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Google Caffeine: Universal Search Results are Influenced by Rankings
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
There's a lot of talk the past couple of days about when Google will be rolling out "Caffeine Results" into their main index. According to discussion on Twitter, some are suggesting that we are seeing some Caffeine results going live at Google. However, Google's Matt Cutts mentioned that Caffeine has not yet been rolled into the main Google.com search results.

Search Engine Land commented on a study done by Summit Media which found results are not that much different between Google.com and Caffeine. However the study did communicate that the Caffeine results seemed to favor pages that are updated more often with fresh content. The entire study can be download as a free PDF. Download the study here

This prompted me to revisit a post from ex-Googler Vanessa Fox about Google Caffeine. In her article Vanessa discussed:
  • that this new infrastructure (Google Caffeine) may include ways of crawling the web more comprehensively
  • that Google Caffeine may begin determining reputation and authority (possibly beyond the link graph and what’s typically thought of as PageRank)
  • the underlying infrastructure changes do seem to have impacted user interface as it relates to universal search
It was this third point that I found interesting as Fox goes on to add:
infrastructure changes do seem to have impacted user interface as it relates to universal search (likely because universal results are influenced by ranking and relevance signals). For the sample searches I did, the first ten results were fairly similar, but the existence and location of images, video, news, and blog posts was notably different.
What I found interesting (and maybe I'm reading too much into the comment) is the fact that she states that rankings influence Universal (blended) results in Google. Whoa wait a second. Rankings are important? Well if they impact the placement of Universal results, I would suggest that rankings are important. I mean you can suggest that personalization has "killed the importance of rankings", but it is obvious that rankings do impact where a video, news result, image, local search result or shopping result appears in Google's search results.

It is like the word "rankings" is taboo. The fact of the matter is, either with or without personalized search results people look at rankings. From a search marketers point of view, rankings provide insight into visibility. Understanding where your site places for a given phrase or a given video or news result is important. Frankly if you're placed in position 732 in Google for you will have zero visibility. If you are placed in the results at position #58 for you will still pretty much have zero visibility. Unless you are on page one of Google for or perhaps page two of the results, you are going to have limited visibility which will result in limited traffic to your site. Webmasters, site owners, search marketers all look at rankings... let's be honest. Are rankings important? Well I'll let you decide. Again if rankings are impacting where a Universal result is being placed within in the Google results, I would suggest that rankings are important. At the end of the day however, it is still all about relevancy.

Why Google Caffeine is Important

Part of the reason for Google Caffeine is to help Google return quicker and more relevant results. What's more timely than a news results, a fresh blog post or a page that is frequently updated? Personally I think that we can expect to see fresh, unique, informational and regularly updated content perform better in the search results in the near future. Especially if this content is actively engaged by users and searchers. This theory supports some of the findings of the study from Summit Media as well.

This is not a bad thing. From a user's perspective, we should be expecting to see more timely results. Based on the type of query, we can expect to see more video results or more news results or more shopping results. We want (and need) to find the result that is most relevant to us. We also want to find this result quickly. While Google may not always be the source of this result, they will continue to make their search engine a tool that can be used to access the World's information quickly and accurately.

If the Google Caffeine infrastructure update can improve the speed and relevancy of results being returned in Google, than it will be a great success. Being that it is more of a "behind the scenes" update, many may not even notice the changes... that is until they perform a couple of search queries and receive better results in terms of relevancy and timeliness.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, September 22, 2009  
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