Some of these sites are believed to have suffered a decline in organic traffic of between 50 percent and 90 percent.

In the broadest sense, all signs lead to ‘Fred’ being the latest in a series of updates which focus on the quality of a page or site and the various aspects of a page on site that affect its quality, with an overall aim of making the search experience the best it can be for the customer.

Affiliate sites which in the past looked to 'get rich quick' by ranking fast and high, and selling on leads, knew the risks and were probably not looking at longevity. Businesses with a commitment to developing and evolving their website offering, with the customer at their core, are highly unlikely to be affected as their content will directly reflect what they promote.

Google is still yet to comment.

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