Google has, time and time again avoided – or even flat out refused – to give any indication of when it rolled out an update. Their way of doing this has been always to assert that they make updates to their algorithms on a continuous basis, rather than having distinct launch dates for particular releases. It’s not difficult to see why that’s probably a good idea. It keeps everyone guessing and acting on a desire to actually improve their SEO techniques rather than a temptation to eschew the latest changes. It’s the equivalent of saying that Santa Claus exists and watches you all the time and any time you’re naughty you might get the stick instead of the high rating. Except you don’t know when Christmas is and it might happen every other day or so.
Assumptions on a fresh Google update were immediate. And, like it previously happened, the alleged new algorithm has already a name and a face. Google Fred seems to be the name and, preserving the tradition where cute animal figures represent Google’s updates, this time a fish seems to have won the mascot contest. Much uproar stirred up lately with lots of webmasters and SEO pros noticing massive ranking drops. And as “coincidence” doesn’t seem plausible at all when we are looking at Google algorithm changes, the Google Fred Update seems to be responsible for the dropped ranks and organic traffic.
Once Is Happenstance. Twice Is Coincidence. Three Times Is Google Fred Update?
Whenever someone thinks they’ve discovered a new algorithm update, it always feels a bit like you’re in an X-Files episode. You’ve stumbled upon something that really doesn’t seem right, but If you suggest it’s the hand of the “powers that be,” people might look at you funny. All the while Google slyly smiles and reaffirms its uneventful day-to-day existence. But as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you. And so it turns out that there may (or may not) be a new update and if there is, it’s named Fred. In fact, all future updates might be called Fred from now on if we were to look after Gary Illlyes’ affirmation. So we might need to say goodbye to Google Penguin and Panda, for the moment, because algorithm updates have gotten even just a little bit less cute (no offense to the Freds of this world).
It’s a cat and mouse game where both Google and its paying customers are trying to get ahead of each other.
How do you identify a potentially significant algorithm update?
There’s no single metric that will tell you it happened, but if you gather enough significant indicators, you might just be onto something (if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it might be a Fred).
Barry Schwartz, of Search Engine Roundtable, may have just stumbled on some quacks. While his interaction with Google’s Gary Illyes (and john Mueller) on social media has yielded business as usual in terms of confirming suspicions (with a traditional “Yes, we make changes almost every day”), his data analysis seems to suggest there could be something significant at work. The most significant signals come from different measurements of search engine ranking position (SERP) fluctuations.
As we took a look at some specialized tools, we can see some fluctuations in the last days, variations that can or not be correlated with a new Google quality update.
Although none of the measurements are significant on their own, when taken together they make a worthwhile argument that a new Fred is on the loose.
WebmasterWorld and Black Hat World were among the ones who noticed some weird activity in the last week or so as well. And although Google is always dancing around, it seems that dramatic shifting has happened in the past couple of days. Or at least this is what people on SEO community from forums and on Twitter keep on debating.
Possible Google Fred Update “Victims”
It becomes easy to forget that looking up something on Google is not just a search, but a search performed on a particular type of search engine, according to particular algorithms and with particular implications in terms of customer experience and data privacy. And because Google as a search engine is ultimately a product which interacts with other products, other companies try to continuously adapt to Google’s way of working so that they profit from its popularity. In order for Google to retain that popularity, it must ensure that other companies don’t profit too much of its product, so that it remains trustworthy to its consumers (and a popular synonym for “search online” in the same time).
As hopefully, you have already noticed, we, at cognitiveSEO like to research a lot. And this is because at the end of the day research is creating new knowledge. Cutting-edge is our main core, and we want to stick to it. In the last hours, we’ve overworked our databases and the coffee machine in the quest of investigating the possible newest Google Fred Update.
As much as we’ve searched, we didn’t find a direct correlation between the dropped Google ranks and a possible algorithm change.
The SERP’s volatility is, as you know, as high as it gets and it would be tough and unrealistic to put our finger on a Google Update. We’ve found some examples of ranking drops which we are going to paste it below. Keep in mind that, for the moment, we cannot make a strong correlation between a possible Google Fred Algorithm and the current situation of the ranks.
As we take a look at the image above, it seems that a major drop in traffic has occurred on dankstop.com lately. The site is an online head shop based in the US that has a quite big number of links reported to the total of referring domain. Not to mention that most of their links are low or no authority.
They seem to have gathered a lot of new links in the period 26 February – 5th of March. You can check out its analysis here. Even taking all of these into consideration, we cannot yet correlate this drop with a possible Google algorithm update.
futuresofpalmbeach.com, is an addiction treatment center from Florida dropped in rankings as well lately. Except a bit of unusual Link Velocity, it seems that the site has nothing unusual in their link profile.
Is It Really a New Google Update?
When a product or a service becomes really popular, the company usually sets the sight for market leadership, a magical place of self-fulfilling (and self-replenishing) power. But there is an even more mythical place beyond that, where the product’s name becomes so ubiquitous and easily-identifiable with the product class itself, that a name for a product replaces the name for the product category. In many countries, for instance, the word “xerox” has become a verb which stands for the process of photocopying a document. In some countries “adidas” is the same as sport shoes, while in others “kleenex” is the same as tissue. But perhaps the most ubiquitous nowadays is the use of the word “google” as a verb, to mean “to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.” That’s the Merriam-Webster definition, but in everyday use, there’s an even simpler definition: to google means, quite simply, to search online.
Therefore, with Google becoming more than a search engine, it’s almost natural that a lot of ranking updates to appear on a regulate basis. We are already familiar with Google Updates, call it the Panda, Penguin or Fred update, and we tend to associate these algorithm changes with link quality or content’s value.
For the moment we cannot be sure that Google Fred Algorithm Update even exists, let alone to correlate it to a link or quality content issue.
Ups and downs happen on a daily basis on Google’s SERP. Sometimes they are related to an algorithm change and sometimes they just happen as a part of Google’s volatility. As mentioned before, using our tracking tools we’ve made a serious, in-depth research in the past 24 hours, trying to find out any correlation between an alleged Google update and search rankings’drop. We found some irregularities, yet, nothing out of the ordinary or nothing that can be correlated directly to a new update or algorithm change.