Google "Fred" Update Shakes up SEO but Does it Even Matter?
Every time there is an update to Google's algorithm, there is a group of SEO's that panic and make claims of drops in rankings and revenue. What group is that? The black hat SEO community who is constantly looking for new and creative ways to game Google. Some of these techniques worked for a very long time but they aren't as effective anymore. I'd also like to touch upon what "update" really means as everything you read makes it sound like an actual planned out event. The truth of the matter is that Google updates their algorithm around three times per day. They are ALWAYS updating their algorithm in an effort to protect and improve upon their own interests and make sure it's a lucrative platform for business. Anything that goes against that is at risk of being phased out completely. If your website can't rank on Google because a group of hackers is using questionable tactics to make money then you won't spend money with Google. It always goes back to their mission statement which is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
This is where Google "Fred" comes into play. It's hard to say that it was one update that caused this stir or the culmination of multiple different ones. It could also be the result of RankBrain, which is Google's machine learning algorithm at play. Google and black hat SEO's are in a never ending game of cops and robbers and RankBrain is the secret weapon they may have always needed. Google used to throw the SEO community a bone by being more transparent with the changes they made or were going to make. Since those early days, Google plays it much closer to the vest as they figured out that every piece of information given out will be exploited by black hat SEOs. They now only release information that serves their best interests. For example, saying that SSL gives a slight boost in rankings in an effort to incentivize a more secure internet. Boosting page speed also helps your rankings and also caters more towards the user experience which is beneficial to everyone.
So, what kind of websites did Google's Fred update actually affect and should you even be worried?
Web sites with bad link profiles
Black hat SEO's often times use something called a PBN (Private Blog Network) to send artificial links to a website to boost their ranking. Google's Penguin update was the first to massively disrupt this technique and the effectiveness has started to die.They do still work sometimes but it's more of a game of cat and mouse than something that works long term. The method of launching a website and bombing it with links is called "Churn and Burn." The idea is to launch multiple websites that may make $20-$100 per day but understand it's only a matter of time before Google finds out and de-indexes them. A lot of the websites affected use this technique with reckless abandon and have watched their websites plummet because of it.
What is low-value content? It's content that focuses on generating ad revenue while essentially ignoring the user experience. Instead of focusing on the end user, this content is all about tricking you into clicking an affiliate link or on an ad. Article "clickbait" websites were pummeled and saw sharp declines in traffic and rankings. Oftentimes, this content focuses on keywords rather than an overarching theme and it's more about stuffing as many as possible into the content no matter how incoherent it sounds. This is very surface level and lacks the depth necessary to be of any use to anyone whatsoever. Oftentimes, it's common knowledge or obvious information about the subject they write about. Sometimes they target emerging trends like flash diets stuffing them with affiliate links with the understanding that they will eventually fade anyways. By the time the fad goes away, these black hat SEO's have made a small fortune from affiliate sign ups.
Not all websites dropped. In fact, there were several reports that showed websites that jumped in rankings. With every update that drops black hat websites, it open ups the door for websites that do things in a legitimate manner. You could also say that the websites that benefitted from this update are focusing on the end-user while the websites that dropped were focused on numbers. User Experience (UX) plays a massive part in how Google ranks your website. Google keeps track of how users interact on your website to determine whether or not you're providing useful content and information in an organized manner. This is through a combination of clicks, how they click thru to other web pages, time on site, what actions they take and quite a few other in-depth statistics through the Google Analytics dashboard.
So does this Google "Fred" update really even matter?
If you sit back and wait for Google to rank you, then you'll go out of business! This is part of the reason why black hat SEO exists. That doesn't mean black hat SEO is the only way to do things or is better than white hat SEO because it isn't. There are a never-ending amount of techniques that not only fall within Google's WebMaster guidelines but also work extremely well with ranking your website. Black hat SEO is all about the short game while WhiteHat SEO is more for the long-term. Google Fred doesn't matter if you're utilizing white hat SEO tactics such as focusing on user experience, creating social backlinks and guest blogging with content that is deep value. In fact, this Google Fred update is a MASSIVE win for you if you've been doing this already.
If you have any questions about white hat SEO or how to get your website ranked, feel free to give us a call to discuss. 303-223-3742