Practicology is now Pattern

By Sam Gaunt | Marketing Manager

The latest Google update, ‘Fred’, is shown to hit low value content-driven, ad-heavy sites the hardest.

With algorithm chatter sprouting up since its apparent roll out on March 8th, the latest speculated Google algorithm ranking update has kept the SEO-community abuzz. Endearingly nicknamed ‘Fred’ by its very own, Gary Illyes, the mysterious tone of Google which keeps everyone guessing, has once again neither confirmed nor denied theories around the update. But here’s what we know…

What is Fred?

Google has been no stranger releasing phantom updates throughout the course of a year, but every so often, one will be realised in the dark of the night, creating panicked stirs all round. 

Almost overnight, sites that displayed a large number of ads noticed that there were major drop-offs in traffic performance, leading experts to believe that this was yet again, a quality update. Its main victims being low value, content-driven, ad-heavy sites. 

Who is Fred targeting?

According to Search Engine Land’s review, 100 different sites claimed to be affected, with 50 to 90 percent reported traffic declines. These patterns show that the Fred update targeted low-value content sites that prioritise ad revenue over high quality, useful content. 

The vast majority of affected websites were identified as content-based, including blog formats and other similar content-driven sites. These websites contained articles written for ranking purposes, alongside a heavy concentration of ads and/or affiliate links for revenue generation. 

The articles were defined as low quality as they covered a large array of topics and were not deemed to be from an industry expert point of view. These topics did not contribute any additional value when compared to the abundance of articles found on other sites within the industry. They were written to garner rankings and visibility within Google search; as well as generating revenue through paid advertising, affiliate models, lead generation and other similar avenues. 

Is your website Fred’s latest victim?

Your first point of call is to check Google Analytics – are you noticing an immediate drop in site traffic? Once you’ve done that, you will want to check your rankings to see if there’s an out-of-character plummet. From around March 8th, if you noticed a drop without recovery, you may be a victim of the Google Fred update. 

As the update is aimed at websites that are ad-heavy with low value content seeking to benefit off ad revenue, rather than ecommerce and operation sites, most sites should be safe from penalty. There may be however, some collateral damage because of the update. If any of the penalised sites were contributing value to your site’s backlink profile, you may be affected if those sites experience a drop in authority.  


  • Retailers are less likely to directly feel the impact of this update as it targets low-quality, ad-heavy sites.
  • There may be a ripple affect if sites included in the backlink profile are penalised, but should recover if the sites address the issues.
  • John Mueller also cited “Yes, we make changes almost every day” - so expect this to be another phantom update amongst many others.

While we wish we had a magic crystal ball to predict all the upcoming updates, your best bet is to play by the rules and ensure your website is driven by user-first content.

What are your thoughts on the Fred update by Google? Let us know below. If you have any questions or concerns in regards to how your website is performing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today


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