Google’s “Caffeine” Engine – Kind of a Big Deal

Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Search Strategist

Google is currently testing its next generation natural search infrastructure.  Searchers can check out “Caffeine” and offer feedback directly to Google.  Performics has spent some time testing the Caffeine engine, and the results are interesting.  First of all, our testing has confirmed what others have found – there appears to be more sites in the Caffeine index than in the regular Google version, and the results are delivered faster.

For example, in a single-word search query like “Sneakers”, Caffeine says that it has 20,800,000 results, while regular Google has 18,700,000 results.  This does not mean that Google has developed a different set of search robots just for Caffeine.  Instead, it likely means that Caffeine is better able to review its own index and find more pages with words that are likely related to the original query.

As far as speed is concerned, our testing indicated Caffeine delivers results about twice as fast in most instances.  For example, the search “buy dvd players” took 0.82 seconds on regular Google, while Caffeine required only 0.44 seconds.

Google also made a third claim, that Caffeine will return more accurate results.  For Web retailers and other businesses invested heavily on the Web, this could be a new ball game. 

Preliminary findings indicate some pages are showing up higher in Caffeine for both high volume and long-tail keywords than they do on regular Google.  We observed the largest rank fluctuations in retail keywords and in searches that indicate a buying intention, while informational searches (such as peoples’ names) have not shown much change.  Caffeine has not yet integrated Google image searches into its results, so it may be some time before we see how this architecture responds to image optimization.

Web retailers and sites that have already been optimized should check how their sites are doing on Caffeine for their primary keyword targets.  It is not unlikely that Google will take Caffeine out of the “sandbox” and into primary service at some point, so consider the Caffeine rankings a preview of how well you may be doing in the Google natural results in a couple months. 

It may be time to re-think your optimization strategy.  Take a hard look at the sites that are in the ranks you want your site to be, and figure out what these sites offer that yours does not.  Do they have forum pages?  How is their content organized?  Their higher ranks indicate that Google thinks their sites are more “useful” than yours, so you may have to find out what your visitors consider useful about your site, and how well this information is exposed to search engines.

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