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Google Fred Algorithm Decoded: Protection Tips

Date published: June 12, 2017
Last updated: June 12, 2017

Google rolled out its latest algorithm update in early March. Simply titled “Fred,” the update has caused a drastic drop in website traffic for many businesses.

Multiple Search Engine Optimization specialists, including Interact Marketing, have analyzed the data from websites affected by Fred. It’s clear that Fred has targeted three elements that have caused these traffic drops: thin and irrelevant content, low-quality back-links, and a focus on ad revenue over engaging content.

All three, especially when combined, negatively affect the user experience, which is always the number-one thing Google wants to improve. This is exactly why Google implements multiple algorithm updates throughout the year.

Just how "bad" was Fred? According to Interact Marketing data, some of the more than 120 major company websites we review in our index suffered between a 15% to 35% drop in traffic since March 8.

Fred is watching


Did you notice a substantial drop in organic traffic on your site? If so, what can you do to recover from Fred, and how do you protect yourself from future content, back-link, and advertising display algorithm updates? Following are five solutions that will have positive impacts on your website’s SEO.

Update Outdated Content

Most of the websites affected by the Fred update had outdated content that caused some concern for irrelevancy--something Google obviously frowns against.

Update your content, paying close attention to any content that’s not worth any value, such as products no longer available or events that have passed. Along the way optimize each piece of content with updated targeted keywords and call to actions. Make sure all of your lead forms are concurrent with the latest versions, and any outbound links are not directing clicks to dead webpages.

If you must delete content--like a page about a temporary sales page or past job postings--don’t simply hit the delete button or unpublish it. The best SEO practice is to redirect it to another page through what SEOs call a 301 redirect. Point old product pages to the newest product, or old job postings to your careers page.

Create More Engaging Content

When creating new content, make sure it's relevant and of the highest quality. Don’t skimp on resources for quality; hire only the best content producers, especially those completing the copy-writing.

The writing should be written for humans, not search engines. Google’s algorithms get smarter and smarter everyday, and the latest Fred update is just a continuation of Google’s path to having nothing but valuable content across the web, which includes good writing flow, spelling, and grammar.

Above all, content should be free of grammatical errors, fact checked, and also educate and entertain your readers. Remembering to chunk content into smaller sections with sub-titles (H tags for you SEOs), and stray far from “black hat” SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, as has been the norm for many years now, but we will continue to issue warnings here until we see compliance. Resistance is futile.

There also used to be a case for shorter content due to modern attention spans while online, but based on studies like the Searchmetrics' Ranking Factors & Rank Correlations (, Google rewards websites with longer-form content. The days of 300-word blog posts are gone for those who want success.

Check those Back-links

Back-links are simply other websites that have linked to a page or post on your website for a reference. The problem is some of those websites linking back to you are of poor quality, or even worse, unknowingly display porn or other unwaned links deployed by malware or blackhat spammers. This is where it’s imperative to have an SEO perform some back-link analysis and resolve any bad back-links.  We suggest using webmaster tools (search console) first, but also use third party tools such as MOZ tools to identify and formally disavow bad links.

Less Intrusive Advertising and Affiliates

From our studies, the Google Fred algorithm update had the largest impact on content-heavy websites. Many of these types of websites, such as a news blog or product review platform, create income through advertising and affiliate marketing.

The problem is some of these ads--you know, those annoying pop ups that are impossible to click off without losing the page you’re viewing--are too intrusive. The same goes for some affiliate ads such as the ones within the text you are reading.

The Fred algorithm penalized those sites with the most intrusive ads, which take away from user experience. Again, user experience is the main focus for Google, and always will be.

Think Like a Visitor

This sounds simple, but most business owners get so tied up in CTAs and marketing messages that they forget to think like a visitor. Think about your favorite online experiences, whether you’re searching for a digital marketing agency or someone to clean the rain gutters. How was your online experience, and what drove you to ultimately become a customer or client?

Simplicity will always reign, so keep things that way. Create content that engages and educates your visitors, and you’re much closer to conversion than annoying them with in-your-face information.

Concluding Thoughts

Leaving much of the technical details for business owners, the above five tactics should help improve your website’s SEO if it was hit by the Fred algorithm, and prevent it from being penalized in the future.

Google continuously has its energy set on one thing: improving the user experience. If you build sites and content with the same end-goal, you will usually be pretty safe throughout algorithm updates.


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