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

If you have any questions or are worried about how the new Fred update may have affected your website traffic, feel free to contact us for a complimentary consultation with one of our experts.

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 invaluable, 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: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.google.com/en//insidesearch/howsearchworks/assets/searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf

Also, since Google said this update targeted website’s 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.

SEO: Content 2


Continuing our series of SEO blog posts, today we consider HOW to write good content for your site.

Note that this post follows on directly from our previous post entitled SEO: Content 1.

Please remember that we do not consider ourselves to be SEO experts. In this Beginner’s Guide to SEO we are simply aiming to demystify SEO for our members and to pass on some tips and information that we have picked up over the years.

(i) Content and SEO – how are they related?
To explain how Content and SEO are related, let’s take a traditional example… Let’s think for a few minutes about two writers, Sam and Jess, who are both publishing BOOKS on the topic of “Beginner’s Guide to Computers”.

    Background

      Sam (Poor Content, but Great SEO)
      Sam puts no effort into the book. He repackages old and out-of date information that will not be useful for anyone. However, he launches a fantastic marketing and publicity campaign for the book. He has a snazzy modern cover for the book designed which disguises the old information the book contains.

      Jess (Good Content and Good SEO)
      Jessica writes a good beginner’s guide book and launches a complementary marketing campaign to launch the book. Jessica’s book does what it says it will do!

    Results?

      Sam (Poor Content, but Great SEO = DISASTER!)
      Many people may pick up Sam’s book in the store, but if they flick beyond page 1 it’s unlikely that they will purchase it. That said, Sam may achieve some sales due to the heavy marketing campaign, but his readers will soon realise that there is no substance to the book. They will NOT be fooled into buying Volume 2!

      Jess (Good Content and Good SEO = SUCCESS!)
      Jessica, on the other hand, has combined a well-written guide WITH a solid campaign to let the public know about her book. People who buy Jessica’s book are also likely to consider buying any future books she publishes too!

    Conclusions

      The above example illustrates the importance of good quality content. In the same way that a badly-written book won’t hold your interest, a poor quality website won’t keep your attention either.

      If your website is poor, the best SEO in the world won’t help you.

      Sure, you may manage to get a temporarily high listing in the Search Engines, but it won’t last. In addition, listing highly in the search engines won’t help you increase conversions on your site. For example, your visitors won’t buy something on your site just because your site is #2 in Yahoo! Your visitors will only convert on your site if your site is useful and helpful to them.

      Remember, in trying to fool the Search Engines with SEO tricks, you really only end up fooling yourself…

(j) Search Engines – What do They Think of Content?
As far as Search Engines are concerned, the more basic TEXT content the better. Search Engines love text because this is what they analyze.

The more text on your page, the easier it is for Search Engines to figure out what your page is about; the more confident the Search Engines can be that the content is useful; the more chance you have of relevant visitors finding you.

IMPORTANT! The text should, of course, be relevant and easy-to-read for your visitors too.

Listing reams and reams of keywords on your webpages in small or invisible text is not a good idea. It makes your site look shoddy and cheap and counts against you if the Search Engines find out about it too. After all, if your site is good and of value, why do you need to resort to tricks to promote it?

(k) But Adding Lots of Text Content will ruin my Website Design!!
If you have a very clean, minimalist-style website, you may not want to add extra text to it… That decision is, of course, entirely up to you but you should note that by using images only you are not giving the Search Engines much to work with.

After all, what good is a beautifully designed site if no-one visits it?!

If you fall into this category, you COULD consider keeping very little text on your homepage, but including plenty of text content on the inner pages of your site for SEO purposes.

(l) Ok, so HOW do I Create Good Content for my site?
If your site is “informational” (e.g. a database of recipes and cooking techniques) it is relatively easy to focus on content and creating it.

What do you do however, if like Carol’s (fictional) site, you sell woodcraft products?

(You can read about Carol’s site in section (f) of our previous SEO: Content 1 post.)

