Did Google’s Fred update hit low-value content sites that focus on revenue, not users?

Last week, we reported about a new unconfirmed Google ranking update that is going by the name of Fred. Google has not confirmed this update. In fact, they told us they have no comment at all on this.

That being said, I spent the weekend collecting sample URLs of webmasters who claimed to have been hit by this update. After reviewing now upward of 100 different sites, I believe this update targets low-value content sites that put revenue above helping their users.

The vast majority of URLs shared with me all show the same type of website. A content site, often in a blog format, but not always, that has content on various topics — which looks to be written for ranking purposes and then has ads and/or affiliate links sprinkled throughout the article. Many of these sites are not industry expert sites, but rather they seem to have content on vast array of topics that are not adding all that much value above what other sites in the industry have already written.

All these sites saw 50 percent to 90 percent traffic declines from Google organic search. This was a massive organic ranking drop for these sites.

In many cases, the content is wrapped around ads, where often the ads are a bit hard to differentiate from the content. In other cases, there are fewer ads or no ads, but rather there is revenue generation through affiliate models, lead generation or other avenues.

I posted 20 or so example sites that were hit and were brave enough to share their URLs publicly. Look through them, and I believe you will see the same pattern. I’ve seen over 100 sites, and I’d say 95 percent of them follow this pattern, while the other 5 percent shared with me did not.

This is not to say that other sites were not also hit over other issues, such as link penalties or other algorithms Google may have released around the same time frame. There were definitely a handful of sites that did not match the rest of the batch. So I am not saying all sites that saw ranking declines on March 8 were hit by this “Fred” update, but most were.

But the sites that I reviewed were required to email me a screen shot of their analytics so I can verify the massive drop in organic traffic on March 8, 2017, and their URLs.

In short, I think this “Fred Google update” did indeed hit low-valued content sites aimed at revenue generation over the goal of helping their users and readers.

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