What is the FRED Algorithm?
It goes without saying that, in this case, Fred is not a boosting algorithm. That is, Google has not launched this update to reward sites that do very well, but it is a totally penalizing algorithm. Why?
Because its mission is to remove from the top positions, and even from Google’s index, all those pages that receive a multitude of poor quality links and pages that have an excessive use of affiliate links and advertising.
So why those who do well have grown?
Well, because, effectively, the search position that a website that has been penalized with this algorithm was occupying has to be occupied by the next in the list, so those who have not been penalized and were competing with websites that have lost positions, have improved their search results.
Answering again to the question “What is Fred”, it is a new algorithmic update of the search engine and filtering Google. This new update has not yet been confirmed by the big search engine. However it is taken for granted in every way, because the fluctuations that have occurred during the days 8 and 9 March for google.com and 13 and 14 March for Google.es were too large to be overlooked or attributed to chance.
Google is not in the habit of confirming their updates. What’s more, they commented that every day there are one or more algorithm updates, although the corrections are so small that they are barely noticeable in the SERPs. But in this case we found drops of more than 90% in some examples we have studied.
In addition, an alternative name has been sought, different from the little animals we are used to: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird … Here the SEO community has adopted the name Fred. Why? Well, because Barry Schwartz from seroundtable.com
ironized with this name to all the algorithms that come out in the future without a name.
But I’m not done yet. This algorithm update goes much further than a link or content penalty. This time Google looks much more for the user and their browsing experience. Sadly in some portals navigation can become very complicated due to the amount of ads, whether Adsense or Affiliates. And not only because of the amount of ads but also because of the placement of them:
- Scrolling text to place ads
- Simulating navigation menu
- Placing ads very close to news links
- Showing super intrusive popups…
So, we are in a position to say that this Google update is the culmination of a previous update that started many months ago and is now finally over. For those of you who are familiar with SEO you will already be thinking about Phamtom. The most logical thing to do, if it weren’t for Barry’s joke, would have been to call this update Phamtom 2:
- Improve user experience.
- Content organization.
- Fight against spam.
- Neither of the two has been confirmed by Google.
Unlike the previous one, we do know a lot about Fred. The SEO community
has started to work immediately, and we have received a lot of pages from people who have seen their projects decrease in the search rankings. And therefore also in the number of visits and performance of the same.
Fred Algorithm Study
This study is elaborated with more than 150 pages, some public and some private (obviously we can’t mention the private ones here, although we will put some analytical graphs), in which we have studied behaviors related to links and user experience.
Penalization for SPAM Links (Blackhat)
It has caught my attention, that the vast majority of pages that have been penalized had very well worked the anchor text of the links, almost by hand. For example:
www.mydomain.com (5%) mydomain.com (3%=) http://mydomain.com (2%) Website (1,4%) visit mydomain.com (1%) keyword mydomain.com (1%).
The problem with all of them is that most of them have a totally disorganized link structure, where we can see a multitude of links from the same domain or from the same ip to the money site. In a percentage of over 80% of the domains studied received more than 2K linked domains, which provided more than 200k links. In addition, 97% of the links were follow links.
If this article is being read by someone who is used to work Black Hat SEO professionally will agree with me that this is a badly elaborated blackhat technique, because nowadays, even black hat techniques have had to be refined to avoid being hunted by algorithms like Fred.
That’s why on the one hand we can say that Google has gone hunting for “Black Hats” again, and those who haven’t protected themselves too much have been hunted down.
Unconscionable Ad Strategy
Another of the fundamental aspects that we can see in the study we have done is that in almost all cases the project had the same aspect: a blog, with enough content, but also with a lot of advertising (Adsense and Affiliates). After observing and patterning the penalties, we can see that the level of fall of each of the projects is inversely proportional to the user experience (cheating) that they offer on their page. Why do we say this?
