Posted August 11, 2009 9:57 am by with 38 comments

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Google has gone ahead and done what search marketers could only have previously dreamed about: given us an advance preview of search engine update "Caffeine."

Announced at the Webmaster Central Blog, Caffeine is "a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google’s web search." Ooh, how exciting! While the official announcement warns not to expect any obvious changes–it claims most of the updates are "under the hood"–Matt Cutts admitted that "some of the search results do change, so we wanted to open up a preview so that power searchers and web developers could give us feedback."

Well, here’s some feedback–garnered on my very first query–Google may have dialed up too much focus on Twitter. Take a look at this comparison:

That’s the normal Google results page. Notice that my Twitter profile sits at #7. Now take a look at Caffeine:

I love using Twitter, but is it really the 2nd most relevant result for a search for my name? Relevant enough that it displays not only my Twitter profile, but that of another "Andy Beal?" I don’t think so. It’s almost as if, in Google’s attempts to include more social media "real time" results, it turned the dial to 11, when 7 would have worked just fine.

Another clue that Caffeine is focused on speed–perhaps at the sacrifice of relevancy–is there appears to be more "Similar" only and less "Cached" results. What’s that you ask? Well, when Google wants to get new results populating in its index, it often does so, even before it fully gets to cache/index the page. A search for the very recently passed away Eunice Kennedy Shriver, reveals twice as many results without a "cache" as the normal Google index. In fact, 3 out of the top 5 results had no cache!

That could be a very good thing–after all, we want the freshest information–but, as you saw from the Twitter example, Google needs to find a way of including "real time" results without letting social media skew its non time-sensitive SERPs.

I’m going to keep digging around. I’m glad that Google’s willing to give us a glimpse of things to come. Of course, the search giant will do a lot of fine tuning before making Caffeine its daily habit (pun intended), but I suspect we’ll see social media playing a big role in Google’s results–and that doesn’t appear to be limited to just very fresh topics.