All that is required is come creative thinking!

Almost any topic you name can be written about and since your site is an extension of you or your business, you should be well-qualified to write about it!

First, Carol could make sure to write detailed descriptions of all the products on her website. (Remember Carol’s visitors can see the pictures on her site, but Search Engines can’t!)

Next Carol should consider writing other articles for her site. For example:

  • how best to care for and protect wooden furniture;
  • explanation of the different types of wood and the climates they suit;
  • woodworm and how to prevent it;
  • sustainable forestry;
  • removing stains from wood;
  • how to conduct simple repairs;
  • the history of wooden furniture;
  • the different woodworking techniques available;
  • how to prevent wood from warping….

With a little effort, Carol could put together a helpful and valuable resource for visitors to her site, which will also act to help her site move up the Search Engine rankings. It’s a win-win situation.

And if Carol can do it… you can too! 😉

(m) Good Content – TOP TIPS!

  1. Focus on creating the best site you possibly can. Create quality and the rankings will follow. To quote John from our Good Content example (see section (e) of our post entitled SEO: Content 1), if your content is GOOD, people will want it … and if people want it, then the Search Engines will want it (and list it highly) too.
  2. Try to regularly add new content to your site – the more often your content is updated, the better. (Make sure the content is relevant and good quality though!) Think about it. A site that is regularly updated is almost bound to be more useful and relevant to visitors than a site that hasn’t been updated since 1996!
  3. Remember that Search Engines can (generally) only see text! Use a text based webpage viewer to see your site through the eyes of the Search Engines. This will help you to establish if you are telling the Search Engines everything they need to know about your site. Make sure to describe your site and what you do. Here’s one viewer you can try.
  4. Think about the phrases that people would associate with your site and make sure to USE these phrases early and often in your content – but don’t overdo it! Think of Carol in the example above – initially her site didn’t actually mention the products that she sells anywhere! This meant that the Search Engines had no idea what her site was about. (You can read about Carol’s site in section (f) of our previous SEO: Content 1 post.) In the revised site content, Carol used “limited edition wood creations”, “wood creations” “handcrafted wooden products”, “furniture”, “bowls” – these are all terms that people might use to search for a site like Carol’s. Now the Search Engines can tell what Carol’s site is offering! (We’ll be covering more about keywords in a later SEO blog post)
  5. Use your creativity to turn your site into a useful resource which will be valued by your visitors and hence by the Search Engines – write as much useful content as you can! See section (l) for ideas. Aim for 250 – 1000 words of relevant, useful text content per page.
  6. Do NOT forget that rankings are NOT your aim, a more successful site is! (e.g. more sales, increase sign-ups etc)
  7. Do NOT get caught up in trying to work out SEO tricks. Your time would be far better spent creating more content for your site.
  8. DO use headlines, bolding and italics to emphasize relevant parts of your content. Your visitors and many Search Engines will consider highlighted text to be important and so will place greater emphasis on it.

Related Posts:
(1) SEO: Intro
(2) SEO: Content 1
(3) SEO: Content 2

SEO: Content 1


Continuing our series of SEO blog posts, today we discuss the importance of GOOD CONTENT on your site.

In our view, good content is THE most important factor in SEO.

The content on your site should be the FIRST thing you think about when optimizing your website. Content is used to communicate information about your site to the Search Engines.

While some SEO techniques are aimed primarily at the Search Engines, writing, updating and maintaining good content on your site will attract BOTH visitors AND search engines to your site.

Please remember that we do not consider ourselves to be SEO experts. In this Beginner’s Guide to SEO we are simply aiming to demystify SEO for our members and to pass on some tips and information that we have picked up over the years.

Important Note 1!
Before we get into this topic further, it’s very important for you to note that (generally) Search Engines can NOT “see” pictures, videos or flash presentations. This means that the only way to communicate with them and tell them what your site is about is by providing them with basic text information.

