Google’s Fred Algorithm Update – 5 Steps to Take Now!

Google is always tight-lipped about the changes they make to their algorithm, however, the change on March 7th/8th was large enough for many website owners and digital marketing firms to notice substantial changes in traffic and rankings. This new algorithm update, simply known as “Fred”, is believed to primarily target websites with low-quality content and backlinks. Often, these two factors occur simultaneously and on websites that have utilized SEO companies to quickly build low-quality content and backlinks.

Google has confirmed the Fred algorithm update, but they were weary of giving too much information about it. The only clue given to website owners was that Fred targeted websites that were not abiding by the webmaster guidelines. Based on our research here at StatCounter, we have determined that sites with low-quality content and unnatural backlinks, purely meant to drive revenue have been the most hurt by this update.

Here are five things you can do right now to see if you were affected and start recovering any lost rankings and traffic

1) Look at your analytics. Did you see a drop in the traffic or the number of keywords you were ranking for between March 5th and the 20th. If no you are probably fine if you did then read on.

2) See if you can categorize your content into 2 buckets – high quality and updated vs low quality and old.

3) Match your lost keywords, based on traffic volume and previous rankings, with any low-quality content pages.

4) Improve your content quality immediately. Start by adding to, rewriting, and making your low quality pages better. Start with the pages that were driving the most traffic pre-Fred (see number 3).

5) Use a backlink spam tool or checker and to find and remove any questionable backlinks. Also, ensure that your remaining “good” backlinks appear natural and in reasonable ratios. For instance, no-follow to follow ratios, anchor text similarities, etc. are all things that Google takes into account when determining the value of your backlinks.


Fred Algorithm Update Changes and Concerns

The update has now been around long enough for us to start piecing together the puzzle. The first factor is content. If your site’s rankings are heavily dependent on multiple long-tail keywords and the content that matches those keywords was written before 2014, you may have been affected. Basically, if Fred sees your content as irrelevant, outdated, or too ad-heavy, you may see some rankings drop.

The second factor is low-quality backlinks. If you’ve ever paid for generic or easy to spot “artificial” backlinks, Fred may have just penalized you. Websites with a lot of old content likely also have a lot of old backlinks. Since low backlinks and low quality content often go hand in hand, this correlation makes it difficult to determine which, if not both factors is driving changes in rankings.

Avoiding the Fred Penalty

This isn’t the first algorithm update Google has rolled out to encourage high quality content, and it likely won’t be the last. The best way to avoid and or recover from a Fred penalty is to focus on creating high-quality, in-depth, and authoritative content on your site. If your website has a lot of old content you will want to go back through and optimize these pages to meet their quality standards. Here is a link to Google’s most recent quality guideline:

Also, since Google said this update targeted websites that were not following the webmaster guidelines, you may want to review these as well to ensure you accidently aren’t practicing any black hat or out of date SEO techniques. For the rest of 2017, focus on creating quality content for your website rather than generating large amounts of cheap and quickly written content.

Track Your Traffic with StatCounter

StatCounter offers free website analytics to millions of websites around the world. We also track changes in search engines and keep our members informed with the latest news. If you’d like to start using StatCounter to see how changes like Fred affect your website click here to sign-up.


  1. Quite interesting! I was wondering why I was getting more traffic and referrals from Google recently. It must be the update giving me a boost thanks to good content!

  2. I wish Statcounter would fix the five-minute load times for web stats. Ridiculous.

  3. I don’t understand what Google wants to make webmasters to do, the only solution I think is to make thousands of quality and social viral posts instead of back links.

    1. You may be onto something there, Hotmail Login. Thanx!


  4. this is good information, but google many times does not index even the original content.

  5. Do you need to change the date when you update the articles written in 2014? Do we have to date this past day on old articles?

  6. I think that the power of Google is being abused to a larger extent in other areas. I can understand weeding old and low-quality sites (although I may in part be affected by this myself), but it annoys me beyond measure that social media exposure is considered to be an enhancing factor – what “quality” does that add to a website, other than more exposure?

    1. I have to agree, Emdee. Every ‘online evangelist’ seems to tar everything with the same brush. Well, the simple unvarnished truth is, some businesses aren’t right for heavy amounts of social media — just like some businesses don’t require a street front location. I wish Google (and their lot) would wake up and grab a clue.

  7. Thanks for keeping us updated; great post.


  8. Great article been searching around about Fred penalty recovery, and I think I just found an answer Thanks

  9. Thank you for sharing the information with us. Days with plenty of traffic xD

  10. It’s a shame. I’m owing a simple poor quality site , an e-bokk library in Hungarian. It’s completely free . I think, that Google is not a God, to manipulate traffic data. Speaking clearly: Google has right to manipulate the serach results in the Google-browser, or in Google page-ranks, but the only I want a clear and right real statistics form statcounter … from anyone. This practice completely inapropriate for me.

  11. Some of my web got hits with this update. Lost traffic around 20-30 %. Thanks for advice, will try to rebuild some pages with good content.

  12. Targeting poor quality websites with unnatural backlinks. Nothing new here, it’s all part of the core algorithm to weed out such sites.
    Of course Google makes lots of changes and tweaks all the time, all towards tightening the detection.
    No surprise there.

    Every site owner should have a very good idea of their content quality and the existence of their unnatural backlinks. Time to get busy and improve content quality and remove unnatural backlinks.

  13. Luckily i haven’t faced such kind of penalty to my websites. Google is becoming hard and hardest for low quality websites and content so always be with the high in depth quality content which can gain natural links anyway thanks for heads up.

  14. This could be a game changer for me just cleaned up a my site from previous penalties now it looks like I will have to start again. I have seen a drop in traffic within those dates so hopefully I am not caught up in another Google update.

    I think I need to go and have a good look at some of my older posts/pages and either add fresh content or combine them to make them larger and more authoritative.

    Thanks for an informative post guys much appreciated…


  15. Hey guys thanks for the heads up looks like I have a bit of work ahead to fix a few things…

  16. Instead of rewriting the old posts, are there any other alternative ways? Such as simply “noindex” them if they are not important anymore instead of deleting them.

    1. Great question! In our opinion using “noindex” for pages that are already indexed will get most of those pages removed fairly quickly. Since they aren’t brand new pages this is not a 100% foolproof but Google has gotten better at deindexing pages labeled as such. Using “noindex” to remove duplicate content, or content that is essentially discontinued can certainly work. However, there are some things to keep in mind if you go down that path and we’d see it as a last case scenario. Here is why.

      Remember that any historical external links pointing to those pages and giving your site “link juice” will no longer be counted. This could be a big deal or a little deal depending on your specific website.

      Next, since you still would have internal pages linking to the pages with “noindex” you are essentially giving some of your power to pages that aren’t using it. Again, the impact of this would depend on the number of pages you deindex and overall site structure.

      The best course of action and what we would advise is to first be certain you were impacted and certain that you have identified the right problematic content. Next, it is more work but a good clean-up of all your content will put you in a much better position in the long-run for more traffic. We hope it works out for you quickly and thanks again for the great question.

    2. Instead of rewriting them, don’t you think that adding more text would be better?

      1. Yes, that is what I am doing Dana with my content since last 2 years and rewriting has helped me a lot.

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