When Google announced late Aug. 10 that it has a new search service, named Caffeine, for the public to try out, search users everywhere sat up and took notice.
Google is constantly tweaking its search algorithms. And in most cases, minor changes to the algorithms don't impact a particular organization's PageRank. But with Caffeine searches, the results are different.
The new concept has significantly changed a variety of results. Sites that used to be ranked toward the top of Google search results have fallen. At the same time, some companies that were at the bottom of the list are enjoying better ranks with Caffeine.
For example, I tried a simple search: "tech." On the current Google results page, the Web 2.0 blog TechCrunch was the second result. With Caffeine, the site slipped three spots. At the same time, The New York Times' tech page, which was trailing behind TechCrunch in the current Google search, is ahead of it with Caffeine.
Granted, both sites are still on the front page, but it could be a problem. Most Google searchers don't stray off the first page of search results and, in many cases, they only pick the top few results. As Google adds local Google Maps entries, site search boxes and more content to its results, it pushes all the lower-ranking results down further "below the fold." It could significantly cut down on traffic derived from search engines.
Realizing that, companies both big and small might soon need to worry. For example, I searched for accountants in my area with both Caffeine and Google search. The three companies topping the list were still holding their spots, but the subsequent results with Caffeine revealed several companies that weren't listed in the original results page. It was so drastically different that two companies that were featured on the first page of results were on the second page in Caffeine.
Caffeine is shaking things up. And it has reminded the business world about some important issues.
1. Caffeine is different
It's apparent from just a few test searches that Caffeine changes the way things are done with Google's search results. If a company was once placed at the top of Google's results, it might not hold that spot in Caffeine.
2. The competition is getting some help
Although it's not universal (there were some searches that displayed identical results), in many cases, my local searches revealed different, lesser-known companies enjoying the first page of Google search results. Companies that have generated business through search results won't be happy to hear that. Any advantage the competition receives is a serious threat to the bottom line.