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Earlier this month, Google announced an “infrastructure” update via their Webmaster Central Blog, also providing a link to a test server where users can see changes in action. We also made a quick in-house tool to compare UK-focussed results on Google caffeine. If you run a website, does this affect you, and what do you need to know?The Google blog post states:

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

Strangely, they also directly solicit feedback on changes in search results:

We’re also interested in higher-level feedback (“These types of sites seem to rank better or worse in the new system”) in addition to “This specific site should or shouldn’t rank for this query.”

The upshot is that rankings for your site may change if Google implement these changes, but for general purpose searchers and average users, there will be little (if any) noticeable difference in Google results. The public announcement also provides much-needed PR for Google, following Microsoft’s launch of Bing.

What Google Caffeine isn’t

Google Caffeine, and specifically the test server available are not an accurate portrayal of future results for particular sites or keywords. As with the “Google Dance” of old, these results are likely to change significantly before appearing on public Google servers. This means that any insights, opinions or data gleaned from test servers results must be interpreted carefully and do not usual warrant direct action.

How Google Caffeine testing is useful

If you see dramatic changes in the performance of your site on the test server, then it is, of course, more likely that a final implementation will also have a noticeable effect. But without expert knowledge it will be difficult to see what has caused ranking changes, and what type of change might be suitable to protect against any future negative impact.

Primarily, the Google Caffeine test server is useful for SEO professionals, who can use experience and knowledge to evaluate the direction Google is heading with any update (including Caffeine) and understand the underlying causes ofthose changes.

What seems to be happening with Google Caffeine

  • Primarily, there seems to be increased favouring of authoritative/brand results, as has been the case with most Google updates of recent years
  • Generally, the results are delivered marginally quicker
  • The index size (the number of pages searched) is highly variable, with some searches return less pages, others greater numbers of pages
  • “Fresh”/recently updated results may be given more weighting (to counteract recent “real time search” challenges from Twitter and Facebook)
  • There are various interface features which are less prominent or missing from the Caffeine results (e.g. “universal search” content, and additions to SERPs such as tagging of forum posts or LinkedIn pages). It isn’t clear if this is because this is a test server – many interface features are “after the fact” rather than an intrinsic part of ranking pages

Various industry commentators have also provided their opinion of what’s happening with results.

Compare your own rankings on Google Caffeine

You can use our quick and simple tool to compare UK Google Caffeine results with the current UK Google results.