Google Announces Caffeine Update

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Caffeine Espresso
(picture from ghholt)

Yesterday, Google announced that they are releasing a next-generation architecture for their web search. For anyone who has been involved in the search engine marketing community for some time, this will probably come as a surprise as this is the first time that Google has ever publicly confirmed one of their updates. Not only did they confirm this update, but before they integrate it into their live search engine, they have created a preview area for this update and are asking for feedback from developers and users.

So, other than being a next-generation architecture for their web search, what exactly is the Caffeine update? As Matt Cutts explains on his blog:

“The Caffeine update isn’t about making some UI changes here or there. Currently, even power users won’t notice much of a difference at all. This update is primarily under the hood: we’re rewriting the foundation of some of our infrastructure. But some of the search results do change, so we wanted to open up a preview so that power searchers and web developers could give us feedback.”

Although you will probably want to do some search analysis for yourself, Vanessa Fox noticed one main difference between Google’s current search and the Caffeine preview:

“While the biggest visible changes in Microsoft’s relaunched search engine, Bing, are user-interface related, Google’s new search is only infrastructure related and includes no UI changes. On first glance, however, the underlying infrastructure changes do seem to have impacted user interface as it relates to universal search (likely because universal results are influenced by ranking and relevance signals). For the sample searches I did, the first ten results were fairly similar, but the existence and location of images, video, news, and blog posts was notably different.”

For those of you in the SEO community, the biggest question on your mind is probably “how is this going to impact my sites and the sites of my clients?” Once again, although I encourage you to do your own analysis (which you can share with us in the comments below), here are two observations that have been made by other bloggers:

Computerworld Blogs -

“I also have to take their word on numbers of results. I am seeing sometimes as many as 10 times the search results in the new Google. I’ll assume Google knows how many results it has. Interestingly when I did a search for things like “Online pharmacy”, the new Google returned fewer results than the old one. This tells me that the new Google is smarter at finding fake websites and de-indexing them.”

Econsultancy

“And yes, that means that there will be some changes in site rankings. From my limited initial tests, the impact on rankings seems subtle — most of the time.

One exception appears to be social web results. For instance, certain high-profile Facebook Pages appear to be receiving a major boost in the rankings with Caffeine. One commenter on the Google Webmaster Central blog also noted “I’ve noticed more Twitter pages in the results with this version of Google”.

When it comes to the latter, Starbucks serves as a good example: through a US proxy, Starbucks’ Twitter account appears fifth on the first page in the current Google SERPs; it appears third in the Caffeine preview. While this is a minor shift, I’ve seen significant shifts with several Facebook Pages, leading me to believe that Google is not only placing increasing emphasis on pages in the social web but is getting better at sorting out which social web results are ‘the real deal’ and which are spam.”

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