Research into the FRED Google update, confirming why sites lost rankings.

The Fred Update by Google caused quite a ripple in the SEO world, many sites losing ranks, and hence traffic, up to 90% in some cases.  I have been doing quite a bit of digging and have asked some Gurus some pointed questions about why and what has happened.

The overall thoughts on the matter are that Google penalised sites that had poor content, or ones that were simply there to make money and not give anything back to the visitor in the form of useful data or information.

User Experience is Another Factor

Other thoughts on the matter were more to do with the User Experience that a page gave its visitors. Here the sites that were said to be hit included those that placed the copy below the fold of the screen or in some cases had very low load times.

However, in some cases sites were hit that were not just ‘out to make money’, but that seem to have been ‘lumped in’ with those that do because of the lack of content on their page.

Having a Lot of Links Did Not Save Sites

There was also talk that FRED checked on the quality of the links to sites too. This may turn out to be the case, further research is needed on this matter. However, what we can say is that sites that fell foul of FRED’s On Page quality checks were not saved by having a lot of links. Instead their positions were taken by sites that had inferior linking profiles, both at Page and Domain levels.

This research only covers 9 sites, so it can hardly be said to be definitive, but the evidence so far is pretty conclusive. Further research into the sites that were affected but did not fit the profile of sites that ‘should have been affected’ (by Fred) is the next step. More on the ‘efficiency’ of Fred later.

The FRED Data

In each case, the sites that held a first page rank before Fred for a given term were compared with the sites that now hold the first page (for that term). The sites that had lost their first page rank (had to have a position of 7 or above pre Fred) were then checked, this with a view to see ‘what could have caused them to lose their rank’ and whether this fitted with the profile of sites that Fred ‘should have hit’.

The phrases checked covered a range of topics, ranging from ‘lqf fruit’ to ‘chemical companies’ so should be diverse enough to give some firm data.

Search Phrase ‘ lqf Fruit’

Before and After FRED

Search Results pre and post Fred

Google results before and after FRED

Here two sites lost their first page rank:-

1

Not enough text for FRED

A screen shot of the site

This site had lost a rank of 5, and when checked, we saw that the actual page that was shown when you clicked the link was https://www.thespruce.com/what-does-iqf-mean-995719, a page not even on the stated domain. Something that is sure to annoy Google to start with. Furthermore, this page had very thin content and seemed to be only really there provide to a place for Google Ads and other advertisments. Being a prime target for Fred, it is not surprising to see that it was hit.

2

 

Content to Thin

The fruitbycrops site

Again a site with very thin content, just 155 words with an Advert at the very top, again a prime target for Fred.

 

Search Phrase ‘ chemical companies’

Before and After FRED

 

Results before and after FRED

The results for the term before and after FRED

Again two sites affected:-

12

 

 

 

 

This is a big website, with a lot of links, some 222,000 links to the domain, (although only 3 to the page)  linking to the page, the reason it lost its ranks seemingly down to the fact that the page in question was just not related enough, it being just one short item on the page.

4

 

An example of a penalised site

Was this site penalised because it’s copy was not ‘good enough’. Seems to be the most likely.

Another page that held just a small amount of what I would call ‘filler text’, it not really ‘saying anything’, at least in my view, the total length being just 251 words. Again a prime target for the Fred update.

 

Search Phrase ‘welding supplies uk’

Changes in the Google results pre and post FRED

The results from Google, pre and post the Fred update

Two sites here:-.

11

An example of a site hit by FRED

The Weldingshop site one of many hit by the Fred update

This site is not that bad in reality, although some may think it is a bit old fashioned. But it is not as bad as many that do hold onto first page ranks.  What is most likely the cause of the pages loss of rankings is that the main copy is only 340 words long. This leads me to consider that the length on the copy is considered below the ‘satisfactory’ level laid down in the Google Quality Guidelines.

5

 

Little text below the fold

Too little copy, with it below the fold. Possible reasons for the site being hit by FRED

This page lost a rank of 7, again the amount of copy being the likely cause of the drop, only 270 words being on the page, whilst also being below the fold, a factor that Google has stated (in 2012) that caused the value of any copy to be degraded.

Search Phrase ‘metal fabricators’

See how Fred altered the Google results

Google results pre and post the FRED update

Three sites had lost their ranks for this phrase

6

 

 

 

To few words for FRED?

Another site hit by Fred, more than likely due to the small amount of copy

Yet another page that lost its ranks, apparently down to the lack of content, the copy amounting to just 154 words.

7

 

Text below the fold - a reason for a Fred hit?

A page with over 600 words, but being below the fold, this could have caused a Fred hit.

This site had a rank of 4 before Fred, and does have a fair number of words, over 600 in all. However, 90% of it is below the fold on the screen and this looks to be the reason for the drop.

8

 

Yet another site hit by Google's Fred.

Yet another site hit by Google’s Fred.

This page lost its 6th position, it again being a ‘low volume of copy’ casualty, the length of copy amounting to just 170 words.

 

Conclusion

In all cases we can see that the sites affected by Fred did seem to fit the patterns suggested by the Gurus and by other research in that they mostly had very thin copy or ‘hid’ the copy below the fold in the page.

The next step is to see if the pages we are currently looking after SEOwise that also suffered a drop in rankings also fit this pattern.

Watch out for another report on this later in April.