What businesses need to know about Google's Fred update

If your Google rankings have changed significantly recently, it could be Fred.

Since March, the marketing industry has been closely tracking a Google algorithm update, nicknamed “Fred” by one company executive. While some businesses haven’t noticed a difference in their search rankings as a result, many others have seen a considerable drop. Businesses that don’t normally pay attention to their rankings should double check to ensure all their sites are still featuring prominently in relevant searches.

Whether your business has noticed a change to your search rankings or not, it’s important to be aware of the latest changes and how they may affect your marketing efforts. Here are a few things every business should know about SEO in the post-Fred era.

Affiliates and ads

Although Google hasn’t officially commented on the issue, many experts have noticed that sites that rely heavily on advertising or affiliate content seem to have been hit hard. These are primarily blogs that appear to be designed specifically for ad revenue purposes. Search Engine Roundtable posted a list of sample sites that may fall into that category and saw a drop in traffic as a result of Fred. Often these sites place revenue over providing useful content, which means they sacrifice high-quality information for the sake of ad revenue. If your business’s blog is based around this model, it’s likely time to take a different approach if you want to see an increase in traffic.

Text-heavy sites

Experts believe text-heavy sites in general may be suffering because of this most recent algorithm. Colby Richards, managing partner of Seattle digital marketing agency Brown Box Branding, notes that today’s professional websites feature plenty of white space and large, eye-catching images. Businesses that still use a blog format for their design will likely find that Google is penalizing them for too closely resembling text-heavy sites that are geared toward pushing ad content.

Generic content

Businesses interested in winning the search game need to consider the way customers look for information today. Instead of typing in a specific business name or type, often they’ll word their searches in the form of a question. “Where is the best place to buy clothes in San Francisco?” or, “Where can I find good Mexican food?” are more likely to be part of searches today than traditional keyword-based entries. Instead of writing general content about your service or product areas, content marketing expert Susanna Larosa recommends answering questions with your content.

Bad backlinks

By now, every savvy marketer knows that shady linking tactics will be punished by algorithms. If you know of sites that are linking to your pages and suspect they’re harming your ranking, contact the webmaster to ask that the link be removed. If that doesn’t work or isn’t a possibility, Google’s Disavow tool is available through your Webmaster Tools to make it easier for you to reduce the impact spammy links are having on your SEO efforts.

Duplicate content

If you have the same content in multiple places on your site, your search rankings may have been suffering before Fred was implemented. When algorithms find multiple instances of the same information, they have difficulty determining which is the most relevant. As a result, some sites on a page may not be indexed. Instead of repeating the same information on multiple pages of your site, find new ways to convey the same message. Also use tools like Copyscape to ensure your content isn’t being duplicated elsewhere online.

It’s important to closely monitor your website traffic using the tools provided by Google and your own hosting provider to determine whether algorithm changes affect your own site performance. You’ll also be able to locate the search terms driving traffic to your site to better be able to tailor your content to customer needs. If you’ve been closely monitoring your website activity already, you should be able to quickly determine whether the most recent algorithm updates affect your own search rankings.

Search engine algorithms are consistently undergoing updates to improve the customer search experience. For businesses trying to ensure they remain at the top of results for related terms, high-quality content can make a big difference. If you’re answering customer questions and providing useful information, you’ll satisfy Google’s user experience requirements and beat the competition for search rankings. Over time, you’ll also find you create a website that visitors find informative and useful, resulting in more conversions and greater brand awareness.

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