Fred Update

The "Fred Update" is a series of algorithm adaptations from Google about the quality of websites. The name of these updates is based on a joke by Gary Illyes.The Fred Update has made the SERPs more dynamic, especially since March.


As early as 2015, SEOs worldwide identified ranking changes in the Google SERPs that were seemingly not related to the Panda Update, but nevertheless took into account the quality of websites. These so-called "quality updates" were also referred to as "phantom updates".[1] This phenomenon was observed again in March 2017. It seemed that changes were being made to the Google algorithms that were more extensive than the Panda Update, but these changes were not confirmed or published by Google.

The operator of, Barry Schwartz, finally asked Google’s Gary Illyes for a name for the update on Twitter. Gary Illyes replied: "Sure! From now on every update, unless otherwise stated, shall be called Fred".[2]

Since then, Google Quality Updates have been called "Fred Updates". The algorithm adaptations are aimed in particular at websites that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines.


In an interview, Gary Illyes confirmed that "Fred" is a whole series of algorithm adjustments, aiming to weed out websites of inferior quality.

Observations have shown that pages particularly affected by the Fred Updates often have the following characteristics:

  • A lot of advertising.
  • Lots of content on very different topics for ranking purposes only.
  • Thin content.
  • Significantly reduced user-friendliness.
  • Content used aggressively for monetization via affiliate marketing.[3]

Significance for search engine optimization[edit]

The effects of the Fred updates were greater for some websites than after the roll-out of the Panda update. For webmasters and SEOs, this makes it even clearer that high-quality content and compliance with Google guidelines for webmasters are absolutely necessary to avoid being penalized by the search engine.

As Google does not concretize the individual algorithm changes, and only refers to the quality in general, website operators must ask themselves all the more whether their pages are user-friendly and meet the user's needs. According to this, one consequence of the Fred updates could be that the motto "What is good for users is good for Google" should become the unrestricted credo of any search engine optimization today.

One way of avoiding penalties from the Fred update would be to read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. The Quality Rater Guidelines[4] are also recommended. They give an impression of how Google rates the quality of websites.


  1. The Phantom Returns: A Guide to Google’s Quality Updates Accessed on June 22, 2018.
  2. Question from Barry Schwartz to Gary Illyes on Twitter, March 9, 2017 Accessed on June 22, 2018
  3. What ist Google Fred Accessed on June 22, 2018
  4. Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines Accessed on June 22, 2018

Web Links[edit]