Compare the images below to see the difference between how StatCounter appears to human visitors and to Search Engines!

 

Important Note 2!
In addition, let’s remember what Search Engines are trying to do… Search Engines want to provide their users with a listing of the very best, most helpful and relevant sites.

Important Note 3!
You can work WITH Search Engines by helping them to achieve their goals… or you can work against Search Engines and try to use tricks and underhand methods to promote your site.

In our view, the only way to promote your site is to do it legitimately by working with the Search Engines. While “dirty tricks” may provide some SEO benefits in the short term, you can rest assured that these benefits will not last and may have a detrimental long term effect on your site.

(a) Aim of SEO
It’s very important to remember that the point of SEO is NOT to be listed highly in Search Engines.

The aim of SEO is to:

  • get your site listed highly in Search Engines…
  • SO that you get more traffic…
  • SO that you obtain more conversions!

In other words, in the long term, the goal of SEO is to make your website successful. After all, ranking highly in Search Engines is pointless unless it’s bringing more conversions to your site.

You should NOT focus on promoting your website at the expense of actually building and developing your site.

Your primary focus should be on creating a great site. Publicising and promoting your site via SEO techniques should be a secondary concern.

Let’s take a look at SEO through the eyes of a Search Engine user…

(b) SEO – A User’s Perspective
SEO should not be about playing games or trying to “con” the Search Engines.

Think about it from your own perspective. When you look for something using a Search Engine, you want good quality, relevant results. Other users want the same thing!

If you “trick” your way to a good Search Engine ranking, then

  1. It won’t last. Search Engines are clever and it’s very difficult to fool them for long. Ultimately, your site may be dropped by the Search Engines altogether.
  2. Anyone who does visit your website, probably won’t buy anything or sign up i.e. you won’t get any conversions. After all, if you have “tricked” them into visiting your site, it’s not very likely that your site will have what they want, is it?
  3. You will have wasted time and effort for nothing.

So, when users search for a term or phrase, they are looking for high quality, relevant results… Since Search Engines want to provide their users with the results they are looking for, your first step in terms of achieving good SEO for your site is to start with a high quality, useful website!

And how do you develop a high quality, useful website? WITH CONTENT!

(c) So, what is Content exactly?
Content is the “value” or “substance” of your website. It is the information, tools or services available on your site. It is the reason why people come to your site.

GOOD CONTENT is content that YOUR VISITORS will find USEFUL.

Remember “good content” means different things for different websites. This is because what constitutes good content depends on the goal of your site and your target audience.

(d) Example of BAD Content
Let’s take a look at an (extreme) example. Consider the following (fictional) site. While this site does contain information about the site owner, Dave, this content is not useful or helpful to anyone else!

Let’s imagine that Joe Bloggs finds this site by searching for the term “first webpage” – this site is definitely not what Joe is looking for… the chances are that Joe wants help on building his own first webpage. That’s why this webpage won’t appear ANYWHERE in the top Search Engine Listings for “first webpage”.

Due to the poor content on this site, there is no reason for anyone to visit, definitely no reason for them to return, and I can’t imagine ANYONE recommending this site to a friend!

(e) Example of GOOD Content
Now consider the following site. This (real) site gives step-by-step written instructions and pictures on how to take a cutting from a Fuchsia plant.

It’s abundantly clear that this webpage would be very useful to anyone with an interest in gardening.

Let’s imagine now that someone found this site by searching for the term “fuchsia cuttings” – this webpage is probably exactly what they are looking for. That’s why this page has top ranking for the term “fuchsia cuttings” in many search engines.

This site is in fact a real-life example of how good content promotes itself – we will be returning to this example in a short while when we look at the importance of good content in section (g) below.

(f) Turning “Bad” into “Good”
Now let’s look at another (fictional) site. Most of us have come across sites like this:

While Carol is trying to be welcoming and friendly, she has omitted large amounts of key information from her home page. For example, she hasn’t told us:

  • What is she selling?
  • Is there anything different/unusual about her products?
  • Where are they made?
  • Where does she deliver?
  • What price range are the products in?

