Google Update “Fred” March 9

by Jim March 15, 2017


Welcome back Rankers! Guess what? Another update! Yeah, I know.

In fairness to Google, they do say they make a lot of updates. They’ve stated previously that they do two per day. Some of them minor, but this one appears to be large although we can’t find any of our own clients, or any of our own sites, that have actually been affected by it. That usually makes me think it’s a link update as we don’t have any backlink campaigns or the like, which is the tradition with a lot of SEO.

The Missing Day

The sites that have been reporting the massive outages are talking about ninety per cent less traffic since last Thursday. Incidentally, if you go to your Search Analytics in Google Search Console, you will see a great big chunk missing on the ninth. That was the day of the update as well.

GSC  google update fred
GSC google update fred

There’s been a lot of chatter as you can imagine online. Last week, Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land, all thought it was backlinks. I’ve had a look at a couple of sites. So, we started our BloggersSEO product launch, had it last week, so if you are trying to set up a blog on WordPress, get across to or join our Facebook group, or both, and you can learn heaps about SEO. It is primarily for people on WordPress who have a blog. It’s not for eCommerce blogs.

Google update Fred casualty
Google update Fred casualty

So I asked in that group and a couple of people came forward. One guy, thanks David, said that he had seen a massive drop in traffic since the Thursday. I went and had a look at his site that was built in Joomla! And he had lots of duplication internally with Search Engine Friendly (S.E.F.) URLs and non-S.E.F. ones. The Joomla! site was publishing both types of URLs.

Then Dr. Bill Sukala, who is a bit of a celebrity doctor over here, said in the ProBlogger group that he had experienced massive drops of around eighty per cent. I went and had a look at his site and it contained a lot of shitty backlinks pointing at his site, but given that Penguin is real-time it’s hard to believe it would have been a link update, in the update, as Penguin should be taking care of that in real-time.

When I dug deeper in his site, he had a lot of tag pages indexed, so he had a lot of pages, in WordPress essentially, if you add a tag to a post, which are meant to help the user, for example if you wrote a post about billiard tables, then you would tag it as such and the user can click on that tag for billiard tables and they can see all the posts you’ve written on billiard tables. If you’ve only written one post about billiard tables, and you’ve given that a tag, then when you click on that tag, the page you will go to is essentially an empty page with one link to the post you’ve just written.

Quality, Quality, Quality

So when Google comes along and finds that page, it views it as a low quality page. Now if you have a lot of those, if you do many tags, your site tends to become low quality at that point. I think that was the situation with Dr Bill. Now Barry has posted a new article last night on what he thinks it is. He got a bunch of people to submit their sites to him to say, “Yeah, we’ve been hit and what is it?” Barry’s conclusion is that it’s possibly sites that are low quality, so I agree with him on that, but he’s also saying it’s sites with a lot of advertising and what he would describe as low quality content.

Now certainly for some of the sites I’ve looked at that is true. But that’s not true for Dr Bill Sukala, and it’s not true for some of the other sites I’ve been looking at in the BloggersSEO support group. While it’s true that the quality of some of the content in some of the sites he’s looked at is not great, I’ve gone through and had a look at the first eight sites. All of them have quality issues.

sites affected by Google update Fred
sites affected by Google update Fred

If all of these sites fixed these quality issues, they would see some restoration of their rankings. I don’t know if that would apply to all of them, or all the traffic, but certainly I’ve told Dr Bill to do this and I’ve told David to do this, and we’re waiting to see what the results of their actions are.

UPDATE: I can confirm Dr Bill Sukala’s ranking seemed to have returned this morning by removing tags and stopping Google crawling parameter pages.  The very short tail have still not returned. In fact for the short tail he has gone from page one to outside the top 100. That felt like a penalty. All the headings on the target page had the key phrase in them. Even though it read ok, was it keyword stuffing? We’ll see. 

In the first one we have duplicate page titles, and we have all the pagination of the blogs indexed. So the problem with that is of course is that we get lots of pages with duplicate titles. Duplicate titles seem to be a theme with all these sites. This one,, also has a subdomain, which is test.subdomain.europeforvisitors. So that’s a duplication of the main site, so they’ve got a whole subdomain that’s duplicated. The next one, has the same issues. It has both www and non-www being crawled. Both are 200OK but the non-www’s are canonicalised to the www’s. And this has 193,000 pages in the index and hundreds and hundreds of duplicate titles. So once again, duplicate titles, duplicate site. So duplication seems to be the problem here.
This one,, is weird. It has a major quality issue. If you go and look at that site it’s actually 302’d to the of that site, however the is not indexed, it’s the .com that is indexed. So at some point someone has thrown a 302, or it may be unrelated to the others and someone has just thrown a 302 on the site and they’ve wondered where all their traffic has gone! has massive amounts of tags with only one entry and its speed is disastrous, only 29/100 on page speed insights. So once again, quality, quality, quality. With all the tag pages, you are also going to get duplicate page titles with that. The next one has 980 pages with 72 tags, and in this one, I would say that the ads are outweighing the content.

Probably Panda

So to me, this appears to be some sort of Panda update. If you’ve suffered from this, go through and make sure you have no duplicate titles, go into the HTML suggestions of your site in Google Search Console, under Search Appearance, and go into HTML Suggestions. Just make sure that you don’t have heaps of alerts in here that tell you that you’ve got duplicate titles, because that could be a sign of one of these updates. If you have been hit by this last Thursday, please let us know as I’d just love to have a look at the site just to see if this theory bears out. If you want to go do the checks yourself, look for things like running Screaming Frog over the site, the crawler, and when you’ve got that, what I tend to do for this particular update anyway is I’m just watching the ‘Page Titles’ tab and looking for duplicates.
Hopefully that’s helpful. Let me know how you go and we’ll see you next week. Thanks very much. Bye.

Part 2 Google Fred Update here. 

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