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 Basically, if Fred sees your content as irrelevant, outdated, or too ad-heavy, you may see some rankings drop.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. Thank you so much for the great information about this update.. I am really very tensed after this update
    My website pageview decreased by 15% .. although bounce rate decreased 5% and time per user increase 10-15%.
    So overall profit is down 15% and I am losing major keyword positions everyday after that update.. alexa ranking is also increasing. And my earning to decreased 50% ..Can you please tell me what should I do to get back my position within a month 🙁

  2. Fwiw, my personal photography site is completely unaffected, and if anything has increased its SERPs in the last year. The site is non commercial, has only ever bought some directory links but the rest of the links are legit (about 60k backlinks). This is very much a great content reference site that is recommended all over the place.

    I’m not bringing this up to brag or anything, it’s just that it seems that the thin content commercial people are the ones complaining the most, and have been hardest hit. I can sympathize with this because the day job is also digital marketing. And in the day job the boss kept pressurising and pressurising to get more leads from the web, so we bought leads, and guess what that site completely went to **** over the last 5 years.

    Just a personal moan and insight into the people that Google hurts when it does these algo changes. I do think they’re right – buying links is cheap, a bad way to move forward.

  3. I’ve about had it with google trying to make us jump every time they flinch. I have educational sites that wind up penalized every time they come up with some update. They are no longer part of my strategy and I’m tired of being led around with a ring in my nose.

    Relevant, quality back links, a lot of them, is the way to go.

  4. I think everytime google update their algorithm, then spam site really should disappear from serp, but i always get notified that spam site is up from google alert. I always setup some keyword with google alert, so i always knew if some site with that keyword has shown in serp.

  5. I write all the content for my site for the past 7 years, however i don’t have much backlinks ( i don’t agree paying for backlinks) and i have not seen drop in traffic to my site.

  6. Fred about is not about the backlink quality and all. It’s about the site only based for the monetisation and not adding much value. Just like coupon websites. That got the worst hit.

  7. Currently I am also facing the traffic drop problem for my few clients but not assured about this update. As the folks are discussing about the overload ads, shallow content so hope it’s just for that

  8. Whatever backlink I am getting ‘nofollow’ links only. I am not getting any ‘dofollow’ links. Is there any concern with FRED algorithms?

  9. Google believe that it controls the internet. They start a great program and delete it years later, like Panaramio. Google may not think so, but in my web world they are the worst search engine out there, because they believe in control and not truth. Why hide keywords from us in Stats counter, because they are evil. One might bet that all those employees that write Algorithms, find a more lucrative job that suits them, maybe used car salesmen? Yeah that would work. You can’t hurt me Google so don’t brag that you can. Up yours Fred!

Comments are closed.

Try Statcounter free for 30 days

No credit card required. Downgrade to the free plan anytime.

Try it for FREE!