Google is great at keeping us on our toes as site designers. With regularly released major algorithm updates, we’re forced to keep tweaking our sites and learning new rules to ensure we’re not hit by penalties. That’s why Fred, the most recent Google algorithm update, still has designers reeling several months later.
What’s the right way to respond in light of Fred – or any update? The most basic rule, as SEO columnist and influencer Ryan Shelley explains, is not to panic. Sites with good SEO practices are unlikely to take a serious hit from an algorithm update and may even experience an uptick in their standings.
So take a deep breath, check your site stats, and stay focused. Here’s what you need to know about Fred.
Though Google’s Fred update dropped in March 2017, we all know that the initial phase of any tech update, from a new Apple iOS to a new device, is always a little glitchy. With that in mind, don’t get too flustered if your rankings bounce around during the early days of a new algorithm, as it’s likely that Google is still working out the kinks.
Additionally, there tends to be a lot of misinformation online about new updates that can send you on a wild goose chase in terms of making updates to your site. When Google first announced Fred, they offered no specs, but online commentators went wild, guessing at what the update would require. Those who followed them down that trail likely did more harm than good to their sites.
Speed has always been a selling point for Google; in its early days, we all marveled over how many results it could generate in a fraction of a second. Today, that may not be as impressive, but the emphasis on speed still applies. As Aaron Rains explains, AMP pages make up about 17% of top results. Therefore, adding this feature to your site can give you a real edge in the rankings. Though Google has previously suggested that AMP status doesn’t actually give sites an edge, this doesn’t seem to be the whole truth.
In a similar vein, make sure you’re checking your site load speed and making necessary updates to keep things speeding along. Bounce rates increase for pages that take more than 3 seconds to load and this can really harm your site’s status.
Focus On Quality
Another reason Fred has shaken things up among designers is that it’s part of a new generation of algorithms that are able to effectively gauge site quality. The hardest hit sites under Fred are those that are revenue-driven.
That means ad-heavy, low content pages are more likely to get downgraded over those that provide useful information to readers. It makes sense, but this shift is certainly hard on sites that have been trying to turn content into dollars.
Not only does quality matter under the Fred update, but concision has gained further importance. That means if your site could answer a question in two paragraphs but chooses to write 15, you’ll find yourself further down the results list. Content should be unique, efficient, and engaging, not stuffed with keywords or exclusively commercial in nature.
Ultimately, like most things about Google’s updates, Fred is focused on user experience. Positive UX has dominated Google’s search orientation since the 2012 update that punished sites for excessive “above fold” ad placement, and has continued with the interstitial penalty, mobile readiness, and other ranking modifications.
The simple fact is that great UX should already be your priority. Google is just making sure you stay committed to your audience.