Google Organic Update: Fred?

They are calling it Fred. That’s the name being given to the Google update that hit on March 8th. It is getting a lot of attention in the SEO worlds, as you can imagine. No one really knows what the change is, but the speculation is that it relates to inbound linking.

Every time Google makes a change, the speculation goes to “google is going after black hat seo.” I honestly don’t think so. Google doesn’t make subtle changes in order to “go after” anybody. When they want to do that, there is usually a shot across the bow… some kind of post in the blog or announcement. While this change is unlikely targeting anyone in particular, it does have an impact on many.

Here is our observation based on what we are seeing among our clients. The change seems to be a shift from niche focused inbound links receiving greater weight to more weight being placed on total links to the domain in general. This is something of backtracking on what google did a few years ago where they emphasized the niche content sites relative to the broad content site.

At that time, if two pages had similar content (all else being equal), but one site was entirely focused on the niche and the other was a broader category site, the niche site won out. At that time sites like answers.com lost out to niche sites.

The linking profiles seemed to have been similarly weighted. But, that changed this month.

Most of our clients came through the changes pretty clean. The type of category profiles that did well were:

1. Niche products / services that did not have a ‘general’ site or broader category site playing in the arena. There was no one to supplant them and the rankings were stable (up a bit actually, but I can’t attribute that to this change)

2. Large players with a well established, broad linking profile. They were actually beneficiaries.

The site category that did not fare well was the third:

3. Niche products playing in an arena where there are broad category sellers who also carry the niche product; they were hit hard. The larger sites (usually much larger companies), have a broad linking profile and a lot more inbound links. Up to this point, the high quality inbound links on the niche site outweighed the total quantity of links for the big players. That changed.

We are working with our clients affected by this change to adjust our strategy, but wanted to share our observations more broadly.

The Google Dance continues.

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