Fred Update – Throwing E-commerce Sites Back to the Stone Age

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Fred update

Google has done it again! New update comes with Fred, the lovely Stone Age neighbor.

The latest among Google updates came on March 7, 2017. Although there wasn’t any official confirmation at the time, we are now calling it Fred.

Gary Illyes from Google officially confirmed the news through his Twitter account on March 8.

Since them, some websites have experienced severe fluctuation in traffic, losing 50 to 90 percent of its visitors. On the other hand, like always, there were those who profited.

Let’s check some things we’ve learned so far!

  1. Fred update is mostly  about content

First of all, it is necessary to mention that Fred is a content update.

It targets websites that weren’t affected with previous algorithm updates. One of the biggest targets are e-commerce websites.

If you have an e-commerce site you’re probably wondering why this happened to you.

Here are several reasons why Fred tanked your site’s rankings:

  • Your website is focusing on one and the same keywords. This is common for online stores. For example, if you’re selling mattresses, it is normal to have numerous pages with product description where your main keywords “mattress” and “mattresses” are mentioned
  • Again, thin content is being hit hard by Fred. E-commerce websites have a lot of pages with such content that show some basic data about a product such as its dimensions and price
  • Your pages are not user friendly. Although they might help out during purchasing process they rarely answer visitor’s query. And nowadays Google is all about answering questions
  • Due to your short text, people rarely stick around even if they like the product and purchase it afterwards. This speaks badly about the quality of your pages in general
  • It is normal for e-commerce websites to have ads, promos and affiliate links. All these were likely hit by Fred
  • One-dimensional content might be a problem. Have in mind that most of the websites are still only creating contextual content. Given that Google search engine is slowly but surely turning towards videos and other forms of content, it is possible that websites that only have articles will suffer

Have in mind that this is not confirmed and Fred update is still rather new.

There are no real studies that will confirm this but given Google’s tendencies and sudden drop in traffic and ranking for e-commerce websites, it is safe to presume that these factors play an enormous part.

  1. What is your first move after Fred?

Although I mentioned that Fred is mainly geared towards e-commerce websites and that these businesses are most likely to be targeted, you still should check your traffic stats regardless of site type you’re running. In a way, Fred is a friendly reminder there is something amiss with your content.

Use Google Analytics to check your website and blog traffic and revenue.

Given that Fred has been around since March 2017, this should be your range. Nevertheless, there are a lot of websites that have noticed changes only in the last month or so. If you see some extreme spikes, this is a clear indication that Fred algorithm update has gotten you.

It is necessary to diagnose the issue before you take any action. Make sure to focus on:

  • Content quality
  • Content length
  • Presence of different multimedia
  • Amount of ads you have
  • Amount of affiliate links you have
  • User engagement metrics

Each one of these elements can play a major role affecting your web traffic. I would recommend that you employ a reputable SEO company to take care of your SEO.

If you wish to resolve the matter yourself, make sure to check the following tips.

  1. Fixing your content length and quality

As I mentioned, this is the first thing you have to pay attention to.

Until recently, 500 words long content was sufficient. With Fred update, it is safe to say that this type of a content will no longer cut it.

That being said, it is obvious that e-commerce websites will be affected but this also might affect sites within tourism, fashion and design that mostly rely on images.

Start writing articles that will force your visitors to stay longer on your pages increasing your user engagement stats (I will talk more about them so stick with me!).

Your content should be thorough and should give actionable, useful tips. In the end, people browse the Internet in order to solve their issues and to satisfy their buyer intent.

When it comes to content quality, these are the things you need to fix:

  • Repetitive keywords
  • Regurgitating one and the same articles and sentences
  • Bad grammar
  • Lack of formatting

As I always say, make sure that your articles are like books. If your visitors can easily digest them they will stay longer on your pages.

Ultimately, you are writing articles for people, not robots!

  1. Using various multimedia

I can’t say for sure how important multimedia is to Fred update. This is one of the most ambiguous points on our list.

