How Google’s Fred Update is Pushing Webmasters Towards Generating Better Content
On March 8th, Google rolled out Fred, the latest in a long line of algorithm updates. The update mostly targeted sites containing low-quality content that had been optimized for maximum revenue. Some examples include sites that are overwhelmed with affiliate links and promotional materials, and sites that contain a poor content to advertisement ratio. It is important to note that the update does not seek to punish affiliate or promotional sites for existing. Rather, the update pushes webmasters to achieve a stable and respectable balance of profitable promotional content and valuable user content.
The sites hit hardest by the update contained weaknesses such as overwhelming amounts of text-based content, revenue optimized articles loaded with keywords, and excessive affiliate links or advertisements. Additionally, specific types of content were singled out for penalization, such as sites based around review lists, pricing charts, exact keyword matches, and text-based content lacking complimentary images or videos. Moreover, many of these sites contained content that was not particularly valuable when compared to similar sites in the same niche or area. In other words, these sites were not authoritative sources of content but rather obvious engines for revenue generation.
In addition to these sites, some webmasters believe that they were targeted for their unsavoury backlinks, often obtained through black-hat techniques like using private blog networks or purchasing artificial links. While some of these sites do not match the content criteria described above, they were hit around the same time as the Fred update, leaving many to speculate that the update, or another released around the same time, was responsible for their demise. Because low quality backlinks are usually accompanied by low quality content, some webmasters are having a hard time figuring out which part of their website is responsible for their drop in Google’s rankings. Moreover, backlink quality is directly related to the quality of the content that it links to. By forcing webmasters to reconsider their backlinks, Google is also forcing them to reconsider the content that is attached to their site, either directly or indirectly.
The Fred update is pushing webmasters to focus on user benefit rather than promotional benefits or financial gain. In essence, this is yet another update focusing on quality control. The trend seems obvious, and the solution seems simple. If webmasters want their sites to remain relevant, they must adhere to Google’s content standards by producing valuable content. Starting with the 2003 Florida update, Google’s algorithm updates have consistently worked to weed out lower quality content in favour of more engaging, useful, and authoritative content. The Fred update continues to advance this trend, and is not only a sign of things to come, but also a reminder of the past.
In 2008, Google CEO Eric Schmidt infamously stated that the Internet was quickly becoming a “cesspool” of false information, adding, “brands are the solution, not the problem”. This mantra has held steady throughout the past decade, as established brands have pushed ahead of small businesses and online retailers in Google’s race to the top. The Fred update continues to reinforce this notion by pushing smaller websites to further brand and position themselves around perceived consumer value.
In order to ensure future relevance, websites must focus on branding as a way to gain authority and social proof. Sites must be consistent in the way that they brand themselves across all platforms, not just Google. This means that they must not just give off the appearance of being a brand, but must consistently behave like a brand. Behaving like a brand requires sites to provide visitors with something of value, while seeking to obtain something of value in return. This update makes it even more important for sites, and the entities they represent, to engage with customers and establish themselves through other platforms such as social media. Sites that strive to provide value and build social proof will protect themselves from future algorithm updates through the process of branding. By establishing a social media presence, sites will be able to effectively engage visitors and customers through multiple platforms, facilitating the provision of value to users.
The Fred update has urged webmasters to improve their sites through more practical and obvious ways as well. Increasing the value of a website requires improving its content to promotion ratio. One way of doing this is to make the site more functionally appealing and engaging for users. This means diversifying content to include a mix of text, image and video components rather than the ad-heavy text content that Fred targeted. In addition, content must seem genuine and user-friendly, utilizing a mix of both profitable and non-profit content designed to provide value to the user. This will require sites to either tone down their promotional activities or produce more meaningful content. Additionally, Fred is urging webmasters to be mindful of keyword spam by shifting the emphasis from impressing Google search bots to impressing Google search users.
The Fred update is also pressing webmasters to update their backlinks using white-hat techniques. Sites are scrambling to rid themselves of artificial backlinks that often lead to old and irrelevant sites built specifically for the purpose of linking. Gaining relevant backlinks will establish these sites as part of an authoritative network surrounding a specific topic or niche. Replacing artificial backlinks with suitable ones will allow users to navigate relevant content networks, providing them with better opportunities to engage with the content they are seeking.
In conclusion, Google’s latest major update is yet another attempt to pressure non-complying webmasters to stick to Google’s webmaster guidelines. With each major update, it becomes more and more obvious that Google will continue to push webmasters to develop user-friendly sites geared towards usability rather than revenue optimization. Google will continue to encourage websites to generate natural and genuine content designed to engage and convenience users. Webmasters who refuse to co-operate remain trapped in a cat-and-mouse game, hoping to escape penalization. However, as many of these webmasters find out with every major update, their time is running out.