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Google Update





Shake SEO World - Google’s Fred and Owl Updates

2 Major Google Algorithm Updates Shaking the SEO World

Fred Google Update

March 8th – Unconfirmed “Fred Update” shakes the SEO world in the words of Barry Schwartz from SEO Roundtable.

Whilst Google rolls out an estimated 600 updates annually, the Fred Update (a name which was jokingly suggested by Google’s Gary Illyes and seemingly adopted by the SEO community) is reportedly targeted towards spam links. The chatter and reports are Black Hat SEO communities certainly support this theory with similar sites taking big hits in organic rankings.

Black hat SEO refers to aggressive technics designed to manipulate (or trick) search engines using tactics such as link manipulation, invisible text, sneaky redirects, link farms and article spinning. We’ve covered the difference between black hat seo and white hat seo in our previous post.

Here are five things you can do right now to see if you were affected and start recovering any lost rankings and traffic

  1. Study your Google Analytics data. Did you see a drop in organic traffic or the number of keywords you were ranking for between 5th and 20th March? If no, you are probably OK.
  2. Segment your content into two categories – high quality and updated vs low quality and stale.
  3. Cross-reference your lost keywords, based on organic traffic volume and previous Google rankings, with any low-quality content pages.
  4. Get working on improving your content quality immediately. Start by editing and improving existing content and adding updates. Being with cornerstone pages that were driving the most traffic pre-Fred (see number 3).
  5. Use a backlink spam audit tool to search and remove any questionable backlinks. Also, ensure that your remaining “good” backlinks appear organic and natural and in reasonable ratios. For example, follow to no follow ratios, similarities in anchor text, etc. are all factors that Google takes into account when attributing the value of your backlinks.

Owl Google Update

Google announced on 25th April major changes meant to fight fake news and hate speech that detrimentally impact search results.

The Google algorithm update, codenamed “Project Owl,” allows consumers two new ways to report what they perceive as problems (or concerns) in organic search results. It is perhaps the biggest step of recent to integrate big data, machine learning and direct human (or end user) feedback.

Why is Google making changes?

Google has come under under fire for some time for search results that show false, offensive, or outrageous information about certain topics. For instance, search results prominently displayed links to pro-Nazi sites in response to queries about the Holocaust. Additionally, when people started typing phrases about women or racial groups, Google would suggest queries like “Why are women so dumb?”

Needless to say this got a lot of negative press and complaints from activists such as women’s rights movements. The algorithm change is no real departure from the original intent, which is to display quality (and factual) information.

Here is a snapshot of the policy violation report resulting from the Owl Update.

How the Owl Update favours smaller businesses.

The update, which will be gradually rolled out over the span of a few months, also aims to give more to weight to “authoritative content” over “authoritative sites”. This allows an excellent opportunity for smaller (and newer) businesses to produce quality content to dominate over larger businesses who previously would have ranked due to factors such as domain authority.

How can you benefit from the Owl Update – start focussing on producing high quality, original and engaging content on regular basis within your niche.

Blogging and content creation (such as this) form a critical part of white hat SEO strategy which we at the Digital Squad engage in. Despite being the subject matter experts, business owners often admit not having the time to write content. To address this common problem, we work with a team of 20 content writers, authors and blogger who are specialists in multiple niches. Using specialist content writers, we constantly deliver high quality, engaging pieces of work, which are loved by both end-user and Google.

If your business has taken a hit in the past 2 months due to either the Fred or more recent Owl update, talk to NZ’s leading SEO agency today.

We provide a complementary site audit (all manually done in house, usually takes us 2 days) and a full SEO campaign proposal which is specifically engineered to your domain, industry /niche and takes into your competitors strategy (yes, we’re extremely good at reverse engineering it!).

Latest Google Update | Latest Google SEO Update | Google Owl SEO Update

Google Owl Update Promotes Authoritative Content For Fake News Queries

April 25, 2017  Google officially announced both an algorithm update and procedure changes for managing search results for fake news like content, which Google calls "offensive or clearly misleading content." Danny Sullivan, by far, has the most detailed write up on these changes - so go read it. In short, this is the Project Owl update and targets fake news results.

I'll quickly summarize what Google announced and add more by quoting what Gary Illyes from Google added on the topic. The funny thing is, this is incredibly similar, if not the same, as what we covered on March 15th with Google Algorithms Now Target Offensive, Upsetting, Inaccurate & Hateful Results. In any event, Google is now making it official by posting it on their blog.

Google said:

  • Google is tweaking their algorithm to promote more authoritative content and demote low-quality content specifically around queries that potentially can show offensive or misleading content.
  • Google updated their quality raters guidelines to help them with these efforts and ensure the algorithms are doing the job correctly.
  • Google added feedback forms for (a) autocomplete suggestions and (b) featured snippets to get quick feedback from searchers of results that are not on target with the above goals.

