Major Google Algorithm Updates in 2017

Since the year beginning, the SEO industry has been watching an unconfirmed Google ranking update that seems to target more of the link quality aspects of the overall algorithm.


Many are calling this the Fred Update, a name we’re also adopting. That came from Google’s Gary Illyes, who has jokingly suggested that all updates be named “Fred.” It’s sticking with this one.


We’ve seen more chatter and reports of changes from within the “black hat” SEO community, which generally means that this is a spam algorithm update around links. Last time we reported a link spam-related update was in early February, and that update also was unconfirmed by Google.


There was also a large content quality Google update on February 7 that was never confirmed. As you expect, Google is very unlikely to confirm algorithm updates these days but that won’t stop us from reporting large shifts in the search results that convey an algorithm update has happened.


Many of the automated tracking tools currently show significant volatility and fluctuations, which is an indicator of an update. Plus, with all the industry chatter, and with webmasters both complaining about ranking declines and rejoicing about ranking increases, it’s likely that there was a Google update. What we know so far:


“Fred” (Unconfirmed) — March 8, 2017

Google rolled out what appeared to be a major update, with reports of widespread impacts across the SEO community. Gary Illyes jokingly referred to is as “Fred”, and the name stuck, but he later made it clear that this was not an official confirmation.


Unnamed Major Update — February 6, 2017

Algorithm changes beginning on February 1st continued for a full week, peaking around February 6th (some reported the 7th). Webmaster chatter and industry case studies suggest these were separate events.


The February 7, 2017 Google Algorithm Update –

Analysis and Findings From A Significant Core Ranking Update (GSQi)

February 7th Google Algorithm Update Was Big (SER)


Unnamed Major Update — February 1, 2017

There was a period of heavy algorithm flux starting around February 1st and peaking around February 6th. It is unclear whether this was multiple algorithm updates or a single update with an extended roll-out, but anecdotal evidence suggests at least two updates.


Unconfirmed Google algorithm update may be better at discounting links and spam (SEL)


Intrusive Interstitial Penalty — January 10, 2017

Google started rolling out a penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups that might damage the mobile user experience. Google also provided a rare warning of this update five months in advance. MozCast showed high temperatures from January 10-11, but many SEOs reported minimal impact on sites that should have been affected.


If you’ve been negatively impacted by a major core ranking update focused on quality, then:

  • Analyze your site objectively from both a content quality and user experience standpoint. Run a crawl, or several, to get a solid look at your entire site. Then analyze that crawl through a quality lens.


  • Improve low quality content, nuke thin content, or noindex pages that shouldn’t be in Google’s index. If they aren’t indexed, they can’t hurt you. Focus on “quality indexation”.


  • Tone down aggressive advertising. If you annoy your users, Google can pick that up. And if Google sees this in aggregate, you can get smoked. Beware.


  • Fix all major user experience problems on the site. Go through your site like a user would. If there are any issues that inhibit users achieving a goal, fix them. And fast.


  • Hunt down technical problems that can be causing either content or UX problems. For example, major fetch and render problems, tech glitches that can cause thin content, performance problems, and more. Technical SEO is extremely important to nail down. So don’t overlook what’s under the hood.


  • Continually work to add high quality content to your site. Make sure what you’re publishing is unique, relevant, and will satisfy user needs. If you can’t do that, don’t publish it. And boost the quality of content already on your site (if you feel some of it is lacking). Check the queries leading to your content and make sure it can meet or exceed user expectations. If it can’t, enhance it.


  • Understand that you probably won’t recover quickly. John Mueller has said many times that Google needs to see significant improvement in quality overall, and over the long term. So keep fighting your way back. You can recover, but it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.


Credits to the links below:

Google’s 200 Ranking Factors


Search Engine Land



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