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A complete guide to the Google Peace algorithm

A complete guide to the Google Peace algorithm

March 8, 2017 was a day that started like any other …

You were sitting at your desk randomly sipping your first cup of coffee and catching up on the search news here on the Marketing-Ideas or maybe scrolling through your Facebook feed when it hit you …

You switched to your favorite rank checking tool.

“Please God, just leave my site / customers in order,” you asked quietly.


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Depending on your strategies and sites, the impact was almost certainly significant. Losers lost big and the winners took their place.

Fred was here.

Why does the algorithm name Peace?

According to Google’s very sarcastic Gary Illyes, ‘Peace’ is the name of every update that Google does not give us a name for.

of course! From now on, unless otherwise stated, each update must be called Peace

– Gary 鯨 理 / 경리 Illyes (@methode) March 9, 2017

That said, we typically refer to the update that was released on March 7, 2017, when referring to the “Peace Update”.

Unless otherwise indicated, any reference to Peace below will be in this context and not a collection of all the “named” updates since then.

Fred’s Timing

Fred has interesting timing.

Fred was preceded a month earlier by a major Google Core Update that is said to focus on EAT.

One week after Fred announced Google Project Owl, which was designed to remove misleading and offensive information based on feedback from their quality ratings.


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Now let’s be clear: Evaluators taught the system to recognize inaccurate or offensive information, without deciding which sites to remove from the results.

It was clear that Google was very focused on the quality and use of data from their quality ratings.

Peace was no exception.

What was Google’s Peace Algorithm?

Google’s Peace algorithm update rolled out in an attempt to remove what Google perceived as results from low-quality sites that relied on thin content and aggressive ad placement.

Many were affiliated sites, but not all.

Most used content as their primary traffic driver. Usually we hear Google tell people to do just that.

However, the quality of the content on the affected sites tended to be very low with very widespread ads. You know the sites. You probably avoid them.

While Gary gave us a name for the update, he did not give us a list of the areas they addressed other than the statement:

Peace is closely linked to the quality section of the rate guidelines. @method #smx

– Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) June 13, 2017

It tells us that it had to do with EAT, and the sites affected imply that the areas it targeted were some or all of:

Too many ads. Thin content. Poor link quality. Poor content quality. Aggressively attached link. Overwhelming interstitials. Fraudulent ads (ads that appear as content). Disproportionate content / supplemental content.

If you want an update of the EAT and Quality Raters’ Guidelines, you can find one here.

From the horse’s mouth

Jenn Slegg interviewed Gary Illyes on the subject at Brighton SEO in 2017.

Here is a transcript of their discussion.


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When it came to Fred, it pretty much came down to the following:

Peace, not Peace

Gary reinforced in the interview that Fred is the name of every unnamed update. As mentioned above, it is good and good for him to inform, but it is a bit useless for SEO professionals.

Therefore, we typically refer to the individual update.

Google does not like us worrying about updates

Gary further notes,

“I do not like that people focus on [updates]. Every update we make is about the quality of the site or overall quality, perceived quality of the site, content and links or whatever. ”

They would rather have us just focus our time and attention on meeting user needs than analyzing updates and chasing the metrics they entail.

Most updates cannot be performed

With two to three updates a day, Gary rightly points out that most people address impractical areas, such as how words are structured on a page in a particular language.


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I just want to emphasize the use of the word “most”.

Links matter

Gary says

“Basically, if you publish high quality content that is highly cited on the Internet …”

He continues to be a bit heavy in the cheek, but it is clear that one goal should be to build quality content that attracts links.

It’s not news or Peace-specific, but worth noting.

Questions and Answers with Gary Illyes

You can watch a full video of the interview below. The portion at Fred begins at 4:30 p.m.

Dave’s Take

I’m not a big fan of how Gary thus avoids what Fred is about to discuss it in the majority. He knows the question is about the March 7 update and not all Freds.

And the probability that they updated all the algorithms at once is … well, I suppose I can not say 0%, but it’s as close to it as possible.


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Other than that, his answers were predictable but revealing:

Most updates are not manageable (as there is literally nothing that can be done – not that there are only things Google tells you they do not want you to do as link building). All sides swing. When in doubt, read the Webmaster Guidelines (and I’ll add the Quality Review Guidelines). Gary is sarcastic and quite funny.

Recovery from the Peace update

Fortunately, if you rank now, you have probably done the things that prevent you from being hit by similar updates.

Those who wanted to recover after this update had a big, big task ahead of them. Typically, they needed to revisit their site structure to reduce the ad layout and on top of that revisit their content page by page to ensure that it actually deserved a place in the top 10.

Some did. But many did not.

Some tried to shorten it.

Barry Schwartz compiled a list of sites he knew had been hit.

Here’s how some did:

Looks like they’re been trying to fool each other back.


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Looks familiar, but the second drop took a little longer. The follow-up hit would be one of three updates.

A stream of manual actions was sent around this time. This is the least likely. Quality updates that took place around this time. And Marie Haynes reported seeing a number of sites affected around June 17 and 18 that had previous link-related issues.

I suppose the third is the most likely.

Again we see some recovery and then subsequent hits in further quality updates.

Google gets their way eventually.

Take away

Those who have done SEO recently will be used to updates like Fred, but in 2017 it was different from updates before that.


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Stronger. More targeted. More efficient. More destructive … or rewarding.

I remember when Fred rolled out. Although my own clients were not significantly affected in one way or another, it left a mark on what was to come.

We had seen quality updates and spam cleaners before, but this one felt somehow different. And that was that.

After Fred, the updates about quality came more often and more varied. I recognize that with the rise of machine learning, but for whatever reason, I value it as a seeker and one who likes informative content.

And hopefully you feel like you found this one too.

More resources:

Image credits

Featured image: Adobe Stock, edited by the author
Karl Hindle’s Facebook post used with permission from Karl Hindle of Wellspring Digital
All screenshots taken by the author, August 2021


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