Google Caffeine is the new name given to Google’s “Next Generation” search engine, which it will use to rank and index all the pages on the web. According to all indications, this is not just another one of Google’s infamous Updates, but a major “Overhaul” of its index and algorithm – the complex formula and calculations Google uses to rank all web pages, including yours.
According to Matt Cutts (Google Spokesperson) one database is already showing Google Caffeine, and the full blown version will be released after the holidays. The reasoning behind this – Google doesn’t want to upset webmasters and site owners during the lucrative holiday buying season. In the past, other major Google Updates have come around this time of the year, most notably the “Florida Update” which severely affected many web sites and webmasters.
Recently, Google has been more aware and much more generous to webmasters by being more open and forthcoming in regards to how it indexes its pages. This time around, webmasters were even given access to a beta version of Caffeine which Google released last summer (’09) where webmasters could check to see how well their keywords and site would fare in this new search index. This beta site (www2.sandbox.google.com) has now been taken down by Google.
Like any professional SEO, I was constantly checking my sites and keywords in Google’s new search results. I have drawn some conclusions from what I have observed, but please be aware it is often very foolish to draw conclusions and make predictions from your own small sampling of results. You can end up with egg on your face very quickly, especially when you consider Google is probably still making adjustments and refinements on Caffeine as it analyzes the results.
However, there are certain ranking factors that even Google is telling us about, mainly “Site Speed” or how fast your site loads will play a part in how its ranked. We have also heard a lot about “Broken Links” and if your page or site has them, then it may affect overall positions. Of course, linking out to “Bad Neighbourhoods” is still not best practice, and the possibility of a manual penalty.
It should not come as a shock or a surprise, that “Over-All Page Quality” will play a greater role in how well your site ranks. Keep in mind, Google is like any other company putting out a product, if that product doesn’t have a high standard of quality, it reflects badly back on everyone concerned. Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) are the key to all their online revenue, they must do everything in their power to keep that product fast, relevant, current and above all high quality.
Therefore, expect “OnPage Factors” to play a much greater role in Google Caffeine. Quality unique content, page design, good navigation, title, meta tags, description, alt tags, page views, bounce rate, traffic numbers, time spent on page, and the number of offsite mentions may play an increased role in achieving high rankings. A perfectly optimised keyworded page, with the keyword in the title, description, meta tags, alt tags, on the page… will probably get you ranked higher in Caffeine, as well as most search engines on the web.
What New Rules Will Caffeine Bring?
The major question here is this: has the importance of backlinking been downplayed in this new index in favour of the keyworded domain and onsite content and optimisation? Has there been a major shift to listing more quality content rather than relying on the number of backlinks a site is receiving, even from important related themed sites? The major problem and question to Google is this: if links can be bought, how do you keep your organic results democratic and fair, which was the original intention of Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they started Google in 1998.
Underlying this whole issue is the fact which many experienced webmasters/marketers already know, Google’s SERPs are not a one-trick pony anymore. For very lucrative (monetized) keyword phrases, Google’s results are broken up into Five categories… Info listings, Video listings, News Listings, Shopping Listings and Corporate Listings. Forget Caffeine, this is probably the fairest move Google has made in the last few years to make its SERPs more democratic.
Another even more puzzling issue for me concerning Google Caffeine is how much emphasis or ranking power will it place on “Keyworded Domains”, domain names which have your keyword or keyword phrase in them. Will these domains be ranked higher? Webmasters and marketers for years have been telling us we should always pick domain names which have our major keywords in them. Just common sense really, someone searching for “brown widgets” will more likely than not find that item at a domain called brownwidgets(dot)com or brownwidget(dot)com. The major SEO reasoning, all your backlinks will inherently have your searched keyword in the URL, thus bringing it up in the rankings.
Against this whole backdrop, everyone has to realize the web itself is evolving, new sites like Twitter, FaceBook… have changed the whole cyber landscape. Likewise, the web user is also changing and becoming more web savvy in how they use the web. Will search engines, not only Google, take a back-seat role in how we find stuff on the web? As major sites are branded into the web user’s psyche, will these users go directly to these sites, by-passing the search engines altogether?
As the web evolves, keyworded domains will become more valuable and this value will be reflected in the quality of the site. If you’re making thousands or even millions from your keyworded domain, you can afford to invest in quality content and design. Cream rises to the top. Gradually, as these domains become more valuable, they will probably be snapped up by marketers and companies who know just how to exploit them. Thousands upon thousands of keyworded domains will probably be bought up by multi-billion dollar corporations who finally realize what the web has to offer. This new evolved web will probably be much more narrower in scope and very topic specific.
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