Because the big punished have been those who have sought the Adsense click above anything else. And for this they have had no qualms about using techniques such as:
- Placing an Adsense ad very close to a post link. This is one of the main problems we have found. The user who clicks with the mouse on the link of the post must be extremely accurate, because a few millimeters up or down can make him click on the Adsense banner and take him out of the page. If this happens with the mouse, imagine what can happen with a finger in mobile or tablet browsing, being even more intrusive.
Image of a penalized portal in which you can see how there are adsense banners together, very close to links or even glued to pages and simulating a menu.
- Adsense ads simulating a menu. We often see in the headers of some portals Google ads with several buttons placed horizontally. This can cause the user to interpret the ad as a menu of the page, and therefore click without wanting to do so. On mobile it is a little less intrusive because we are used to responsive drop-down menus that make us not identify the banner as a menu.
In this case the banner is placed right where the menu could fit perfectly. In theory for those who browse a lot you know that it is a banner, but for those who are not so much can be confusing.
- Adsense ads simulating labels or breadcrumbs. This is another variant of the previous case. Here the banner will simulate, in text mode, the labels of the web page or even can simulate breadcrumbs, so that many people will click on the banner believing that it will go to another part of the page and yet they do not know that it is an ad.
It’s really quite distressing to browse a site where they are trying to trick you at every turn, to get you to click on one of the banners. We should not look for the click that you do not want to give, but the click deserved and requested.
Number of Ads
The number of ads has been an important factor to take into account in the penalties we have studied. In most cases they had more than 10 ads, but it was not in itself the problem of the number of ads throughout the portal, but in the placement of the same. In the vast majority of cases we found 2 or 3 ads without any text around them, or very little. That is to say 2 or 3 ads glued to each other.
In this case we see how there are up to 3 links together, with a title between the 2 and 3. In addition the banner 3 is shaped like a menu, which is even more intrusive.
In this case we have observed certain portals that have suffered large penalties, but had no Adsense advertising, or advertising of any kind. So what could it be if the pattern of links was normal? In most of them we have noticed that they had a large number of affiliate links. In some cases even in a forced way, i.e. using anchor text words that have nothing to do with the destination of the link. Although we have not confirmed it, and therefore we can not establish a valid hypothesis that we can prove, many of these portals used link cleaning modules or plugins. At first glance you are not realizing that the link you are clicking on is an affiliate link, and therefore the destination of that link is being falsified. I insist that we cannot prove the latter, we can not assert a direct relationship between penalties and the use of plugin modification of affiliate links to pass them off as internal links even. But we must not forget that in the above premises, (spam links, excessive ads) what Google is looking for is to combat the deception that the user may suffer, and therefore the pretty dress an affiliate link is a deception more.
Examples of web pages penalized by Fred
Example 1 – Theme: Online Television – Traffic before the penalty: 429K – Traffic after the penalty: 172K – Total Drop: 60%.
Visibility level graph where we can see a fall of almost 90%.
This graph shows the fall suffered by the portal in google.com just between the 7th and 8th of March. Graph obtained with semrush
In this graph obtained with Semrush, shows how the fall is even more bulky in Google.es – In addition we see how in the Spanish search engine algorithm update was delayed to 13 and 14 March.
Example 2 – Subject: Adult – Traffic before the penalty: 2.6M – Traffic after the penalty: 968K – Total Drop: 63%.
Visibility graph in which we can see how the fall exceeds 90% (keyword visibility).
This time we can see how Fred’s update is repeated on March 13th and 14th for Google.es. Graph of the penalty suffered by the algorithm update. In this case it started on March 6th, although the strong fall occurred between March 7th and 8th. This portal has lost more than a million and a half visits in 2 days.
Example 3 – Subject: Institutional website – Traffic before the penalty: 83K – Traffic after the penalty: 41K – Total drop: 50%.
This is an institutional website where, until recently, it was possible to create blogs freely. We see how it has suffered two severe penalties. The last one coinciding with the algotimo update we talked about.
This time we can see how the delay of the Google update for Google continues to be fulfilled.es. In this case there is a severe drop between the 13th and 14th of March. Although here we see how the algorithm has returned to the portal not only the visibility it had but much more.
