Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Caffeine: Do You Really Need It?

Have you heard of caffeine? I know that I have.

Many of us think we need caffeine; some of us indeed do. That's why it's in coffee, that thing the jet-setting among us purchase for $2 or more every morning. For the same reasons, caffeine is in those carbonated beverages that some of us drink in the afternoon because we again need a caffeine fix and realize those funny ads about those kinds of drinks aren't too far off the mark.

But have you heard that Google thinks it needs Caffeine, too? (That, by the way, is Caffeine as a proper noun, baby.) In its continual effort to better itself by improving the accuracy of its search engine technology, Google is rolling out the biggest update to its indexing criteria since Jagger in 2007. Go here for a good rundown of the changes Caffeine apparently will bring. The Google Blog talks about Caffeine, too, and Google is even letting you test out Caffeine and provide feedback.

And I encourage SEO and SEM people everywhere to refrain from providing Google with any feedback. No, really. OK, that was meant to be humorous, but not at the expense of being at least partially serious. Don't help them figure out how to thwart organic SEO efforts.

Is that paranoid? Maybe. But how good is the organic search engine optimization industry for Google's Pay-Per-Click revenue stream? We don't really know. Even so, it's probably safe to say Google itself would be just as happy without this industry revolving around it. Sure, all the attention has played its role in making Google a household brand name, but the organic SEO industry hasn't exactly added to Google's bottom line. As more and more companies figure out that they can produce more and more content to please Google's spiders and thus appear in the first search engine results page (SERP), a major pillar of Google's revenue stream, premium placement on the first page of search for a premium price (i.e., PPC), begins to appear irrelevant. Not that PPC is entirely irrelevant -- but it's not like its essential, either.

Google has plenty of other reasons, of course, to evolve its search engine technology. I won't go into all those in this post except to say social media is a big one. But nobody should be surprised that one of the changes Caffeine brings, apparently, is a continuation of Google's efforts to individualize search engine result pages (SERPs) for every user. Taken to its logical conclusion, this march toward individualization fundamentally alters the dynamics and meaning of page rank, and the attendant conjecture within the search engine marketing community has been, well, spirited. Some suspect that Google may be gaming its own system to favor PPC. And why wouldn't Google do this? The potential attrition in PPC revenue because of SEM dollars instead going to organic SEO firms is a clear and present danger to Google.

Fortunately, spirited competition may be at hand among the major search engines, and it might yield viable alternatives that would be welcome any time now. This is the last thing Google probably wants, but the company may finally have brought this upon itself. I speak of Bing, which is already gaining traction among SEM types. In my next post, I'll share my thoughts on how Bing might take advantage of the growing discontent.