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Google Caffeine SEO Notes

Since the SEO News industry has become so noisy (with lots of well-titled posts hyping mostly empty articles), and the major news sites are apparently jumping to publish first with such headlines, using similarly low-value content, it’s not easy to find real content about Google’s new “caffeine” indexing system. Google says it’s a big deal:

“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. 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.”

Matt Cutts says this is a complete rewrite of many parts of the Google indexing system, and that it’s fundamentally a big change.  He suggests caution and asks for feedback via an alpha review, and says Google plans to deploy it on one data center first for evaluations, before depoying it completely. According to Matt,  “whenever you change SO MUCH stuff under the hood…” you need to move forward carefully.

There is some speculation that this will form a basis for the Google’s annual “screw the affiliates right around Thanksgiving, to have maximum impact on the holiday sales season” effort this year. If that’s true, I suppose it’s a good sign that Google finally recognizes the importance of such huge changes, and the need for more than a week or two of lead time.  It also makes sense that Matt’s out front handling PR on this, since he has to face the webmasters at Pubcon in November.

I have yet to see any meaningful discussion of this new Google on the web, beyond basic observations on a few specific searches. But I’ll keep watching.

In the mean time I’m aggregating references on Google’s “Caffeine” update and what it might mean for search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. If you know of a meaningful article about Google’s Caffeine update, that would be interesting to SEOs, please note it in a comment.

For starters:


  1. Richard wrote:

    This was an interesting read, and looks at this change from a very different viewpoint:

    John replies: yes Richard that addresses the technical infrastructure aspects, and the large chunking issues described are in evidence if you ask me (partial page loads suggest so). Smaller chunks means faster SERP generation…. and possibly more specific quality management (smaller more specific binning of URLs if desired) How this plays out for SEO is interesting now… and especially whether or not we will be able to influence various aspects independently from the whole.

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 12:29 am | Permalink
  2. Bill Hartzer wrote:

    Hey John, I’m amazed at the number of people who have been unable to analyze Google Caffeine. I really hate to be a shameless self promoter, but I did my best to write up what I’ve found so far:

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
  3. Tim wrote:

    The results looks quite different. It looks like, they changed the Trustrank. Its now more valueable.
    Thanks for the great list of reviews and news.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 5:15 am | Permalink
  4. Stephen Wade wrote:

    I’m seeing a significant change in the rankings for “plantation shutters” keyword search. A couple of the sites are unchanged, but there’s a huge reshuffle in some of the other results. I’m still trying to figure out what caused this?

    Bill, I read your article – in what way would you say that Caffeine is treating 301 Permanent Redirects differently than before? Also, when you say Google “is moving into-real-time,” does this mean Google is crawling more often?


    Stephen Wade

    Monday, August 17, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  5. Gregor wrote:

    I’m not holding my breath to be honest – if they can’t figure out that serving up a US map for UK location search isn’t a good idea then who knows what this next update will introduce!

    At least they’re doing it in small stages though and attempting to be somewhat transparent about it.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 6:10 am | Permalink
  6. the UK pollution discussion is one I do not grasp. Matt is on a dead end there I think. Be a man and admit it. Futhermore Caffeine is directly linked to the freshnes of content. So age becomes and freshness are super important and that will hurt the Affiliatescene as always.

    Monday, August 24, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  7. Hey John,

    After about 10 days I could assemble what I found about Google Caffeine here

    Hope this adds to the conversation.

    Also, I notice your title shows “>> Google Caffeine ….” you might want to fix header.php by removing “» (»)” (more info here

    Monday, August 24, 2009 at 7:33 am | Permalink
  8. christopher wrote:

    Like every other webmaster and SEO I’m trying to unravel the caffeine mystery myself. I’ve primarily been checking between caffeine and current google, finding sites that have made huge jumps or lost rank and analyzing the differences to figure out what has changed. I have seen a drop in the number of single page junk sites, which is a good thing.

    Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 12:09 am | Permalink
  9. gatwick wrote:

    I think we will see the full changes after christmas as Matt Cutts (google) has been saying.
    I have seen some changes on site ranking , some dropping some going up in the last 2 weeks, changes I cant explain well. without splitting hairs, I think they are tweaking results already a head of the launch.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 5:27 am | Permalink
  10. H. Mill wrote:

    For sure Caffeine will improve the quality of search results and I cannot wait to use it. I think improvements are much needed but perhaps at a bit slower pace. Changing algorithm every month is not a good idea. Well soon we will see what is all the buzz about and what changed with Caffeine.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  11. Desmond wrote:

    I think Google Caffeine has systems that are not much different with current Google. I am optimistic that my targeted niche in Google SERP will only slightly changed on Caffeine.

    Saturday, December 26, 2009 at 3:01 am | Permalink