#65 – Google FRED: What You Need To Know

What you will learn

  • How the new Google FRED update affected our sites
  • Some theories around what actually caused the update
  • Why nobody really knows what caused it at this point
  • Whether or not the authority site model still works (hint: it does)
  • What to do if you get hit by any algorithm update

Today, we’re talking about the recent Google FRED update (on March 8th), as well as Google updates in general and what they mean for you as an authority site owner.

What Happened To Our Sites?

Kicking things off with what happened to our sites, our analytics actually show little change after the update.

Health Ambition is down 5%, which – considering the time of year – is pretty normal and something we’re expecting anyway. As for Authority Hacker, it’s still very stable at +/- 1%.

‘The Authority Site System‘ case study site is steadily growing, though it’s still in the early growth stages so it’s difficult to associate any algorithmic changes with that, but it’s a good sign nevertheless.

Reports Of Significant Traffic Loss

Some people have reported up to 90% drop in traffic as a result of this update.

As worrying as that is, this kind of thing happens with every updates. there’s always a small group of people claiming they did everything right, but were still somehow hit.

What you often find is, their site isn’t as clean as they make out and they forget to tell you about the time they bought some links or ripped some content — so you have to be careful not to take these claims at face value.

The Root Cause

Whenever a big update like this happens, people scramble to find out what factors are responsible for sites that were “hit”. As a result, people share URL’s that were affected and the community as a whole tries to piece things together.

At the moment, nobody really knows what Google is targeting with this update, and it may be a while until we have any idea what it might be.

If you look at how Google did things 5-6 years ago, it was still regular programming (if this, then that – kinda thing). Now, they’re investing heavily in AI which means it will be much harder to pinpoint the root cause because it’s a lot more refined.

It’s easy for people make blanket statements – like “this update targets low quality sites”, or “sites with thin content” – but it’s far too broad to be of any real use to the community. After all, what exactly is thin content? At what point is content not thin anymore?

A Big Game Of Chinese Whispers

In a situation like this, where panic and confusion are rife, people tend to flock to industry experts for advice.

As a result, these ‘experts’ are under pressure to come up with something in order to retain their status – even if it shows little evidence or justification. These theories are then used as the basis for other, fan-made theories which creates a massive game of Chinese whispers.

Eventually, people start creating false beliefs about what happened, purely on the back of theories that have now snowballed out of control.

If you’ve ever watched Derren Brown’s Trick or Treat, you may have seen an experiment he carried out highlighting this problem perfectly.

Our Take On This, And Every Future Update.

Basically, we don’t know what caused it.

It’s probably more complicated than we know and there’s a good chance we’ll never really understand what caused it.

What we do know, however, is what Google wants. They want to provide people with the best user experience so they’ll keep coming back, and they’ll keep making searches.

That’s how Google makes the majority of their money and you can bet their doing everything they can to improve the user experience. Every update is designed to show relevant, high-quality and trustworthy sites…

…so guess what your site needs to be?

What To Do If You’ve Been Hit

hit by car

#1: Just Stay Cool

When an update is released, it tends to have an immediate – but not permanent – effect.

We’ve seen this happen enough times to know that an update is fine-tuned for weeks and months after the initial rollout. but then changes many times over the next weeks or months.

In other words, it’s very possible your site will bounce back.

Seriously, the best thing to do is to just take a break. Wait for the dust to settle. Work on other projects. Expand your portfolio.

#2: Let T he Community Figure It Out

Sometimes the best thing to do is just wait for other people to figure it out. Sounds lazy, but some people are in a much better position than you when it comes to solving these kinds of problem.

Agencies are great example because they’ll be under pressure from clients, and they’ll also have a ton of sites to try different things with.

Even better, when they find a solution, it’s not long before they publish a guest post on site like Moz.com detailing their success.

#3: Take Incremental Steps To Fix It

It’s common for people to read a theory on a blog, and then make significant changes to their site based on what that person ‘thinks’ was the cause.

If you’re site does bounce back, you’ll never know why because you threw the baby out with the bathwater. We know it can be tempting when you see a big traffic loss to going to repair mode, but that approach will hurt you in the long run.

Note: A lot of these updates don’t happen in real-time. Google has to hit refresh for any changes to be applied to your site. That means anything you’ve done to your site may not have an effect until Google rolls it out again.


If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you’ll know this is exactly why we focus on building white-hat sites. Sites that remain unaffected by updates because they’re sites Google WANTS to show.

Want to learn how to build sites that are update-proof? We cover everything in our step-by-step program, The Authority Site System.