In March of 2017, if you are a Singapore SEO consultant, it would be apparent to you that Google has changed their algorithms again. Many websites were plummeting in the SERPs, leaving many scrambling to find out just what had happened. As is normal for Google, they were reluctant to tell people just what had happened. They were barely even willing to acknowledge that anything had happened at all. The changes, as secretive as they were, unofficially acquired the name “Fred” as somewhat of an in-joke.
According to SearchEngineJournal, it was casually named as such by Google webmaster analytics expert, Gary Illyes, who has a habit of naming anything without a name “Fred”. In naming the update without even acknowledging that it happened, “Fred” has also become synonymous with unofficial updates. Illyes has also said that every update from now on will be named Fred unless specifically stated otherwise.
“Fred” is a bit different from other algorithm updates in that it is not a single algorithm update, but rather a serious of updates aimed at targeting quality across the board. Google are constantly making small alterations and tweaks but they rarely get noticed, not with much significance anyway. Fred was noticed in March 2017, though, by rather a lot of people. With many people asking questions and Google being typically secretive over the details, it was up to others in the SEO community to find out who was most likely to be hit by Fred.
The quest for quality content is one that Google is never likely to give up. Just as soon as website owners try to use the system in their favour, Google chooses to remind us all that they are the ones in charge. Google’s product is all about giving their users useful and interesting content, and that is exactly what Fred appears to be all about. Too many marketers are still focusing on profit rather than the quality that they are providing to the user. Too many of Google’s users are finding websites that try to sell them something without giving them what they were really looking for. Fred is helping to ensure that Google can continue to offer a quality service.
Who did Fred Hit the Hardest?
Analyses have shown that those hit hardest by Fred were those that were employing aggressive monetisation tactics. This means lots of ads that detract from a positive user experience, bombarding users with opportunities to buy stuff rather than quality content. While monetisation in itself is not necessarily a problem for Google, doing so while sacrificing everything else is not. Not all owners monetising their sites were hit. Many were just fine. Those that were hit, however, tended to have a lower volume of quality content for visitors to use. Those that suffered also included frustrating pop-up ads that inhibited the user experience.
It appears that monetisation was not the only aspect targeted by Fred, though.
Poor Quality Backlinks
A mainstay of many SEO’s campaign efforts, a good quality backlink profile can be extremely effective at helping sites to rank highly. Again, though, it is that emphasis on quality that Google are focusing on, and many sites with a poor-quality backlink portfolio took a hit. It’s not that Google has a problem with backlinks per say. After all, they are a very useful way of knowing which sites are getting recommendations. This, in turn, helps Google to know which sites should be higher up in the SERPS. Of course, though, they have been abused at every opportunity and Google is continually clamping down. Among those hit the hardest by Fred were those that were sailing too close to the wind where the quality of their backlinks was concerned.
Keeping on Fred’s Good Side
The obvious question that many are asking is just what to do to avoid taking a hit from Fred. Considering that it has targeted those sites with aggressive monetisation tactics, the most obvious answer is to cut back on the ads and back-hat SEO techniques. While ads themselves are OK, they should not be intrusive, and they should not adversely affect the user’s experience. Keep them sensibly placed and in sensible numbers and you should hopefully not get on Fred’s bad side. Try putting yourself in the shoes of your visitor and if you find the ads to be intrusive, then you may well gain unwanted attention from Fred.
Also, make sure that your site has plenty of good quality content that is useful to your visitors. Google is constantly on the lookout for sites with poor quality content so this should be a standard policy anyway. Invest in bringing your site up to scratch in terms of value to your visitors and you should be OK. Provided you keep other aspects in line as well, of course.
As for the backlinks issue: It’s not a new development that poor quality backlinks are frowned upon by Google, so it should come as no surprise to anyone providing SEO services in Singapore that poor quality backlink profiles are being penalised. Aim high. Invest in good quality, informative and useful blogs and articles that will be accepted by good quality 3rd party sites. Google likes good quality content so if your backlinks are found on reputed 3rd party sites that only accept quality, then you will get plenty of positive juice flowing your way. Not only are links on lower quality sites less effective at delivering juice, they are also more likely to see you pick up penalties.
Let’s not forget that Fred is not a single algorithm change, but rather the name given to a constant tweaking to maintain high standards to help people find what they want. This means that Fred could strike again at any time, and without warning, so it is best to be on your guard at all times. Pretty much any SEO out there is likely to be well aware of what Google expects, at least to a degree. If people are caught flaunting the spirit of the rules then they should not be surprised to wake up one day to find that they have been hit. Remember that as some sites are knocked down the rankings, others will take their place. Play it safe and you could take advantage rather than being adversely affected.