What Google Caffeine Means for SEO

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As most people know by now, Google changed their algorithm significantly in May. Bruce Clay, founder and CEO of Bruce Clay, Inc., shed some light on what the Google “Caffeine” update means for SEO. Below are some of the main ideas we took away from this great presentation.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a large project initiated by Google that is international in scope. It is the latest change to Google’s algorithm designed to allow for the evolution of search—making search results even more effective by preventing unethical SEOs from spamming the search engines.

Caffeine is creating drastic changes in the way websites are ranked by considering multi-site URLs, combining international indexes, establishing many more schema relationships, incorporating 200 more ranking factors and supporting instant performance.

As Caffeine lays the groundwork for the next generation in site architecture, SEO companies need to be aware of how this affects them.

How does Caffeine affect SEO?

Some of the things SEOs need to be aware of as we enter this next generation of search include:

  • Capacity: Caffeine gives Google the capability to go much deeper and broader with content. Increased capacity allows for more domains—specifically, local sites—to be indexed. This not only benefits Google in profit (since local targeting increases ROI on ads, leading to higher bids), but solves the key word capacity issue.


  • QDF: Query Deserves Freshness has always been important to Google. Caffeine enables the search engine to spider sites that provide fresh content more often than stale sites. By crawling sites more frequently, more links can be detected, which leads to deeper content crawling. Historically, only 2% of all web pages are seen in the index.


  • Social Media: According to Bruce, “links might be replaced by likes.” Social Media plays in based on “your community.” That is, when people like you, they share your information with others and do positive reviews for you. This kind of data is more powerful and harder to spam than links. For companies seeking to establish a solid presence across social media platforms, several things matter a lot: speed, content quality, frequency and rate of change, and depth of theme content (siloing).


  • Engagement Objects: Video and pictures are now considered content—and content is king. It is important to strategically include other media that enable people to interact with your site and get information in different ways.


  • Rapid Relationships: Caffeine allows for rapid relationships to be used when generating the SERPs. Branding authority is important and search results are impacted by user behavior. The new algorithm accommodates long-tail search intent; so, a user will get a different set of results based on their sequence of queries. For example, you will get different results for “hammer” if you start your search with a sequence like 1) “household tools” and then 2) “hammers.”

All of these things are aimed at creating a more positive search engine user experience. The index updates much faster, saves a few seconds of search time with Google Instant, and enables people to find the latest news since it can now accommodate the rate of change.

SEOs need to understand that on-page quality is still a ranking factor, as is off-page quality. Caffeine enables Google to better measure off-page quality by assigning a “trust rank” to your link network. A lower trust rank is assigned to sites that purchase links or have poor quality links. Good SEO has always sought to create a solid linking network with quality sites—Google has just found a better way to reward such due diligence.

So why does SEO Matter?

While everyone tends to get edgy when search engine algorithms change, it is the nature of this industry—and SEOs should anticipate and welcome such change. Sure, it does impact the way things are done, but good SEO has always been about changing and adapting to the latest rules and standards of the search engines.

SEO still matters in the age of Caffeine because sites must be well structured and maintained to achieve lasting results in the search engines. SEOs need to:

  • produce a steady flow of new content
  • create quality link networks to achieve a high trust score
  • establish sites as an authority in their niche market
  • create quality content
  • keep sites fresh
  • strategically target long-tail key term phrases

All of these things are what good SEO has always been about. Google is just better able to sift through the immense amount of data circulating on the Web to produce better results.