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Google, Caffeinated

Posted June 9th, 2010 by Andrew Goodman

Search is in our veins as surely as that morning cup of java is a required kickstart for many of us. Being caffeinated will be the only way to make it through the remainder of the week, with the SMX Advanced and SES Toronto conferences in high gear. (Toronto’s main festivities start tomorrow. For delegates, there is a pre-party at the Charlotte Room tonight at 7:00 p.m.)

And I can only assume that you’d need to be highly caffeinated if you’re one of the very few who are hopping from Seattle to Toronto so they can attend both conferences.

In keeping with the times, Google’s search index is now fully caffeinated. A new indexing architecture has gone live. Overall, Google’s message is that it promotes “freshness” in search results, but that we shouldn’t misinterpret this to mean it affects the ranking algorithm.

Vanessa Fox is one of the very few commenters who adds significant insight related to the Caffeine project. In a recent piece, she quotes Google’s Matt Cutts:

“It’s important to realize that caffeine is only a change in our indexing architecture. What’s exciting about Caffeine though is that it allows easier annotation of the information stored with documents, and subsequently can unlock the potential of better ranking in the future with those additional signals.”

In SEO, it’s always important to be able to read the tea leaves. “Subsequently can unlock the potential of better ranking in the future with those additional signals?” This means, of course, that major algorithmic evolution, and major volatility in search rankings awaits: no doubt to the benefit of companies who understand how to marry timeless elements with freshness, vibrancy, and sociability. Better “annotation” of pages and elements will mean, long term, more accurate

So of course, the release of Caffeine is a harbinger of a new phase of evolution in Google’s means of sorting out remarkable and relevant wheat, from spammy and counterfeit chaff. Of course, then, ranking and algorithm changes come with this territory. Don’t be alarmed, cough cough, but they do!

Even the mention that pages can now be associated with “multiple countries” in Google’s architecture (“not that they couldn’t be before!”) is evidence that the old Google indexing environment (and by extension, the ranking algorithm) wasn’t up to the task, and many more holes than anyone would let on.

In a recent talk, I pointed to the importance of social media savvy as a direct and indirect driver of search visibility. The talk was entitled “No Social, No See” (with apologies to Bob Marley).

Certainly, these trends will spur the development of a range of new third-party tools and agency services. Perhaps most importantly, though, corporate cultures — all corporate cultures, if they want to play Google’s game — will have to evolve from within. Means of providing freshness, vibrancy, and original content will have to be developed — in some cases, from scratch. In other cases, by changing how you think.

These are exciting times.

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