Let’s take a look at how Carol could improve the content of her site:

Note that the revised website content contains only 16 extra words compared to the initial version, however, the amount of information conveyed is hugely increased.

(g) But What’s so Important about Good Content anyway?
Good content is very important because good content promotes itself.

Let’s return for a moment to our Good Content example in section (e) above about Fuchsia Plants. John, the owner of this site, strongly believes in the importance of useful content. He writes about his own experiences and shares useful information that he has gathered.

John’s article about ‘How to Take Fuchsia Cuttings’, has become one of the most highly visited pages on his site. Check this out:

John’s site is #1 out of over 600,000!

You should note though that John did not employ fancy techniques or tricks to achieve this ranking. The article was not written for SEO purposes, but rather to share useful information. John created a high quality, content-rich webpage and the high Search Engine ranking then followed naturally…

How did that happen?

That happened because many people have found the page helpful and posted it in forums and blogs, they’ve linked to it on their own sites and they have told their friends about it. It’s even referred to by several authoritative gardening sites.

At StatCounter, we share John’s view that if your content is GOOD, people will want it … and if people want it, then the Search Engines will want it (and list it highly) too.

Good Content could therefore be considered to be self-promoting – it provides its own SEO.

(h) Any other SEO benefits from Improving my Content?

YES!

  • A Search Engine’s preferred format for learning about a site is basic text content – the more content you have the more the Search Engines can learn about your site.

    Remember, we want to work with the Search Engines – make it easy for them to understand your site and you certainly stand a better chance of ranking highly with them! Wouldn’t you be more likely to help someone who helps you, rather than someone who won’t co-operate?


  • The more and better content you have, the more likely you are to rank highly in Search Engines and so the more likely it is that your site will be successful. Lots of high quality content proves that your site is serious and here to stay. This is true for both your visitors and for Search Engines.

    Remember users WANT and therefore Search Engines WANT TO PROVIDE a listing of the very best, most helpful and useful sites – by making your site helpful and useful to your visitors, you’re on your way to better rankings.

Glossary

Conversion Every website has a purpose.

You may want to:

  • sell a product (e.g. an online store may want to sell books globally )
  • sign up recipients for your newsletter (e.g. a real estate agent in Florida might want to obtain addresses to email people with a monthly update about properties for sale in the area.)
  • get people to download your brochure (e.g. a school may make an assignment available for download on their website and want pupils to download it.)

Whatever the goal of a site, if a visitor completes the desired action (i.e. buys a book, subscribes for the newsletter, downloads the document) this is called a “conversion”.

In other words, “conversion” is the generic name for the “goal” of a website.


Our second post about SEO and Content will follow shortly folks and will cover how to write good content and other tips. If you have comments or questions on any of the above, please do post below.

Related Posts:
(1) SEO: Intro
(2) SEO: Content 1

SEO: Intro

One of the frequent support issues we deal with at StatCounter goes like this:

“Hi! I just installed StatCounter but it’s broken. It’s not recording any visitors. Can you fix this?”


The thing is, StatCounter is usually running just fine… Instead the “problem” is that the site is NOT getting any visitors…when we explain this to the member, the next question is usually:

“So, how do I get visitors to my site?”


Although we are definitely not SEO experts, we have picked up some tips and tricks over the years about how to publicise your site and drive traffic to it.

In a new series of blog posts on the theme of “SEO for the Complete Beginner” we’re going to share with you some of what we have learned…

What is SEO?
SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) involves optimizing your website so that it ranks highly in Search Engines.

Ranking highly in a Search Engine means your site is displayed in the top 10 or 20 sites which appear when a person does a relevant search.

For example, if I own a baking website, I want my site to appear on Page 1 of the Search Engine listings when someone seaches for relevant baking terms e.g. chocolate cake recipe.

