Let's talk about the newest algorithm shake-up from Google.
People started seeing some chatter about a Google algorithm update on March 8.
Black Hat World and WebmasterWorld (https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4838449.htm) have been chatting about it for a few days. Barry Schwartz wrote that "...it does seem to be focused more in the black hat space, since that thread is going insane right now. So this might be a link related Google algorithm shift, but Google has not confirmed anything and I doubt they will - I have already asked."
So, what were people seeing? Huge traffic drops, mostly. Sites vanishing from their earlier positions, despite still being found with the site: command.
Fast forward to March 9th, when more about the Google algorithm update was revealed. Schwartz writes that "First, this update does seem to be a link quality related and not content quality related [update]...but it is still very early to make such a judgement call..."
John Mueller and Gary Illyes were playing it cool on Twitter. "...we make changes almost every day," was their response. Illyes was asked to name this update and, cheekily, he responded "sure! From now on every update, unless otherwise stated, shall be called Fred."
I imagine that was made in the spirit of saying, "Google makes a ton of little updates. We aren't going to name all of them. They aren't always big enough for us to talk about. So call this one whatever you want." But everyone took it and ran with it, so this update is now being referred to as "Fred."
Tracking tools like AccuRanker, RankRanger, SEM Rush, Algoroo, SERPMetrics, and Mozcast are all showing a lot of volatility. Glenn Gabe has some interesting tweets in the above article - looks like sites with risky link profiles are the ones seeing a drop. Other sites, however, are seeing major gains.
So it seems like we don't know a whole lot, definitively, about Fred. Lots of speculation, and if you want to sift through comments and forum threads you can try to get a general idea of what's going on. Here's a neat thread from martinibuster on WebmasterWorld: "Possible the SEO Industry's Wrong About Phantom?"
The Phantom series of updates have long been considered "quality updates." Meaning that they seem to target sites with poor user experience, or they act in a "Panda-like" way and target sites with low quality content. Martinibuster seems to be suggesting that the Phantom series of updates also were targeting external factors like links - Fred is another Phantom, in other words. Fred is just more obvious about hitting links than his predecessors.
A big part of MB's theory seems to be how HubSpot was affected by the first Phantom in 2015: https://hubpages.com/business/May-Da...-Google-Update
Not everyone agrees that Fred is a Phantom though, or that Phantom updates have been rolling, progressively, for so long as one package.
It's a very confusing time out there. It's a struggle to get really trustworthy, authoritative information yet. I can see that folks are sifting through the rubble looking to piece things together though. Share your thoughts and any updates below! Were you impacted by Fred?
My uneducated hunch is that all regular Google updates are like this, like Mueller and Illyes say. Google updates frequently and they might target all kinds of things - both "quality factors" and links. Giving these things names and treating them like singular major occurrences when it's just business as usual for Google is just how webmasters are used to contextualizing things. That's my dumb hunch anyway. It doesn't mean that the bigger regular updates aren't worth following - a lot of people have been impacted by this recent one I guess.