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Google’s Fred Update Explained and Recovery Methods

Throughout the years, Google has released algorithm updates to give its users the best search-engine experience out there. These updates help Google weed out bad, spammy, and unhelpful sites so that the very best sites jump to the top of their SERPs. These calculated changes have kept Google reigning as king of search engines. Google’s Fred is just one in the long line of algorithm updates that takes out bad sites and brings the best to the top.

Launch Date: March 8, 2017

Debuting in Spring 2017, Fred was originally an “unnamed” update. Fred isn’t actually a singular update but is a catchall term used by the SEO experts to refer to all of Google’s unnamed updates. Moving forward, Google isn’t announcing new versions of the algorithm, so you probably won’t even know there’s been a Fred update unless people are talking about it online.

What Google’s Fred Update Impacted

Because it’s unlikely that you’ll be aware of an update, the best way to determine if Fred has hit you is to see if multiple sites were targeted and affected. If that’s the case, chances are, there’s been an update. If not, your individual site may have some issues. Either way, if your site has the following hazards, you’ll want to address them and make changes.

  • Ad-heavy – A site that is mostly ads—especially if those ads are ill-placed, pop-ups, or for spammy sites—is going to be subject to serious downranking. Because users hate ads, and because they want solutions, not more ads, when they visit your site, having too much advertising throughout your pages is going to frustrate your visitors—and Fred.
  • Content-driven – After Fred rolled out, many affected sites were affiliate-driven or blogs created to get high traffic numbers and then redirect to a different site. Now, that’s not to say that simply having a lot of content on your site, even in blog form, is a bad thing. But you do need to be sure that your site proves useful and isn’t just a means to show ads to users. These types of sites don’t actually provide users with the solutions they’re looking for; they simply exist to generate page visits and revenue for themselves or other sites.

How The Fred Update Works

In short, the Fred update does what all Google updates do: it weeds out sites with low-quality content or those that provide terrible user experiences so that they rank low—or not at all—on the SERPs. Specifically, Fred targets sites that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines by having a disproportionate amount of ads, as well as sites that seem to know the tricks of SEO but don’t actually provide quality content. Though sites aren’t penalized, they are downranked so that users don’t have the chance to come across them when conducting a search.

How to Adjust Your SEO Strategy and Recover

Balance ad-to-content ratio

Because one of the major red flags of the Fred update is when a site has an abundance of ads, this is one of the first things you’ll want to address. When a visitor comes to a page on your site, they shouldn’t be overwhelmed with ads. They should never have to scroll down your page to get to your content. Keep ads above the fold to a minimum. Your site should first and foremost provide value through your content, and advertisements should not overtake your pages.

Don’t duplicate content.

Google can very easily determine if you’re using the same content across multiple pages on your site. Save yourself the heartache of being downranked, and don’t use duplicate content, regardless of how successful it has been in the past. Invest in fresh, original content so that your users stay happy and Google keeps your rankings high.

Cultivate your site’s authority

Because Fred punishes sites that exist largely to make money from ads, you want to go above and beyond to prove that this is not the case with your site. Do what you can to legitimize yourself in the eyes of Google. Backlink to other trusted and authoritative sites and got similar sites to link to you. We’ve done a deep dive into how you can bolster your site’s expertise, trust, and authority. Following the steps we’ve outlined will boost your site’s legitimacy and drive up your rankings.

Maintain your site

SEO is a constant competition, and Google’s algorithms are always changing to provide the best user experience possible. That means you’ll need to continually audit and edit your site to ensure your content is relevant, helpful, and timely. 


Like most of Google’s updates, it’s easy to avoid being targeted by Fred. Simply create great content with the goal of providing the best solutions to your users’ problems. Put in the work, it takes to build a clean, user-friendly site with an SEO strategy that will drive traffic your way. When you do these things in line with Google’s webmaster guidelines and follow our advice above, you have nothing to worry about. If you need help with your enterprise SEO or local SEO feel free to reach out.