In the last few months of 2009, the coming of a major change in Google’s search architecture was announced and given the name Caffeine. In short, Google will be working toward purging its existing index and rebuilding based on an entirely new search architecture. This will not be one the ‘updates’ we’ve seen in the past that consists of some changes to the index, this is being touted as a complete overhaul.
You never know for sure when these updates will take place. Whether listening to the official channels, folks in the know or just the ramblings of the SEO mob, we all know that these changes are coming very soon. It was expected around the holidays, but so far we’ve only seen glimpses of change.
Why should I care about Google Caffeine?
Anyone who pays attention to their search rankings should care. If you survived the Florida Update of November 2003, you definitely started paying attention to these updates…and Google’s update names started to be burned into your mind. Florida was Google’s first publicized update and an aggressive push to remove SEO spammers. Many highly profitable sites dropped of the radar when the Florida Update hit.
Next, came the Austin Update in 2004 and it built upon the focus of limiting the power of black-hat search optimization. Gone were the days of keyword stuffed meta tags and open-ended linking campaigns. In short, our job as web marketers became harder…but started the process of bringing search back to relevance, not trickery. Now we could concentrate on doing things right; building quality websites with regularly updated content, proving a definitive knowledge source.
Several updates since, including the Bourbon, Jagger, Big Daddy and – most recently – Brandy kept us on our toes and forced web designers and online marketers to become consistently more knowledgeable and aware of what was going on in the Google world.
So why should you care? Because there is a potential for MAJOR change in your current rankings and how you go after future search results.
What changes should I expect from Google Caffeine?
So far, a combination of Google’s official channels and the general SEO blogosphere have released these expected changes in the ranking factors associated with Google Caffeine:
Much Faster Indexing. The promise right from Google’s mouth is that indexing will be significantly faster, thus making the quality of fresh results much higher. This seems to be the core focus and will be the most interesting to watch play out.
Enhanced Weight on Quality of Content. Although this has been the mantra for years now, Caffeine is pitched as an aggressive push toward the relevance and quality of your website content.
The Speed of a Website. Always been rumored, but now it appears to be an official ranking factor. All things being equal (and they never are), a faster loading site will grab top search engine placement before a slower competitor.
Bad Links. Again, this furthers the push within Google to disregard SEO schemes such as link farming. No broken or spam links, maintain a good ‘neighborhood’ and target content toward high-end sites that will link to you. And I cannot stress enough: Reciprocal link programs do not work, they haven’t in years.
Social Media. Google has been enhancing the index of social media over the past year and this drive will start to play a larger and larger role in the SERP (search engine ranking position) of websites. Consider all social media tools and outlets in your overall campaigns, specifically social bookmarking (Diigo, Digg, Delicious, StumbledUpon, etc) and larger microblog players like Twitter.
Further Trend Away from Old Methods of SEO. For example, aggressively high keyword density in your content has not been recommended for quite some time – this will only be of further importance. Other old tricks such as camouflaged text and stuffed HTML tags will be treated more harshly than ever.
So Now What?
To start, ensure that your website follows all of the webmaster guidelines as closely as possible. Focus on creating a clean website that is well designed, easy to update, has strong content and is fast to load – everything that we pitch daily around here.
Then, reconsider your overall web strategy to include social media and a drive to enhance the web neighborhood in which you exist.
Finally, be sure that your tech and marketing team is staying on top of changes as they develop. At this point, no one knows if this will be a destructive game changer or just a bump in the road – but I can guarantee that you will hear more about Google Caffeine in the coming months.
On that topic, who is your tech and marketing team? We should talk!