What is interesting is how Gary Illyes of Google answered some questions around this update, code named Project Owl.

(1) Gary said that the "tweaks" or algorithm updates we've been reporting and users have been noticing is unrelated to this:

Google: Algorithm Updates | Google SEO Updates

Google has a long history of famous algorithm updates, search index changes and refreshes.

Below are links to some of the most important resources for search marketers:

Google: Top Heavy Update | SEO Top Heavy Update

What Is The Google Top Heavy Update in SEO?

Top Heavy was launched in January 2012 by Google as a means to prevent sites that were “top heavy” with ads from ranking well in its listings. Top Heavy is periodically updated. When a fresh Top Heavy Update happens, sites that have removed excessive ads may regain lost rankings. New sites deemed too “top heavy” may get caught.

Google: EMD Update | SEO EMD Update | Poor Quality Websites Update

What is The Google EMD Update in SEO?

The EMD Update — for “Exact Match Domain” — is a filter Google launched in September 2012 to prevent poor quality sites from ranking well simply because they had words that match search terms in their domain names. When a fresh EMD Update happens, sites that have improved their content may regain good rankings. New sites with poor content — or those previously missed by EMD — may get caught. In addition, “false positives” may get released. Our latest news about the EMD Update is below.

Google: Pirate Update | SEO Pirate Update | Copyright Infringement Update

What Is The Google Pirate Update in SEO?

Google’s Pirate Update is a filter introduced in August 2012 designed to prevent sites with many copyright infringement reports, as filed through Google’s DMCA system, from ranking well in Google’s listings. The filter is periodically updated. When this happens, sites previously impacted may escape, if they’ve made the right improvements. The filter may also catch new sites that escaped being caught before, plus it may release “false positives” that were caught.

Google: Payday Update | SEO Payday Loan Update | Spammy Search Queries Update

What Is The Google Payday Update in SEO?

Launched on June 11, 2013 – the “Payday Update” was a new algorithm targeted at cleaning up search results for traditionally “spammy queries” such as [payday loan], pornographic and other heavily spammed queries.

Google: Pigeon Update | SEO Pigeon Update | Website Algorithm Update | Local Ranking Update

What Is The Google Pigeon Update in SEO?

Launched on July 24, 2014 for U.S. English results, the “Pigeon Update” is a new algorithm to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are tied more closely to traditional web search ranking signals. Google stated that this new algorithm improves their distance and location ranking parameters.

Google: Penguin Update | SEO Penguin Update | Poor Quality Backlinks Update

What is The Google Penguin Update in SEO?

Google launched the Penguin Update in April 2012 to better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results, in particular those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings. When a new Penguin Update is released, sites that have taken action to remove bad links (such as through the Google disavow links tool or to remove spam may regain rankings. New sites not previously caught might get trapped by Penguin. “False positives,” sites that were caught by mistake, may escape.

Google: Panda Update | SEO Panda Update | SEO Poor Quality Content Update

What is The Google Panda Update in SEO?

Google’s Panda Update is a search filter introduced in February 2011 meant to stop sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results. Panda is updated from time-to-time. When this happens, sites previously hit may escape, if they’ve made the right changes. Panda may also catch sites that escaped before. A refresh also means “false positives” might get released.

Google: Mobile Friendly Update | SEO Mobile Friendly Website Update | Mobilegeddon Update

What is Mobilegeddon & The Google Mobile Friendly Update?

SEO Mobile Friendly Website Updates Impact from April 2015.

On April 21, 2015, Google released a significant new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that’s designed to give a boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results.

The change is so significant that the date it happened is being referred to by a variety of names. Here at Search Engine Land, we’re calling it mobilegeddon, but sometimes it’s also referred to as mobilepocalyse, mopocalypse or mobocalypse.

One of the best ways to prepare is to test that Google considers your web pages to be mobile-friendly by using its Mobile-Friendly Test tool. More about the algorithm, including ways to bring improve the mobile-friendliness of your pages, is below.

Google: Hummingbird | SEO Hummingbird Update | Hummingbird Update

What Is Google Hummingbird Update in SEO?
Hummingbird” is the name of the new search platform that Google is using as of September 2013, the name comes from being “precise and fast” and is designed to better focus on the meaning behind the words. Read our Google Hummingbird FAQ here.

Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

Google Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts, which may bring back better results.

10 Common Mistakes To Avoid On Local Websites

Avoid the pitfalls that trip up many local business owners with these tips from columnist Greg Gifford.
Google local SEo
I’ve been fielding a ton of questions recently from both potential clients and Search Engine Land readers. The most popular among them?

