The Google ‘Fred’ Survival Guide [a.k.a. Your 2017 refresher on good SEO practices]

What happened?

By now, most of you reading this have probably got your site’s SEO back on track after the latest Google algorithm update “Fred” (which may or may not be the actual name) that hit in the first week of March. Over a month and a half later, things are back to normal for the majority and it’s looking like business as usual.

On the whole, the Fred seems to be more of a wake-up call to those who have not been paying close enough attention to Google’s published guidelines for webmasters. If you’ve not checked them out already, you can read the whole set of guidelines here. However, the new update also brought, along with its host of new changes, an old reminder as well; Google can and will change on you without warning or notice and leave your site(s) in the dust if you don’t step to adapt and evolve when the time comes.


What You Need To Do

If you’re reading all this and completely surprised because you didn’t see any drops in your traffic (maybe you even saw an increase) then the best advice we can give you is to just keep doing what you’re doing. But if you are one of the thousands who were adversely affected by the changes and you’re still having some trouble getting your daily traffic back to the previous levels that you’ve been enjoying, then we’ve compiled a few of the more salient points from the Google guidelines along with some tips to help make you more compliant to the new standards; which will hopefully get you back into Google’s good books in short order.


High-Quality Content

It’s been said before, but it’s always worth repeating, when it comes to securing a page ranking, the only way to enjoy guaranteed success of any measure is to commit to providing content that is high quality, timely and relevant to your targeted audience. Whether that’s your current audience or one you’re hoping to attract, the rules are pretty much the same.

This can be a resource and time intensive process, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s no real long-term substitute for consistent high-quality content. However, there are a few options open to you as to how you can acquire that content without needing to invest in developing it yourself.

Curated U.G.C. – If you are in an industry where you can effectively leverage user generated content that is submitted to your site by your audience… then you are definitely in luck; as long as you can confirm two things – quality and uniqueness. The former is easy to do with a manual quality check by you, but the latter can be tricky, duplicated content that was posted elsewhere is not valuable for your SEO needs at all. However as long as you only use this method to supplement your own content that you provide to your audience without becoming overly dependent, this can be a worthwhile option.

Guest Blogging – A solid ‘middle of the road’ option, guest blogging is a great gateway to reciprocal content and links. Just how often and with how many is for you to decide, but do note that when you link to other sites or blogs, you’re passing on a bit of your ‘authority’ to the other site. This works both ways and is great if you’re receiving links from major sites, but can also dilute your own authority if you provide links to less well known or less trustworthy sources. The best advice you can get when it comes to guest blogging is to pick your friends carefully

Professional Content Services – An approach that costs money, but which will save you a great deal of time and put you in touch with experienced writers who can work with you to deliver consistent high-quality content. In this setup, the content is completely original and the IP rights are yours alone so depending on how and where you want to use and distribute this content, or if your content requires specialist knowledge, this could be the perfect choice for your needs.


Better Keywords

If your content is looking good, but your page rankings and traffic have taken a big hit, getting back on track may be as simple as taking a look at optimizing your current keyword strategy and usage. Keyword performance is something that is less influenced by algorithm changes and is instead an ongoing process that changes constantly. There are three key factors to consider if you’re trying to raise your search engine rankings through keyword optimization


Relevance – This is a very simple guideline to follow and doesn’t really need much in the way of explanation. Your keywords should give a reasonable and honest description of what users can expect if they access a page/ read your content. If your content doesn’t really match up with what your keywords seem to promise or provide only rudimentary and poorly constructed content, you could quickly find your page ranking sinking into oblivion; as many of the so-called ‘content farms’ learned the hard way when the ‘Panda’ update was deployed in 2011

Popularity – While extremely valuable, popularity can be a double-edged sword. By targeting popular, highly general keywords you do stand to easily attract a great deal of traffic for what is in essence not a great deal of effort. Words like ‘weather’,  ‘news’ and ‘movies’ regularly find themselves right at the top of lists of the most popular keywords around. However that also exposes you to the major drawback of picking a popular set of keywords….the competition.

Competition – The dark side of popularity, if a keyword is highly popular, you’re going to be right in the thick of it when it comes to competing for clicks from users. Good implementation of all the other tips can help you stay relevant in the competition; and in some cases, even a small percentage of the pie can be extremely lucrative if the pie is big enough. That said, if you’re looking to avoid the general melee of trying to hold your own with highly contested keywords, you could try to focus on more specific aspects of a more popular whole. Like targeting ‘gluten-free pizza’ over just ‘pizza’ in order to corner a small market that you can perform better in. To put it in business terms, this approach has worked well for companies like Nintendo with their ‘Blue ocean strategy’.

Note: If you’ve been seeing a gradual dip in performance that’s possibly been getting steeper, you may have SEO trouble on your hands; but if your page rankings suddenly went ‘off a cliff’ then it’s probably going to take more than a tweak in your keywords to see the improvement you want.



A little advertising is no problem of course, but if you’ve been layering them on excessively, then you may want to dial back the amount of advertising you include regularly on your pages. In general you should be aware of two factors.

Prevalence – This one is simple enough, a large number of ads or affiliate codes will quickly lose ranking for your site. In general try to keep advertising limited and as non-invasive as possible for the best results.

Placement – Now this factor is concerned with both the actual location of the ad as well as whether your ad is easily identifiable as one. Implementing advertising that is misleading or hidden in some way to look like content is going to hurt your ranking quite badly as such practices are text-book ad spamming, which most search engines don’t take kindly to.


Marketing Your Content

The best content around is worth much if no one reads it. And few things can boost your page ranking faster than a large number of back links from high quality (trusted) sources.

The quantity of links – This metric tracks how many times other sites have links to your content; to put it simply, the more times a particular page has been linked to by others, the more credible that information is going to look to a search algorithm. In this respect, marketing yourself on social media can be a good way to get off the ground if your primary traffic isn’t currently high enough for you to rely solely on direct organic traffic.

The quality of links – Now this isn’t really a new feature, in fact, Google has been monitoring backlink quality for at least a couple of years now since the 2015 search algorithm update ‘Penguin’. While quantity helps, getting links from pages that are considered especially credible or an authority in a particular field or industry will boost your page rankings far higher and far faster than the more ‘populist’ approach above. While good content may eventually be rewarded with links from these desired high-quality sources, pursuing direct relationships with these authorities to cross promote or collaborate for a project would be faster and more dependable though potentially more challenging to achieve.

Don’t Overlook Social – Social content marketing services like DrumUp have features that allow you to share your content not only to your social media, but also to tag your content so that it’s visible to others on the platform, looking for content with similar tags; getting the attention of influencers in this way is a great option to build up both the quality and quantity of your links simultaneously


Make It Count

While there is quite a lot more that the enterprising webmaster can do to further improve on their site’s search ranking performance , simply making sure you maintain a reasonable degree of compliance with the guidelines listed for the above categories will go a very long way in helping you to ensure that your site is able to regain (or even improve) it’s ranking the next time that Google’s ‘spiders’ come a-calling (or would a-crawling be more accurate?)


Featured Image Source: BigOakFlickr