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Google Fred Update Targets Ad Heavy, Low Value Content Sites

     
4:39 pm on Mar 13, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The Google Fred Update which we first spotted rolling out early morning on March 8th seems to be fairly big. After reviewing well over 70 sites that were hit by this update, 95% of them share two things in common. The sites all seem content driven, either blog formats or other content like sites and they all are pretty heavy on their ad placement. In fact, if I dare say, it looks like many (not all but many) of them were created with the sole purpose of generating AdSense or other ad income without necessarily benefiting the user.

[seroundtable.com...]
4:50 pm on Mar 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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People who don't plan ahead, and repeatedly revamp their sites, producing something that's always changing -- it's no wonder that google's algorithm could get confused. It's ridiculous.

Constant change may be a waste of time (and could be harmful), but evolution is inevitable, especially for older sites.

Example: When my wife and began our main site back in the 1990s, it covered a lot more minor topics than it does now. Over the years, other sites have sprung up to cover those topics, so we've gradually eliminated whole sections of the site that no longer seemed valuable enough or unique enough to justify maintaining. Doing so hasn't hurt our rankings, traffic, or revenue, and it has freed up time for more productive endeavors.

I agree that constant tweaking to satisfy people's imagined (and quite possibly mistaken) deas of what Google wants is foolish. If you've lost traffic in a Google update, it probably isn't because your average page length is 800 words instead of 1,200 words or because you haven't obsessed enough about keyword density.
5:10 pm on Mar 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@aristotele Why do you update to HTML5 and if you add HTML5 elements to the site, do you update the DOCTYPE too?
5:43 pm on Mar 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A good writer already avoids long unbroken blocks of text regardless of the screen size. If you do it right from the beginning, you shouldn't need that kind of adjustment for mobile.

guggi2000 -- a few years ago I converted several of my sites to html5 to allow me to use some of the new tags such as <section>, <article>, <main>, <nav>, and <footer>. Yes, I updated the DOCTYPE too.
7:10 pm on Mar 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A good writer already avoids long unbroken blocks of text regardless of the screen size. If you do it right from the beginning, you shouldn't need that kind of adjustment for mobile.

The definition of "long unbroken blocks of text" is in the eye of the beholder, and blocks of text that look perfect on a smartphone may look like free verse on a large monitor.
9:00 am on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I hereby confirm that Fred Update is the most stupid algorithm update in Google history.
You are totally wrong if you keep talking about contents quality, users experience and webmasters guideline.
Here is what Fred Update of Mar 8th 2017 likes most. You really don't need to be a SEO expert or something to rank high on Google SERPs. You just need to make a lot of lists of different subjects and resources. Titles of pages should look as follow for examples:

Top 10 International Widgets Providers

The 18 Best Widgets Providers Worldwide

20+ Best Widgets Providers In Canada

5 Best Widgets Producers In Europe

Top Widgets Providers In USA

And you talk about Google prefer quality of contents, users experience and webmasters guidelines?

You must be joking :)
10:44 am on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And you talk about Google prefer quality of contents, users experience and webmasters guidelines?


There's an insight into how Google's algorithm works contained within those kinds of SERPs and that insight is going over your head.

I will not however discuss what that insight is, not publicly. Consider this an encouragement to stop scoffing and start trying to understand and then improve.

Good luck,

Roger Montti
11:37 am on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@resller I agree with you although over the last year or so I have seen these affiliate sites appear more and more.
I have also seen these affiliate sites have their their lists in the knowledge graph as though there biased garbage are facts. Nothing good about these sites just people found a way to trick googles schema, machine learning and whatever elese into thinking what google is reading is knowledgable expert stuff when its not.
12:41 pm on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What works today might not work tomorrow .... we've seen cycles of questionable serps over the years. And we've seen g modify their algos to address these.
4:03 pm on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The message of my previous post on this thread to my WebmasterWorld friends whom websites have been hit by Fred Update of Mar 8th 2017 and accordingly have lost and loosing revenues: It isn't necessary that your websites have been hit by Fred Update because they aren't in accordance with Google Webmaster Guidelines. Not at all.

You don't really need to make big changes on your websites. May I suggest that you give Fred Update what it likes most and what I have already explained in my previous post on this thread.

Good Luck :)
6:05 pm on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So, instead of "how to build a plane", I should write : "the best way to build a plane"? :U
8:22 pm on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Or not be fixated on "plane" (which can be a level of existence, an inclined ramp, orwood working tool) but instead increase the vocabulary to include things like "airplane", "aircraft", "aeroplane", "air ship", "heavier than air vehicle" .... we generally do not discuss keywords at WW, but the example given is generic enough this should be okay.

Content that is well written and has adequate vocabulary should avoid future "freds" and other animated or farm yard animals. :)
10:26 pm on Mar 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Old school keyword stuffing is not my cup of tea (or glass of wine) : all variations of everything that could mecanically fly are already on the page. But in the end, in your html title, you can choose only one : plane. Fred is not about semantic variation.

Some time ago, I saw a paper telling us that maybe we should care about rare semantics. For instance, if my paper about building a plane is the only one referring also to the ultralight aviation, I'll get extra bonus points in G eyes. This would be good if my competitors didn't took my contents almost instantly to replicate it.

I'll keep my position : Fred is nothing about quality content. Maybe CTRs on SERPs get an extra weight on the algorithm? That would be more logical, and explain why some clicwhores titles are performing a lot better, even if user is not getting a good answer from the result after clicking.
12:34 am on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I wonder if Google's artificial intelligence would be able to recognize the wordplay in "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plane"?
5:55 am on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What do you guys define as quality?