One thing is for certain: Google is gearing towards content diversity.

This can especially be devastating for old websites that haven’t changed their layout for years and haven’t implemented modern multimedia solutions such as videos.

In this case, you need to find balance.

Your content needs to be in-depth and well researched, to have different elements, however you shouldn’t overdo it.

Always remember that by revamping your website too much, you can turn away loyal visitors.

This can especially be devastating if it turns out that multimedia wasn’t the issue in the first place.

It is a good idea to slowly start introducing videos, infographics and images but make sure its warranted and that you’re able to create quality marketing solutions.

  1. Too much ads and affiliate links is bad

Ads were already tackled with “Top Heavy” update. Fred update additionally boosted it.

Previously, I mentioned that ad and affiliate links are common for commercial websites.

However, they are also present in certain niches such as Mommy bloggers where it’s common for websites to join up and link to each other.

They also have a strong commercial intent promoting almost anything on their pages in order to make profit.

If you want to learn more about ads and how many you can have on one page, it is best if you read this article for additional info.

According to the author, you can have:

  • Maximum 3 AdSense for content units
  • No more than 3 link units
  • Up to 2 search boxes

Although Google has gone back and forth with their policies, this is a rule of thumb you should respect at all times.

That is, if you wish to feel safe at all times.

  1. How important are user engagements stats?

In a way, it Fred update comes down to user engagement.

All these changes and the update itself were introduced to improve users’ experience. This is something Google has invested a lot of time developing and improving.

I can’t even tell for sure if Fred was created to tackle bad content or to improve experience. Anyway, the result is the same.

I already wrote about audience engagement metrics, why they’re so important and how to ramp them up.

Anyway, your task is to keep people on your pages for as long as possible. It is also better if they browse a lot.

Here are some tips that can help you out:

  • Titles and meta descriptions are crucial. When a visitor reaches your page, they need to be satisfied with your content. If you promoted it in a wrong way, this can only disappoint the user and they will immediately leave your site. In that regard, always avoid click baits. They can slowly ruin your site
  • Every sentence matters after Fred update. Make sure to focus on actionable tips and avoid empty words
  • You need to have good navigation and search bar. This will ensure that a visitor can quickly and easily jump from a topic to topic
  • Make sure to add links and images pointing to related content
  • Focus on people who are interested in your content. For example, if you have a gun lover website there is no point in promoting it through animal lover social channels. By sharing your content with people who care, you are bound to have better site stats

What’s the purpose of your content? Does it serve end users?

No matter what you create, it needs to serve some purpose.

Four main user engagement stats to be considered are:

  • Time spend on a page  a.k.a. dwell time (the longer the better)
  • Bounce rate (refers to percentage of people who leave your website after seeing just one page; bounce rate has to be low)
  • Click-through-rate (refers to number of people who clicked on your link after seeing it in Google)
  • Shares and comments (shares and comments are sometimes referred to as new age links)

Every little bit matters for Fred update.

Simply put, it is your task to “figure out” your visitors and provide them just the thing they need.

This is the only way to improve their experience.


According to what I’ve seen so far, Fred has done a number on e-commerce websites.

If you’ve been hit, do not panic! There’s a cure.

Although this is hard pill to swallow, this Google update shows the general direction in which Google is going.

If you haven’t made the necessary changes previously, you will definitely have to make them now. This isn’t a particularly good consolation but at least it is something.

Fred is meant to provide better experience for users and fuller, more diverse content. As long as you’re able to fit in this mold, your website will get back on the right track or even improve its traffic.

Have you been hit by Fred? How much traffic and revenue did you lose? Tell in the comment section below!

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Dibakar Bala
3 years ago

Hi Nikolay!
Your pop-up is a bit irritating on mobile interface. Specially the close button hides itself inside the address bar. Please have a look at it. And surely, you’ve nice focused content on your site. Loved it! 🙂

Brett Cairns
3 years ago

These constant google updates do not seem to be making search results any better

3 years ago

Loved this post. Lots of fresh insights, many I’ve never considered.