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Google’s Caffeine Update – Overview & Comparisons

The buzz within the search marketing industry is torn between 2 of this quarters biggest announcements:

1. First been the search partnership of Bing ( Microsoft ) and Yahoo! ( more )

2. Secondly Google has announced a major update to its search infrastructure code named #caffeine

We are going to explore what caffeine is all about and the major differences in part 1 of this 2 part post. In part 2 we will be dealing with some direct data comparisons and delivering our own conclusions based on this data.

[ don’t forget add our RSS or Twitter to get notified when part 2 is released ]

On August 10th, the Google Webmasterblog announced public testing of their new #caffeine search quoting :

For the last several months, a large team of Googlers has been working on a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google’s web search. It’s the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions. The new infrastructure sits “under the hood” of Google’s search engine, which means that most users won’t notice a difference in search results. But web developers and power searchers might notice a few differences, so we’re opening up a web developer preview to collect feedback.

The caffeine update is been reported as a complete rewrite of Google’s search infrastructure – lets check out what this means;

  • Changes in how Google stores the massive amount of data gathered by their robots.
    This is a direct response to the rise in new digital media such as streaming videos, blog posts, social media content ( Twitter, facebook ). The old Google infrastructure was built to handle data by way of Collection > Quality Ranking  > Sandbox > Indexing. However with the explosion of real-time content, search engines are faced with the daunting task of filtering all this content to provide a real-time search. With any major change in a new data model, software must be upgraded / rewritten, this is part of the Google Caffeine update.
  • Changes in how the Google collects its data.
    While this has not been confirmed, it is safe to assume with any updates in how data is written and stored, changes to the data collection process will also be different. Google uses robots that crawl through the web for data ( googlebot ), this is traditionally data that may not change or update in real-time. The caffeine update must include changes to the robot to cater for real-time content. My theory currently is Google has developed several types of robots that differ in its indexing rate and craw rate to cater for different media content.
  • Changes in the how data is served to end users.
    So, Google is fairly tight lipped at the moment when asked if the #caffeine update will effect end-users. Quoting from their Google webmasterblog:
  • The new infrastructure sits “under the hood” of Google’s search engine, which means that most users won’t notice a difference in search results

  • From what we have tested on the #caffeine sandbox this is not really the case, some major differences we and other users have reported include:
    • Massive differences in the total search results returned. We are talking a few million results wiped out from results in general.
    • Search query time is generally faster. ( however take into account no Adwords are been displayed, which would increase load time )
    • Major SERP ( search engine result position ) changes. Which leads me to the next important point.

Have the search results changed in Google Caffeine? ( Changes in the Google algorithm / ranking system )

Yes most definitely, although Google is stating otherwise ( for now ). When we first heard about #Google #Caffeine I posted this question to Matt Cutts from Google.

john chen August 10, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Hi Matt,

Been sussing this out all morning, from the Google blog and your post its seems there are algo changes / updates on the current sandbox. I’ve noticed some definate changes in the how the SERP is different in the sandbox in my play this morning.

Could you confirm this?

Matts response was:

john chen and Daniel Sterling, most of the changes are in things like our core indexing, so there’s less changes for things like rankings. Lots of users won’t notice a big difference

From our own research and you can verify this yourself in the #caffeine sandbox, this is simply not the case! There are major differences in Caffeine SERP that will ultimately effect users, SEO and most of all companies that depend on their search positions.

Some changes we have identified in Caffeine SERP

  • 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.

These changes come from our initial research in comparing a sample data of searches, and by no means represent a concrete conclusion. Google caffeine is still under development, as such the algorithm and infrastructure will change and alter in the near future. These are just preliminary conclusions for your consideration ( food for thought ) and therefor I recommend that you make no immediate changes to your SEO strategies, but simply keep the above in mind.

How have your websites performed in Google Caffiene?

Google has released #caffeine for general public testing here

If you are after a direct comparison tool between #caffeine and current #google search Try

Goobinghoo - side by side SERP comparison

Goobinghoo - side by side SERP comparison

You can easily compare the search results side by side, but don’t forget to sign out of your Google account. ( otherwise you may see your own preferred results )

Part 2 of this Google Caffeine update post will expand further into our findings above and with real data + example comparisons, as well as some SEO tips that you can perform today.

Did you find this post informative? Have anything further to add? Please leave a response in the comments section.