Technology

Google's Caffeine May Cause Corporate Jitters


by David Coursey

Google is rolling out new "under-the-hood" search technology, codenamed "Caffeine," that could change how your company ranks in its search results. For those businesses that live-and-die based on Google-generated traffic, this is potentially a very big deal.

In a blog post announcing the project, Google suggested that Caffeine could change search results, which raises the prospect of companies' needing to change their search engine optimization (SEO) to protect their Google ranking.

It is unclear at this point whether Caffeine will be more or less amiable to the magic worked by SEO practitioners, whose mysterious art is aimed at winning the coveted first page of Google results for keyword searches of interest to their client.

It's probably too early to make changes, but web developers and others with SEO interests are doubtless already running searches using their existing keywords to see what changes appear in their rankings.

This also means a field day for those selling quick fixes that will supposedly give companies a top Google ranking. There's nothing quite like something most people don't understand, but that can dramatically effect your business, to give some people anxiety.

Here's what Google says:

"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," two engineers wrote in the company's official blog.

"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."

If you'd like to see Caffeine in action, visit http://www.idg.com/www/rd.nsf/rd?readform&u=http://www2.sandbox.google.com. Only the URL will tell you that you are on the test site.

"Right now, we only want feedback on the differences between Google's current search results and our new system. We're also interested in higher-level feedback ('These types of sites seem to rank better or worse in the new system') in addition to 'This specific site should or shouldn't rank for this query.' Engineers will be reading the feedback, but we won't have the cycles to send replies."

To give Google feedback, first do a search using the Caffeine test site. Look on the search results page for a link at the bottom of the page that says "Dissatisfied? Help us improve." Click on that link, type your feedback in the text box and then include the word "caffeine" somewhere in the text box.

I did some test searches and didn't notice the big differences that other users have claimed on Google's blog to have seen. If the company wants more meaningful feedback, I'd imagine it would be easy enough to create a search results page that displays results from both Caffeine and today's production search engine.

That would make it easier on everyone who has a big stake in Google results, which is almost every online and many offline businesses, to see how they'll fare and offer suggestions before Caffeine kicks-in for real.

Industry veteran David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

Related articles •Google's "Caffeine" Should Give Businesses The Jitters •Microsoft Doubles Cashback Incentives for Bing Search •Microsoft Workers Unveil Office Suggestion Site •Facebook Buys FriendFeed: What Does It Mean?

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