Have you noticed an unexplained decline or increase in traffic to your website since March?
If so, Fred might be to blame.
“Fred” is the unofficial name given to the Google update that was implemented during March. This is where Google updates their search algorithm … the data they use to decide where each web page should show in the search results for specific search terms.
If you use the Google Search Console to monitor your traffic you may notice that there was no traffic – or not traffic STATS, at least – for a small time around the 8th-9th March. This is when the update was brought in and stats don’t seem to have been recorded during that time.
What Sites Does The “Fred” Google Update Affect?
While Google will never say exactly what changes were made and what they’re now looking for, sharing of on-going monitoring and research can give us an idea of what sort of sites might be affected.
From what those investigating these changes are saying, it appears that sites with “shallow” content are the most affected by a drop in the search engine rankings. That is, sites that have more ads than content or where the content is not of particular value and is there to support lots of ads and/or affiliate links.
That said, it’s important to note that ads and affiliate links themselves are okay. They’re not the issue, when they’re used properly. It’s when the main focus of the site is those ads or links, rather than being able to offer genuine value to readers.
On 13th March Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that:
“DYK 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”
[NB: DYK = Did you know]
So, affiliate links and ads on a site are still okay. You just need to use them properly.
If you do include ads or affiliate links on your website, make sure that:
- you include these in proportion to the amount of content you have on your site;
- your content is of a high standard;
- the focus of your site is the content and not the ads or links.
Other things that seem to be targeted during this update are issues such as slow page speed, duplicate content, duplicate titles and other quality factors.
What Can You Do?
There’s a good post on the FatJoe.co site – The Google Fred Update – What It’s Targeting And How To Fix It – that shows an example of two sites that are both making money by selling affiliate products or advertising. However one is offering value to readers and is a higher quality than the other.
Here are my top 10 suggestions to help your site if you think it may be one of these “shallow” sites. In fact, these suggestions are worth following regardless of whether or not you were negatively affected by this Google update.
- Focus on your website as a source of genuine value to your customers. It should be offering a solution to their problem.
- Create unique content, of a high quality. Or have it created for you.
- Include a variety of content on your site. A mixture of text, images, audio and original videos are worthwhile.
- If necessary, reduce the number of ads you have on your site. You may find people click on them more when you have fewer distractions too.
- As with point 4, reduce the number of affiliate links you have on your site if necessary.
- Create content for your readers and not for the search engines. The search engines prefer this. They like sites that are liked by internet users.
- “No index” your tag pages. A good WordPress SEO plug-in can help with this.
- Make sure your site’s layout and design are user-friendly too. Often simplicity is best.
- Include your keyphrase(s) within your content, but only as much as is relevant and beneficial to the content and your visitors. Don’t add keyphrases just for the sake of it or to make sure you include it x number of times.
- If you haven’t already done so, use Google’s tools such as Analytics and their Search Console. These are both free to use and will help you to monitor and maintain your site.
Sure, there’s other things you can do to improve your site. But focus on those 10 points above and you’ll be off to a good start.
Staying In Google’s Good Books:
Remember … Google is not your enemy.
They simply want to ensure that people searching for information are provided with suggestions for the most helpful sites for their searches. So by giving people what they want you’re giving Google what they want and helping your site too.