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Google Caffeine: A Look Ahead

November 16th, 2009 2 comments

Google Caffeine was first previewed in August 2009 and will go live soon.

Any change to Google’s algorithm is of course big news, spawning reams of Internet chatter, a whole lot of speculation and probably some fear-mongering, along with some brand new websites (e.g. Compare Caffeine!)

What exactly Google Caffeine will do, though, is largely unknown even though some have reported that it will be a change to Google’s indexing methods and Matt Cutts (and webmasters who tried the beta version) note that there will be changes to rankings. One thing that will not change will be the look and feel of Google.

A big change noted by many (of us) who previewed Google Caffeine was the speed of results – it’s about twice as fast, if you can believe that.

Matt Cutts summarizes 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.

While Google has very kindly (mercifully, for those who will inevitably move down) held off until after the Christmas season, that is largely because of flack they have received in the past. It does not seem to be because Caffeine will have as profound an effect on search results as have major updates of the past.

Lilengine.com provides a good overview of changes it found in a comparison of Caffeine to “Old Google” (i.e. the one we’re using today). Some changes they identified are as follows:

* Google Sitelinks disappearing from some results.
* Rich Snippets disappearing from some results.
* Caffeine has difficulties handling 301’s. ( This is a bug )
* Page 1 results mostly contain the same sites, however positioning is quiet different
* Page 3 and onwards seem generate completely different results.
* The index page on root domain now has more weight.
* Pages with heavy keyword stuffing are been penalised.
* Pagerank Sculpting is no longer effective. ( further confirming the rel=nofollow topic )
* Brand name / Domain trust further effecting SERP. ( a step further in the Google Vince Update? )
* Number of inbound links from external domains
* External links using targeted keywords as anchors carry more weight.

The last four points are nothing new by the way. It seems to me, then, that Caffeine will simply entail that SEOs continue to explore the long tail of relevant content, staying away from suicidal blackhat practices like keyword stuffing and over optimization and continuing to acquire legitimate organic links. So once again, Caffeine seems like no big news for SEO, although it might be relatively big news in Search.

What Caffeine actually looks like and how it will actually affect all us webmasters will, of course, have to wait to be seen. I suspect it will affect legitimate sites very little and it will only give webmasters and SEOs more work to do. In any case, we will all find out for sure, come 2010.

To learn more, see:
http://www.readwriteweb.com
http://blog.360i.com/
http://www.computerweekly.com

New in Search… and SEO?

November 13th, 2009 No comments

The last few weeks have seen a small flurry of news in search.

Google Caffeine
The buzz is that this is the biggest change to Google’s algorithm since late 2003 (aka the Florida update/dance). It has been in beta for some time and is going live right now. I didn’t like the beta version (now retired) because it was only available for google.com.

Social Search

Google rolled out social search, which integrates your results with listings from friends in your various social networks. It’s been met with some criticism and it even gives some people the creeps. But expect Google to keep tweaking things. Maybe it’ll be a good Google product in the end; maybe it’ll be useless to most of us.

There is smaller news of course, such as the way Google’s local business results have really taken off in the past few months, squeezing publishers of directories and other local marketing and inciting SEOs to get pissed off about Google hogging search results. Twitter’s real time search was old news from late in 2008 but Twitter has continued to improve its search and overall functionality. Most importantly, Twitter is an undeniable Force-to-be-Reckoned-With when anyone discusses Internet marketing (if not SEO) today. Finally, also, Google dropped PageRank in Webmaster Tools, possibly in favor of Trustrank, one might wonder.

For all that, there is very little news in mainstream search engine optimization (SEO), as should perhaps be expected at this point in the game. A list of top 50 SEO tips from this week’s pubcon confirms it: not much new in the world of actual day-to-day SEO. That may bode poorly for professional SEOs, only because people may think that all they need to do is pick up an SEO starter guide from Google or an SEO primer from a third party SEM company or any of the other hundreds of sources of basic SEO information and think that that is all they need. I say ‘I don’t really think so’ because not one of these tools will match the value of having a professional SEO in charge. From Google’s to every other guide I’ve seen I see mainly dodgy tips, teasers only and flat-out red herrings (people who even mention ‘meta tag keywords,’ I’m looking at you.)

Search engine optimization may get rocked by Google Caffeine but SEOs will still be the best qualified to handle this and any other news in Search. Bits of news and occasional flurries of news are best understood in the context of the last five to ten years of changes at Google and other search engines.