Yabba Dabba Doo: Google Confirms “Fred” Update That Targets Low Value Content



What is Fred?

The algorithm update, called “Fred,” that rolled out around March 8, 2017 is another one of Google’s efforts to counter the deceptive efforts of ad-heavy sites with low-quality content (and often low-quality backlinks) primarily focused on revenue generation. It’s an effort by the search engine giant to reward sites that prioritize helping users first rather than getting a quick sale.


Who did it affect?

It was reported that many e-commerce sites took a hit for the first few weeks following the update, and then saw an increase in rankings toward weeks three and four (better rankings than reported prior to the update).

According to reports, some sites saw up to a 90% drop in traffic. Characteristics of the types of sites affected were:

  • Sites written for ranking purposes more than users
  • Sites with unnatural backlinks
  • Sites with content on a vast array of topics and no focus on any one specific topic

Were most eCommerce sites affected? 

The short answer is, not really. We’ve analyzed metrics from a few of our ecommerce clients’ Google Search Console accounts between March 1 and April 23, as well as SEMrush data for the past month and noticed a few fluctuations that either benefited or had little impact on their organic performance.


eCommerce Sites Affected by the “Fred” Algorithm Update | 451 Heat
eCommerce Sites Affected by the “Fred” Algorithm Update | 451 Heat

Non-secure eCommerce – Sporting Goods

This client, in the sports equipment and goods space, experienced a small decline in organic impressions following the algorithm update, followed by an uptick in impressions in the first 2 weeks of April. There was also a sizable increase in the estimated number of visits based on organic rankings, position and CTR (SEMrush) in the second week of April.

google-new-Algorithm-3google-new-Algorithm-4Secure eCommerce – Discount Furniture

This company, a large discount furniture retailer, saw a small decline in clicks following the algorithm update while average position remained consistent. SEMrush reported a small increase in estimated traffic based on the estimated number of visits from keyword rankings, average position and CTR

google-new-Algorithm-5google-new-Algorithm-6non-secure eCommerce – Pools & Pool Supplies

This client saw a noticeable increase in clicks and average position 3-4 weeks following the Fred algorithm update. SEMrush also reported an uptick in estimated visits based on keyword rankings, avg. position and CTR.


What can we do from here?

As a strategic digital partner to our clients, we ensure their eCommerce sites are focused on, and consistently optimized toward helping users and readers at various stages of the research and buying process by providing unique and meaningful content on product & category pages, as well as providing top-of-the-funnel informational content throughout the site.

In short, as long as on-site content remains helpful and is aligned with searcher intent, there should be little to no negative impact from similar updates moving forward.

If you think you’ve been affected by “Fred,” the answers you are looking for are in Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines.

Fred is just another reminder from Google that it’s important to create high-quality, unique and relevant content that aims to help your end users. Don’t overload your site with affiliate links or ads, and don’t try to deceive users into thinking ads are organic content. Finally, make sure to disavow any spammy or unnatural backlinks to your website so they don’t count against you.


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