Google Caffeine And The New Ranking Factors
(Posted on December 12, 2009)
Google Caffeine is the name given to Google's "Next Generation" search engine, which it will use to rank and index all the pages on the wonderful world wide web. According to all indications, this is not just another one of Google's infamous Updates, but a major "Overhaul" of its index and algorithm, the complex formula and calculations Google uses to rank all web pages, including yours.
If that doesn't sound ominous enough, according to Matt Cutts (Google Spokesperson) one database is already showing Google Caffeine, and the full blown version will be released after the holidays. The reasoning behind this, Google doesn't want to upset webmasters and site owners during the lucrative holiday buying season. In the past, other major Google Updates have come around this time of the year, most notably the "Florida Update" which severely affected many web sites and webmasters.
Recently, Google has been more aware and much more generous to webmasters by being more open and forthcoming in regards to how it indexes its pages. This time around, webmasters were even given access to a beta version of Caffeine which Google released last summer ('09) where webmasters could check to see how well their keywords and site would fare in this new search index. This beta site (www2.sandbox.google.com) has now been taken down by Google.
Like any professional search engine marketer who works online, I was constantly checking my sites and keywords in Google's new search engine. I have drawn some conclusions from what I have observed, but please be aware it is often very foolish to draw conclusions and make predictions from your own small sampling of results. You can end up with egg on your face very quickly, especially when you consider Google is probably still making adjustments and refinements on Caffeine as it analyzes the results.
However, there are certain ranking factors that even Google is telling us about, mainly "Site Speed" or how fast your site loads will play a part in how it's ranked. We have also heard a lot about "Broken Links" and if your page or site has them, then it will probably be ranked lower. Of course, linking out to "Bad Neighborhoods" will probably still not be a good practice if you want higher rankings within Google.
It should not come as a shock or a surprise, that "Over-All Page Quality" will play a greater role in how well your page ranks. Keep in mind, Google is like any other company putting out a product, if that product doesn't have a high standard of quality, it reflects badly back on everyone concerned. Google's SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) is the key to all their online revenue, they must do everything in their power to keep that product fast, relevant, current and above all, something of high quality.
Therefore, expect "OnPage Factors" to play a much greater role in Google Caffeine. Quality unique content, page design, good navigation, title, meta tags, description, keyword density, alt tags, page views, bounce rate, traffic numbers, time spent on page, and the number of social bookmarks may play an increased role in achieving high rankings. A perfectly optimized keyworded page, with the keyword in the title, description, meta tags, alt tags, on the page... will probably get you ranked higher in Caffeine, as well as most search engines on the web.
This may be pure speculation on my part, but one of the areas Caffeine will be addressing or incorporating is "Social BookMarking", that is the number of social bookmarks a page receives will determine how high it is ranked. I also believe one of the major reasons these bookmarks will become much more important has to do with the whole nasty issue of link buying.
Now, the integrity of Google's index is not in question, but any savvy marketer or webmaster knows any individual or company with deep pockets and huge resources can buy their way into the top spot. Despite Google's attempt to stop it, link buying and keyword positioning is a thriving industry on the web. Rightly or wrongly, money and unlimited resources will get you or your company to the top in organic search, regardless of which search engine you're targeting.
All moral and ethnical issues aside, the small webmaster and/or online marketer is stuck right in the middle, with Google on one side and these major multinational competitors on the other. Looming on the horizon is Google Caffeine, a new sheriff in town!
What new rules will this sheriff bring?
The major question here is this: has the importance of backlinking been downplayed in this new index in favor of the keyworded domain and onsite content and optimization? Has there been a major shift to listing more quality content rather than relying on the number of backlinks a site is receiving, even from important related themed sites? The major problem and question to Google is this: if links can be bought, how do you keep your organic results democratic and fair, which was the original intention of Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they started Google in 1998.
One possible solution is social bookmarking.
Will we see an ever growing importance of social bookmarks and links in this new index. It is quite easy to buy 1000 links, but getting 1000 or 10,000 "re-tweets" is a little more difficult, similarly getting two or three thousand "diggs" may be a little harder to pull off. Same goes for Del.icio.us bookmarks, Facebook fans... well you get the picture. Will Google's use of these new social sites make Caffeine faster, more relevant, more current and most importantly of all, can it bring some democracy back into their index?
Of course, nothing in Google's new index will be that cut and dry, that black and white. Other ranking factors such as age of site, past history and reputation, traffic numbers, authority branding... will all play a role in whether your site gets listed on that all important first page. However, on page factors may play a greater role - title, meta tags, description, keyword density, alt tags, page views, bounce rate, time spent on page, and the number of social bookmarks may play an increased role in achieving high rankings. Website speed or how fast your site loads may also be a new ranking factor.
Underlying this whole issue is the fact which many experienced webmasters/marketers already know, Google's SERPs is not a one-trick pony anymore. For very lucrative (monetized) keyword phrases, Google's results are broken up into Five categories... Info listings, Video listings, News Listings, Shopping Listings and Corporate Listings. Forget Caffeine, this is probably the fairest move Google has made in the last few years to make its SERPs more democratic.
Another even more puzzling issue for me concerning Google Caffeine is how much emphasis or ranking power will it place on "Keyworded Domains", domain names which have your keyword or keyword phrase in them. Will these domains be ranked higher? Webmasters and marketers for years have been telling us we should always pick domain names which have our major keywords in them. Just common sense really, someone searching for "brown widgets" will more likely than not find that item at a domain called brownwidgets(dot)com or brownwidget(dot)com. The major SEO reasoning, all your backlinks will inherently have your searched keyword in the URL, thus bringing it up in the rankings.
Against this whole backdrop, everyone has to realize the web itself is evolving, new sites like Twitter, FaceBook... have changed the whole cyber landscape. Likewise, the web user is also changing and becoming more web savvy in how they use the web. Will search engines, not only Google, take a back-seat role in how we find stuff on the web? As major sites are branded into the web user's psyche, will these users go directly to these sites, by-passing the search engines altogether?
As the web evolves, keyworded domains will become more valuable and this value will be reflected in the quality of the site. If you're making thousands or even millions from your keyworded domain, you can afford to invest in quality content and design. Cream rises to the top. Gradually, as these domains become more valuable, they will probably be snapped up by marketers and companies who know just how to exploit them. Thousands upon thousands of keyworded domains will probably be bought up by multi-billion dollar corporations who finally realize what the web has to offer. This new evolved web will probably be much more narrower in scope and very topic specific.
In the "next generation" web the re-direct shall be king!
Will the role of the search engines, whether it be Google or Bing/Yahoo, become less and less important, as savvy web searchers go directly to a site by typing in the keyworded domain to find what they're looking for on the web? Cutting out the middleman may just become a world wide passion as big multinational and fully funded corporations snap up all these valuable and lucrative keyworded domains, will we see these domains grow in importance and the search engines take more of a back-up role? Human nature dictates we always take the fastest route to our destination, and the web will be no exception to this rule.
Have all the smart people at Google figured this out already, and designed the new Google Caffeine to reflect the growing importance of the keyworded domain? Of course, we can only speculate when it comes to just what Google is planning and doing with its next generation search engine, but will onsite factors and your domain name play a greater role in their organic SERPs?
Regardless of what the new sheriff actually does, when the dust finally settles on all these latest developments, the keyworded domain will probably be standing tall, watching the sun rise on a brand new day.
About the Author: Titus Hoskins is a full time online affiliate marketer. His livelihood is derived from & depended upon search engine marketing & daily monitoring of targeted keywords, mainly within Google. He runs numerous sites, including: Free Marketing Tools & Internet Marketing Tools.