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.
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3. Expect Caffeine to become Google Search
This is not an academic exercise. Google is facing a lot of competition these days and it wants its search technology to stay on top of the heap. Right now, it’s called Caffeine. But after some tweaking by Google, Caffeine could soon become Google’s standard search engine. That means billions of queries will be run off Caffeine. In turn, we could see a serious swing in traffic figures for many Websites.
4. Caffeine will require SEO tweaks
Since Caffeine does change the page rankings, it might be time for companies to consider some search engine optimization tweaks. Google says it plans to bring Caffeine to the mainstream after it gets it right.
5. Complacency won’t work
Although some companies are content to have their Websites operate without much guidance, Google’s Caffeine has spawned a renewed sense that maintaining status quo might cause some companies to lose ground. Organizations will need to keep improving and updating their sites to stay close to the top of Google search.
6. Google is on the run
Google might enjoy a dominating position in the search engine market, but with Microsoft announcing a partnership with Yahoo and Facebook updating its search, more companies are trying to find ways to pull searchers away from Google. That can only mean that the search giant will be forced to keep innovating. It will need to keep changing things up. And companies will need to pay attention.
7. Read the news
Companies will need to be more proactive in learning about the changes made to Google search over the next few months. If they don’t, Google might leave them behind, pushing their Websites lower in its rankings.
8. Google is willing to level the playing field
Google has proven with Caffeine that it just doesn’t care if its results change. To Google, an improvement to its algorithm is all that matters. But by doing that, the company has evened the playing field. Companies that have low rankings can catch up now. It won’t be easy, but Google has opened that door.
9. No one can ignore PageRank
Although it’s easy for many small companies to ignore SEO, Google has made it clear through Caffeine that they should care. It could make a difference. With Caffeine, companies that want to be ranked higher will pay attention. Those that don’t care will suffer.
10. Google is always innovating
Google is always trying to find ways to innovate. Because of that, companies need to be prepared and, preferably, ahead of the curve. They need to learn to anticipate Google’s next move. They need to constantly be following best practices.
If they don’t, Google won’t wait for them to catch up.