This is an atypical case and that’s why we show it. In this case, along with two more cases of the total of 150 websites after suffering a severe penalty have improved results. This is commented in some American portals related to SEO that is due to the corrections that has suffered the algorithm in the days following its update.
What I think in this case (although I can not prove it) is that google has already begun to use artificial intelligence in their own algorithms, which makes the crawler itself learn from each of the portals, retain this information and use it on other sites.
Example 3 – Topic: Services – Traffic before the penalty: 30.2K – Traffic after the penalty: 24.5K – Total Drop: 20%.
The difference between the two graphs is due to the amount of keywords that have the different tools that have been used. In this case it was a portal that uses a Black Hat SEO technique and content automation to show a service in each of the municipalities of Spain with spined content.
The latest modification of the Google Algorithm called Fred, comes to combat all those portals that try to deceive the user, with the sole purpose of making money with ads, but without offering quality information. Also those who try to boost their search results with low quality links.
What precautions should we take with Fred?
- Develop a linkbuilding policy of very high quality, without crossing the red line. And if it can be linkbaiting much better.
- Be aware of possible Negative SEO attacks, which are now “almost” immediate, or without the almost. These attacks can make your linkbuilding strategy go down the drain.
- Place Google advertising or any other media in a clear way, where it is identified as an Adsense banner and do not try to pass it off as a banner of the same website or even text of the same.
- Do not place google ads near other links. This is a common practice in Youtube, when they place clickable sections at the bottom of the video (behind the time bar of the video), so that sometimes when you want to advance the same, unintentionally click on that area that generates a subscription to the video or you go to another video, or even to an external site. In a web portal is the same. We must not make it difficult for the user, so that the advertising banners are sufficiently separated from any other link, or even from any other website.
- Do not use an excessive number of ads from Google or other media. Therefore, we must be extremely careful from now on with external links that come from images, because we could run the risk of Google taking them for advertising and penalize the portal.
- Do not use an excessive number of affiliate links. In some cases we have studied a portal related to adult themes, which showed a grid with about 50 images, and in each of these images there was an affiliate link to a website, also adult, this page has coincided with a fall on the weekend of March 8 more than 90%, although we would be unprofessional if we attribute this fall only to Fred after analyzing the site.
- Do not disguise affiliate links. This is a premise that we should also try to comply with. There are several modules for WordPress that make your link to be displayed differently, but in reality what it does is to camouflage the link with another name and then go to the affiliate site. This should be avoided to avoid Google penalties.
- Be natural also with the use of affiliate links. Often we are not aware of how to use an affiliate link, how we should place it. The most natural is to have no more than two affiliate links from the same url, from within a content longer than 1000 or 1500 words. For example. Imagine a guide in which you tell how to create a WordPress website and in the hosting section you place an affiliate link to Webempresa (I will not place any link here so as not to be suspicious, despite my always positive reviews of the brand).
And what will happen in the future?
The future in the world of SEO no one can know for sure, not even Google itself, beyond the short-term strategy, due to spam techniques that are born every day. However, those of us who are dedicated to this world realize that Google is obsessed with blackhat. Even Google leaders stated in Twits that they have been “years without entering forums on this topic”, something that nobody believes. It’s like when Matt Cuts said: “There is nothing you can do in Google to make your competition go down in the search results”. Well, the same. That’s why I think the big search engine is obsessed with Blackhaters, and tries to hunt them down no matter what. So this is just the tip of the iceberg, and in the coming months (here I can not be more explicit) we will see new algorithm updates chasing other types of Black Hat techniques, as they did in February this year (or tried to) with the PBN’s.
What techniques could be dangerous for the future?
- Simulation of structured data
- Content spinoff (no matter how good it is)
- Creation of the same pages (spined content) for different populations (different url)
- Massive redirection of expired domains (I’m not sure about this, that’s why I put massive).
In short, if you have ever thought of crossing the line and using (badly elaborated) Black Hat SEO techniques, this is the worst time to start. We must be extremely cautious because we are at the beginning. The next few months are going to be fun and we’re going to tell you about it.