Google FRED Update Takes on a Bad UX

Google Fred Update for SEO

According to SEO sources all across the net, it appears that a significant update to search launched on March 8th, but Google is giving no official response to the unconfirmed update. The update was dubbed “FRED” by the search community in response to a joking comment made by Gary Illyes in the past, whose only comment on this recent update has been the open statement that “[Google] makes updates every day.”


Given the wide scale coverage and severity of this impact to many websites, the name has stuck around with this update while people have been working hard to figure out what it is and why it’s hurting some site’s rankings so hard while helping some others.  Throughout the last couple of weeks it is safe to say this is a real algorithm change- Enter The Google FRED Update.


The avoidance behavior from Google isn’t particularly unusual, considering there have been numerous unannounced updates that have rolled out in the past year. However, given the reports from websites that have had their traffic lowered up to 90% many are pressing for some direct response and coverage of this change. In the meantime, SEO agencies and analysts have been working to decipher this update and figure out what seems to have triggered the hardest hits in overall search ranking.

Referencing Algoroo, a tool that shows rankings volatility across the web, things have certainly been shaken up:

Google Fred Update Search fluctuations


So what is going on here?

Given the large amount of chatter from the black hat regions in the SEO community, evidence suggests that these recent changes are further responses by Google to ever-evolving attempts at spam and what they consider “disingenuous” online marketing tactics. The consensus many experts have come to is that the FRED update mostly targets sites with ad-focused content that prioritize revenue above helping the users of their site and helping search in general. If you’ve performed local seo, national seo, or ecommerce seo in the past you’ll want to read on.


Who exactly is effected by FRED?

When looking more in depth at the sites that have been hit with this loss of traffic, there have been some similarities that a large majority have in common. Notably, that most do not look like industry experts, but websites composed of an assortment of blog-styled content on a variety of topics, and these sites do not particularly add useful information or discussion to the topics of their content.

Rather, the content on these websites focuses more on making money, often using multiple affiliate links or other forms of revenue generation. In many cases, these links and advertisements are difficult to distinguish from the rest of the content, and the content itself is often written to focus on SEO and rankings instead of information. Both of these strategies have been mentioned in the past by Google as things that they would start cracking down on more.  We are seeing affiliate heavy websites that have low time on site take a big hit.  These sites are clearly making money from SEO and Google is not a fan (especially if you are not using AdSense and showing their ads on your site – hint, hint).

Here is what Analytics looked like for a number of these websites:

Google FRED analytics taking a big drop


Does The Google FRED Update effect only these affiliate type of sites?

While these do not account for all of the websites affected by the Fred update, this does represent a majority of those were hit the hardest. Of which, these sites saw an average trend of 50 percent to 90 percent decreased traffic through organic search—what can only be described as a massive blow to any website. The few percent that has not matched these trends may have been affected by other algorithm changes that went into effect around the same time, since according to Gary Illyes, “[Google search] has 3 updates a day on average.” There may also be the chance that there are more details to this update than has been discovered or discussed yet.

To hear more on the Google FRED algorithm update you can hear directly from Barry Schwartz in this video:


At Search Marketing Expo, Gary Illyes did state that the ‘FRED’ update targeted sites that are going against something within Google webmaster guidelines. He didn’t say specifically what that something is but the above presents enough data to draw a strong conclusion.

An SEO toolset data aggregator published their analysis of the Google Fred update after reviewing 300 sites that were affected by this algorithm.  They make a strong point after reviewing the data and consider sites that took a hit to be of low value content:

…advertisement, outdated, thin and scraped content, as well as incomprehensible articles made up of 300 word ‘SEO texts’ pumped to the brim with main keyword mentions and void of any useful information or a sense of readability.

One of these websites that took a hit is  Here you can see the rankings distribution prior to Fred: organic rankings distribution before google fred algorithm update

Looks pretty solid, right?  Almost 500 Page 1 rankings and over 600 page 2 rankings.  This chart below shows what happened once Fred hit:

organic rankings for after google fred update

With this snapshot from AHRefs, you can see the obvious hit post algorithm update:

freeware files organic keyword rankings snapshot post google fred algorithm


More Updates than Google Fred Alone?Gary-Illes-on-Twitter-about-Google-Fred-Algorithm-Update

On April 3rd, Gary Illyes confirmed that over the weekend when the Fred algorithm update occurred, there were also other algorithms that got integrated as well.  He added that each specific addition to the algorithm were separate updates and had other goals and tasks that they accomplished outside of Fred.

It does seem that we are getting really into some more specifics on this but the update appears to be several moving parts with one main result.



Google Fred Update Infographic

For those that like a more graphic explanation to what has been going on with the Fred Algorithm feel free to use the infographic below for reference:

Google Fred Update Infographic


The Google Fred update hasn’t meant been bad news for everybody, however, since while Google culls some black-hat heavy sites, this leaves room for many websites using more “friendly” marketing strategies to fill in the gaps. Many sites did indeed see an increase in rankings and traffic, nearly all of which offer real content that encourages readers to remain on their site longer, and their ads are unobtrusive and identifiable.  At 180fusion, our practices are all white hat work within the parameters of  webmaster guidelines and our core focus is on user experience.  While SEO does take time to build, if you do it the right way with a solid foundation you can live and prosper.

Feel free to contact our analysts to assess the Google FRED update and what the impact has been on your site.



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