Why is it important to Rank Highly in a Search Engine?
It’s estimated that there are over 170 million web sites on the Internet, with more being launched every single day.

Generally when you type anything into a search engine, you get thousands of results, displayed on hundreds of different pages… Take this search – chocolate cake recipe – in Google it returned 534,000 results, displayed over thousands of pages.








As you can imagine, if your site is number 50,000 in the list, you’re not going to get anyone visiting! Who’s going to search through 5000 pages of search results, when they can find what they are looking for on Page 1 or Page 2?

Equally, if your site is number 50 on the list, you are STILL not going to get any visits from this search! Why? Because people seldom look beyond Page 1 of the search results. They almost NEVER look beyond Page 2. So if your site is on Page 3 or lower of the search engine results, no-one is ever really going to find (or visit) your site via a Search Engine…

Note that not everyone places great importance on SEO! If you have a personal or hobby website that you only share with family and friends, then ranking highly in search engines is probably NOT important to you.

If instead, you run a business website selling products or services or if you earn money via online advertising, then ranking highly in Search Engines is probably very important to you. This is because one of the most common ways for someone to find a website is by using a Search Engine. The higher your Search Engine rank, the easier it is for potential customers to find your site, the more visitors your site gets, the more business you can do, the more money you can make!

How do I get a High Search Engine Ranking for my site then?
THAT is the key question.

There are numerous factors that can influence your site’s position in Search Engine rankings – and it’s these various factors that we are going to explain over the coming months.

You should note though that getting your site to rank highly in Search Engines is not a “one-off” job – your position in the rankings can change on a daily basis so you need to keep watch.

How do I get started then with SEO?

Basic SEO is not difficult and doesn’t require vast programming knowledge or particular computer skills… but you DO need to understand a bit about how Search Engines work.

So, How DO Search Engines Work?

While all Search Engines work in different ways there are some basics about Search Engines that you should understand.

  1. Crawling
    Search Engines collect data about your website by sending a “spider” (also known as a “crawler”, “bot”, or “robot”) to visit the site. A spider “crawls” your site’s pages following links from one page to the next. It then extracts and analyzes the details about the content on each page.

    Note: a website is a collection of one of more web pages; the StatCounter website (or site) is made up of hundreds of individual webpages (or pages) e.g.
    www.statcounter.com – the homepage
    www.statcounter.com/advertise.html – the advertising page
    www.statcounter.com/help/ – the help page
  2. Indexing
    Using the information collected by the spider, your site is “indexed” by the Search Engine. In other words, information about your site is stored in the Search Engine database.

  3. Displaying Search Results
    When someone requests information from the Search Engine, the Search Engine looks up its index or database of websites and identifies which sites match the search query. In our earlier example, Google looked up the term – chocolate cake recipe – and found 534,000 sites all of which contained the words “chocolate”, “cake” and “recipe”.

    All the sites that “match” the search term (in the example – chocolate cake recipe) are then sorted by the Search Engine (using its specific algorithm) and displayed in order of importance. The most relevant site is displayed in the #1 position, the next most relevant in the #2 position etc.


Glossary

Search Engine A tool used to search the web. Examples include Google, Yahoo and Ask.
Spider
A computer program that visits Web sites and reads their pages and other information in order to gather information for a search engine.
Search Engine Algorithm
A complicated mathematical formula or set of rules that sorts or ranks web pages. Each search engine has its own algorithm and the details of the algorithm are a closely guarded secret.


So that’s it for our introductory post about SEO. In our next posts we will start to explain some of the things that you can do to improve your SEO and drive more traffic to your site. We’re also exploring some contacts we have in the SEO world so that we can offer you even more assistance with your SEO – we’ll keep you up-to-date on this!

As this series progresses, we hope to explain post by post about how to improve the traffic to your site. Along the way we welcome questions, comments and extra information. Newbie or expert – please feel free to join the discussion!