What do we do for Local Search success in 2015?

Now that Pigeon has rolled out to Canada, Australia, and the UK, it’s clearly here to stay, and the Pigeon posts are still crowding everyone’s news feeds. Business owners want answers, so they’re doing anything they can to figure out the “next best thing” for Local SEO. Instead of another list of tips for 2015, I’m going to share a list of the most common issues we see on small business websites. Over the last few years, between our own clients, potential clients, and businesses I’ve chatted with at conferences, we’ve seen the same mistakes again and again. The best tactics won’t matter if your basic foundation is out of order, so hopefully this list will help your business (or your client’s business) thrive in 2015.

1. Don’t Just Focus On Your Brand

Far too many business owners feel like they need to concentrate only on their brand when many times, that’s the one area that they don’t need to worry about. Think about it. You’re the only business with that name in your market — you don’t have to optimize for it. Many times, you’re the only business, or one of a select few, that even sell the brand of products or services you sell. Beat your competitors by being “more” than just your brand of products.

2. Don’t Just Focus On What You Sell

Yes, you’ve got a website because you’re selling something… but that doesn’t mean you should only have the stuff you sell on your site. Every competitor in your niche is selling the same product or service, so you’ve got to differentiate yourself. Talk about your business, your community, your story. Like I just said for number one, beat your competitors by being “more.”

3. Don’t Make The Mistake Of Thinking People Already Know What They Want

I was at a pitch a few weeks ago with a major car dealer in Dallas. They were adamant that there was no need for any site content other than their vehicles, because people only came to the site if they were searching for a specific vehicle. They were sure that customers only came to their site from Google searches for extremely specific year/make/model searches (which is completely untrue). Don’t fall into this trap — you should create an awesome website with a great user experience so that you can catch customers earlier in the buying funnel.

4. Don’t Forget To Optimize Local Elements On-Site

Here’s where the “10 tips” posts come in. According to the most recent Local Search Ranking Factors study from Moz, on-site signals are the largest piece of the rankings pie. Once you’ve taken care of your content issues from the first three points, get your local optimization elements set up correctly. We see far too many businesses concentrate on traditional SEO and forget the local elements. 5. Don’t Forget To Optimize Off-Site Local Signals Again, this is where you’d utilize the standard Local SEO tips posts. Claim and fully optimize your Google My Business page. Make sure your citations are consistent and listed where they should be listed. Get great, relevant links — especially from locally relevant sites.

6. Don’t Forget Your Home Page

This is one of the most common sins of local business sites. Please take note: A slideshow with ten images does not equal content! You should think of your home page as an advertisement for your business, selling the important points about your business. Your customers need to be able to learn about what you do, and search engines need to have content to index. If there’s nothing there but a slideshow and a few links to products, you’re missing a huge opportunity for both humans and Google to like your website.

7. Don’t Forget Your Internal Pages

I can’t tell you how many sites that have important product or service pages that simply say “We sell (widgets) in the (city) area. Please call us for more information.” If someone is browsing your site, these pages offer zero value. They’re on your site to learn about what you do or what you sell. Put the information on your site, or they’ll simply leave and check out your competitors instead. Also, with no real content, these pages probably won’t ever rank in Google, either.

8. Don’t Spam Cities Or Keywords

If you pay attention to anything in this post, pay attention to this: You will not rank for a city or a keyword just because you’ve mentioned it one time in a huge list on your home page.


We talk to potential clients all the time that ask why they’re not ranking in a particular city, even though “they’ve optimized for it on their site.” A comma-separated list of terms or cities does not equal optimization!

9. Don’t Spam Your Title Tags

We see this one all the time, too. You’ve got about 500 pixels of width to play with, so that’s typically around 65-70 characters. More than half of the time we talk to customers, we see 150+ character title tags. More does not equal better, and according to recent research by Authority Labs, Google is more likely to rewrite your title tags if they’re longer than 60 characters. If they’re not going to help your SEO or your click-through rate, and they’re too long to display at the top of a browser window, then why are you making them so darned long?

10. Don’t Forget To Update Your NAP (Name, Address, & Phone Number) When It Changes

Businesses move, phone numbers change… it’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, most business owners focus on forward-facing tactics, and they forget to look behind them. If your address or phone number changes, you need to be sure to update your NAP information wherever it appears. Otherwise, you’ll have confusing, inconsistent citation signals, which makes it harder to rank. More importantly, there’s a huge potential to lose business to customers who call the wrong number or drive to the wrong address. So, as you hunker down and work on your Local SEO strategy, keep this list in mind and make sure you’re avoiding these common mistakes. Make sure your foundation is solid before you start trying to implement tactics.