A. a well researched paper which takes about 2 hours to read and which makes the user go back to the same SERPs after a few seconds and click another result in the SERPs?

B. a superficial, trashy article that is just enough for the average user to read in less than a minute and which makes him think he just became an expert and makes him move back to Google to search for something new?

I would say B. because the Internet is becoming more superficial and because the user will spend more time on Google in the end
(> $ for G)
9:40 am on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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That's why it's best to put the good answer right in the beginning of the content + summmary (avoiding links). Everything after is "bonus" if some reader wants to know more.
It was my solution until now...

In other hand, I saw, for another website I'm in charge, huge issues with Google not able to give correct property to content owners. Even if the copyed stuff clearly indicates where is the source. Some trouble also with partially copyed content: they just take parts of my content, they mix it with others parts from others webmasters and publish this melting pot content as their own.

And of course, they rank in good position ! With only paragraphs from others! What to do?

How can I have a clue about what's Fred about with this crazy mess?
11:22 am on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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the fred update causes the site ban or sharp cuttings and rank drops of a site searches.
12:26 pm on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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guggi2000 -- you need to have expert knowledge of the subject, but you also need to be a good writer who can grab the reader's attention and hold it.

The articles need to cover different aspects of the subject, with minimal overlapping, as well as smoothly fit together to provide good overall coverage.

You need to know when and how to use images, how to divide the content into sections using subheaders etc.

It also helps to use a simple page layout and simple easy-to-use navigation.

You should design you site mainly for your visitors, not mainly for google.

Also pay no attention to what other people are doing with their sites-- focus on your own site.

I could go on, but all of it is just common sense.
3:56 pm on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I would say B. because the Internet is becoming more superficial and because the user will spend more time on Google in the end
(> $ for G)

I think Google is a lot less shortsighted than a lot of site owners are. And I'm not sure the "Internet is becoming more superficial." Back in the early 1990s, some of the most popular sites on the Internet (Web and non-Web) were things like coffee-machine Webcams and a database-driven text page that showed the contents and temperatures of soda cans in an Australian university's vending machine. :-)

In any case, what matters is quality for the target audience.

It's like anything else: Back in the 1950s, there was a series of comic books in the U.S. called "Classic Comics," which adapted books like IVANHOE, MOBY-DICK, etc. to a comic-book format for kids (or for people with limited reading skills and poor attention spans). Nobody would have argued that a Classic Comic was the equivalent of the original author's 500-page book, but Classic Comics were adapted from public-domain classics by professional writers and illustrators, and for the target audience, Classic Comics did a good job.
6:49 pm on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@EditorialGuy I need to clarify: The audience changes, not the Internet.

I.e. I have to switch titles from "Your progress statistics" to "Hey, see how well you did...".

IMHO "good content" is a subjective matter and the only way G can differentiate between good and bad is by looking at user metrics.
10:11 pm on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Still digging the causes of Fred (or at least, one of them). Could it be that the suspicious outbound links penalty is now incorporated in the algorithm? My traffic is still slowly (but steadily) decreasing, since feb 8. No decrease in adsense revenue (that's the most strange part of all of this for me, specially when Google said the search and the ad team never and never speak together).
10:15 pm on Mar 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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IMHO "good content" is a subjective matter and the only way G can differentiate between good and bad is by looking at user metrics.

That's certainly one way. But things like authority and textual analysis could play into it, too.
12:50 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A relevant post from Search Engine Roundtable of Apr 3, 2017 :

Google: There Were Other Updates Around The Release Of Fred

Google's Gary Illyes confirmed over the weekend that when Fred was released, there were also other algorithms that touched down around the same time. Gary wrote on Twitter " but there were a number of updates around the date @rustybrick declared Fred a single thing." He added that each of these "updates" had other tasks and goals they accomplished outside of what Fred targeted.

[seroundtable.com...]
2:39 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I see that SER also has a story titled "A Major Google Update On March 30th? I Don't Think So" at:

[seroundtable.com...]

The story says that, acccording to Pete Meyers from Moz, there was a "a huge jump in the knowledge panels showing up" on Google SERPs. (Seven percent, according to Mozcast.) If that's true, it could explain why some people are reporting gains and others are reporting losses around that time. (The effect of such a change could be beneficial or harmful, depending on the nature of the site and the query.)
2:56 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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effect of such a change could be beneficial or harmful

The overall effect is harmful because the combined CTR on the first page results is decreasing.
4:14 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have mentioned in a previous post on this thread that I think there was a Panda Update on Mar 8th 2017. Now we can see that there have been also a possible Penguin Update around that date. So much for Fred Update :)
7:00 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I wonder why all of these supposed numerous frequent updates almost never seem to have a noticeable effect on any of my sites.
8:06 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The overall effect is harmful because the combined CTR on the first page results is decreasing.

But for the person or business whose site is featured in an "answer box," the effect can be quite positive if it means more traffic.

As with most things, it depends (and YMMV).
9:15 pm on Apr 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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But for the person or business whose site is featured in an "answer box," the effect can be quite positive if it means more traffic.

4 years ago 90% of our traffic came from second, third and fourth position... So we doubled the 10% coming from the first position (due to the boxes) and lost half of the other 90%... I think that's the story of the entire industry.
5:55 pm on Apr 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I guess there would be a Fred or Panda refresh between now and April 8th 2017. Hopefully some of the websites which were hit on Mar 8th 2017 would recover :)
7:29 pm on Apr 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I have two client sites that I've been optimizing for local serps. They were both doing well in the "answer box". I'm just seeing minor changes in the local search result.
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