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August 23, 2009

Google Caffeine – A Taste Test

Earlier this month, Google invited the public to take their next generation of web search, code named Caffeine, for a test drive.

The new search infrastructure is the beginning of Google’s advance towards improving indexing speed and scale as the size of the web grows increasingly cumbersome. Google is seeking feedback on the changes from experienced users and web developers by making Caffeine available via a web developer preview.

From the official blog post:

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.”

What Is It?

According to Matt Cutts of Google, Caffeine is essentially a rewrite of the search index and it roughly compares with the Big Daddy index of late 2005 / 2006. In other words, it’s a BIG change to Google search.

Here’s a couple of grabs from Mike McDonald’s video interview with Matt Cutts on the subject:

We’re shooting to get results identical to previous version. We’ll open up a few datacenters with it first and then roll it out.”

Caffeine will be more powerful, flexible and robust – allowing Google to index faster.”

(Caffeine) builds a powerful foundation for including any changes we want to do with indexing. Not so much for taking advantage of semantic, real-time indexing, but for getting good
infrastructure in place for growth and unlock more power
.”

Webmasters shouldn’t be concerned. Caffeine does not affect your site architecture

Something that Matt Cutts hasn’t mentioned but has been discussed amongst my colleagues is whether the Caffeine rollout is at all related to Google’s BigTable technology.

Bigtable is a distributed storage system for managing structured data, designed to scale to accommodate huge amounts of data. Google uses BigTable to store data from their various load heavy apps such as Google Earth and Google Finance. It makes sense that this would eventually roll out to search. Perhaps Caffeine is the new algorithmic skin for the BigTable search infrastructure?

Search Technology Testing

In the SEO industry, we’re so used to Google rolling out algorithm changes without fanfare and reacting to them as we realize something has shifted that this announcement came as quite a surprise to me. Paul Carpenter made the same point on the DaveNaylor.co.uk blog:

… soliciting direct feedback from users before changes are made is something I can’t recall Google embarking on before.”

My first thought was that this was a knee-jerk reaction to the Yahoo / Bing announcement last week. But in his Caffeine blog post, Matt Cutts insists that the announcement had nothing to do with Binghoo and that they’ve had engineers working on it for months. He says that Summer is simply a good time to roll it out for testing.

So I decided to conduct my own test to see if I could notice any changes.

The Experiment

I decided to compare de-caffeinated Google against caffeinated Google using five main benchmarks:

     A) Index size
     B) Speed
     C) Site rank
     D) Link type
     E) Keyword density

My tool of choice for the comparison is Facesaerch’s Caffeine Compare. The search queries I decided to test were:

     1) “iPhone cases”
     2) “Les Paul”
     3) “diamond earrings”
     4) “Kalena Jordan”

See the Detailed Search Comparison Results Chart at:

     http://www.sitepronews.com/images2/chart1.gif

Conclusions

• Probably the biggest eyebrow raiser for me was the marked increase in keyword density between SERPS on the old Google and SERPS on Caffeine. In nearly every comparison, the Caffeine SERPS featured site titles and snippets with a much higher phrase and/or keyword density. Coincidence? I doubt it.

• It’s definitely faster. Every search query I tried on Caffeine was returned at a faster speed than with the current Google. Impressive.

• Caffeine seems slightly fresher. Some of the results I observed in Caffeine SERPS and not in regular Google SERPS were more current. For example, blog posts published within the last couple of days.

• Apart from the ego search, old Google out performed Caffeine in the index size category. But this is likely because only a handful of data-centers have Caffeine on board so far.

• Caffeine definitely has a heavier emphasis on social media, with results from sites like Blogger, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Profiles featuring more prominently, particularly for name searches. Wiki pages still seem to rank highly in both Caffeinated and Decaffeinated Google.

Other Observations

Interestingly, a couple of other bloggers have observed different trends in Caffeine SERPS. In his blog post on the subject, Paul Carpenter says:

… maybe blended results are getting a little less prominence. Certainly some news and image results are appearing further down the page in Caffeine than in the regular, *decaffeinated* results.”

Personally, I didn’t notice this. In fact with product related searches, I saw more blended results with Google shopping links often ranking higher in Caffeine.

But Everflux is influencing Caffeine results too, as Matthew Rogers of EndofWeb
found:

The results for any search shift and change on a daily basis, because live-search results are added to the mix, causing a more fluid day-to-day search experience along with providing more
relevant data upon request
.”

Comparison Tools

Want to conduct your own Caffeine comparison testing? Here’s a couple of tools to use:

Facesaerch’s Caffeine Compare

Black Dog’s Compare Google Caffeine

Doubleshot’s Get Caffeinated


Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

14 Responses to “Google Caffeine – A Taste Test

    avatar HHO Dry Cell says:

    I have tested Google Caffeine and I have to say that I love the new search results. If this is a true taste of the next generation of google search, I have to give them a thumbs up.

    avatar vishal says:

    I really hard for black hat seos who cheat google crawler.

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    avatar Bhawna Garg says:

    Like you said, more importance given to keyword density, I agree with you on this . Websites with good on optimisation and keywords in title tend to rank higher in Google Caffeine.

    avatar Free Samples says:

    I don’t notice a huge difference, although they did say in their blog post that not all of the changes are active yet. My sites all seem to rank the same, so either I just have good long term seo practices or there is very little algorithm change. I’ll be interested in hearing what everyone else thinks.

    avatar Nadia King says:

    I think the lack of blended search results is just due to tweaking the algo, and then adding the Universal results later. I saw ranked pages change by 20-40%, which is definitely going to shake things up! Great post, thanks for sharing the details :)

    avatar Nadia King says:

    I think the lack of blended search results is just due to tweaking the algo, and then adding the Universal results later. I saw ranked pages change by 20-40%, which is definitely going to shake things up! Great post, thanks for sharing the details :)
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

    avatar Rumah Dijual says:

    I’ve tried the new machine and I am rather disappointed. One of my favorite keyword result shift from page 1 to page 4. Peculiarly one of my backlink site appears in page 2.

    Useful, stuff. It was very interesting to see how the results compared.

    Thus far, the majority of the changes I’ve seen have been very small in terms of ranking shifts.

    However, this, “Probably the biggest eyebrow raiser for me was the marked increase in keyword density between SERPS on the old Google and SERPS on Caffeine” makes me wonder if certain types of people are going to start keyword stuffing up the wazhoo again…sigh…

    We have been keeping track with our results and comparing, there are some differences, for our good in the window and restaurant design industry.
    http://twitter.com/restaurantd

    I’ve tried the new machine and I am rather disappointed. One of my favorite keyword result shift from page 1 to page 4. Peculiarly one of my backlink site appears in page 2.

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