I want to start this post by saying what many wouldn’t say; I love how evasive Google’s team are about algorithm updates. They like to keep us freelance writers on our toes. As such, we’re always shaping our approaches and trying to improve the way we create content. One update that introduced a real challenge, though, was Google Fred.
Who is Google Fred and why should I worry about him?
Google Fred isn’t a person, silly. It’s just a name that the SEO world coined for an algorithm update that focused on punishing sites that focused more on monetization than producing great content. In other words, Google Fred arrived to tackle website owners who stuffed their sites with ads and affiliate links, without providing any real value to the reader.
If you’re a freelance writer, you need to worry about the following reasons:
- Your content needs to become more useful than ever.
- If you own any affiliate sites, your focus needs to shift so that you’re satisfying your readers and then inserting those links only when they’re useful.
- If you’re a freelance writer who has a blog, which I hope you do, you can’t rely on stuffing it with ads to grab passive income.
Google Fred first arrived on March 7, 2017, with little warning from the search engine. Some site owners saw their traffic plummet by up to 90-percent; causing mass panic. As usual, Google hasn’t announced why it introduced Fred. However, as sites that focus on aggressively gaining money through traffic were the ones that suffered, we can guess that its introduction came as a way of making the web a more customer-friendly place.
How to make your site more customer friendly
Google Fred didn’t penalize. In fact, some saw a significant increase in traffic overnight. Said sites were those that took a ‘customer friendly’ approach to the content they featured.
While those who search using Google don’t pay for the experience, seeing them as customers will help you write content that’s:
- Useful. It answers the questions the customer is asking or provides relevant information about their keywords.
- Easy to access. The customers don’t have to wade through a ton of ads to get to the useful content.
- Shareable. Picture the last time you walked into a store, saw a product you loved, bought it, and found that it changed your life. Did you tell your friends all about it? Of course, you did. Similarly, when you’re writing content that satisfies Google Fred, it needs to be shareable. Shareable content doesn’t just generate attention via social media; it attracts good backlinks.
But why do good backlinks matter?
SEO experts analyzing Google Fred also highlight that sites engaging in dodgy backlinking tactics saw a loss of traffic. Such tactics usually involve paying someone via Fiverr to acquire a tonne of links from nowhere suddenly. As an intelligent fellow, Google Fred knows what you’re doing. He knows that if your content is beneficial, it’ll gain backlinks of its own accord.
Writing useful content usually means:
- Creating original ideas. Nobody is asking you to reinvent the wheel here. However, if you’re a freelance writer operating in a niche that you’re comfortable with, writing original content isn’t and shouldn’t be hard.
- Make sure your content allows the reader to take action. Someone is reading your material because they want to take action. They’re seeking a resolution for their problem. For example, there’s no point in writing an article on finding a new house without providing ways for the reader to do this.
- Tap into the questions readers are asking. There’s a great site called ‘Answer The Public.’ You type in a keyword, and it highlights the issues that readers are asking about. Using this tool, you may even propel your site to position zero for a particular keyword. Forbes has a great article on how to achieve this.
- Make sure you’re providing them with answers. When you’re proofreading your article before hitting ‘publish’ or submitting it to your client, make sure you’re providing answers to the questions readers will ask. This means having a sound knowledge of why they’re there in the first place and understanding them.
- Always keep accuracy in mind. If you’re stating a fact, provide a citation. Make sure the citation is reliable, not the opinion of some random blogger who misinterprets facts.
When your content is useful, filled with facts, and answers the readers’ questions, people are more likely to share it. They’re also more likely to backlink to it, naturally, which means you avoid those aggressive black hat marketing techniques that’ll get you nowhere.
Make sure you produce the best content you can, every time
Whenever you write a post, whether it’s for yourself or your client, make sure you give it your all every single time. Show up for the project as though it’s the piece that will make or break your career.
Injecting your best self is how you grow as a freelance writer. Allowing negative mindsets such as “This doesn’t pay me enough as that other project, therefore, it deserves less attention” isn’t conducive to learning or perfecting your skills.
Take a bold approach to writing
One of the biggest temptations we face as freelance writers is to parrot what others are saying. We’ll start our research, see which articles rank well, and automatically think that the opinions within them are the ones everyone else wants to see.
Well, someone wants to hear your voice too. If you have an opinion, don’t dumb it down based on what others are writing. Bring it to your content, and you will stand out from the crowd. Also, if you’re passionate about said opinion, you’ll feel the motivation to find reliable citations to back it up. By default, you then produce original content that you and your clients love.
Being bold also increases the number of social media shares you receive, especially when there’s that niggling voice in the back of your mind saying “Others won’t like this, don’t write it.” While I’m not encouraging you to take a ‘click bait’ like approach, I am suggesting that you dampen that voice, court controversy, and see what happens.
Ignore anybody who tells you that keywords aren’t necessary
Of course, you need to pay attention to keywords. They play a huge role in showing Google what the reader is searching for. But, you do need to draw the line between keyword stuffing and naturally integrating them into your work. Again, we can’t ask him himself, but it looks like Google Fred wasn’t a fan of unnatural keyword integration or keyword stuffing.
You may benefit from writing the article first, then go back and see how you can integrate the keyword naturally afterward. Make it a part of your proofreading process.
Make sure you can trust your citations
If your client wants you to produce citations, can you trust the website you’re using? For example, when I am writing about medicine, sometimes I’ll come within a breath’s reach of citing a journal that has a low impact factor, and then I’ll turn around and find a citation that’s more reliable.
If you’re struggling with the whole citations thing, consider the following:
- Are you citing a primary source or a website that’s interpreting a primary source?
- Does the person writing the content you’re citing have a financial interest in their work? If so, are you sure what they’re saying is accurate?
- Does the website belong to a competitor? If there’s one way to piss off a client, it’s by citing a competitor.
As a freelance writer, you don’t have to see Google Fred as the enemy. Instead, see him as someone who has come along to help you up your game. Pay close attention to enhancing the reader’s experience and he’ll leave feeling satisfied, hopefully with a higher ranking as a gift.