Google Caffeine Update

Aug. 11, 2009 | by Doug Platts

This week Google broke with tradition and is allowing preview and feedback on their most recent update named Caffeine. If you search on you can get a preview of how the search results will change over the next few weeks and months and then provide feedback via the link at the bottom of the page that says “Dissatisfied? Help us improve.” Is this the start of Google becoming a much more social business? I’m wondering how accurate this feedback is – and how many are submitting comments for the sake of trying influence ‘The Google’.

Big Daddy Update

This update has a similar feel to the Big Daddy Update released at the start of 2006 – where they updated not just its algorithm but also its infrastructure – which they announced in a very similar way.

There Google announced algorithm updates affecting predominantly how it looks at:

  • URL Canonicalization
  • Redirects
  • Duplicate URLs

And shortly after the Big Daddy Update, Google refreshed its Supplemental Index to include sites that were being seen as less trusted due to poor link equity. This caused problems for many webmasters as they were suddenly seeing the majority of their sites (usually the exception was the homepage) being moved from the main index to the supplemental. This meant their site were not appearing for general queries – severely affecting traffic.

New Update – New Rankings?

Initially it seemed that you could only view results for the US, however by adding gl=UK to the end of the URL then it looks it’s showing updated UK results -thanks to @SharkSEO for that.

It has been reported that there are increased numbers of results from social networking sites such as certain high-profile Facebook pages receiving a major boost in the rankings with Caffeine.

The Barack Obama Facebook page now ranks higher than the White House website.


One commenter on the Google Webmaster Central blog also noted “I’ve noticed more Twitter pages in the results with this version of Google“.

Bigger brands seem to be getting even more of a boost in more generic SERPs, for example for the Caffeine SERP for ‘flights’ I am seeing Ryanair in the top spot where currently there was Skyscanner and Travel Supermarket


For price related, generic term there has been some fluctuations for comparison sites. For example Travel Supermarket has dropped out of the top 5 for ‘cheap hotels‘ but Last has gained a position:


I always like to look at the ‘car insurance‘ SERPs to try and get a feel for what is going on. Here we have seen some similar fluctuations as we did when Vince was getting bedded in.

As usual it is too soon to tell fully what impact this update will have but I am expecting to see even more emphasis being put on being a digital brand and Google increasing its understanding of where and how brands are being talked within social networks.

What fluctuations are you seeing in results? Both in the UK and US and how do you think Google’s algorithm is changing?

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    Comments (4)

    • Conor

      Strangely, I was looking at the Irish and UK car insurance results under Google and the proposed Caffeine. www
      For those on the receiving end of a fall – most of the falls are ones that might conceivably happen over a period anyway.
      But, as it stands (2nd September) and if I were a particular UK website - I would be very put out at a proposed plunge from #4 to #62.  Two others take a drop in the range of 120 – 150 places.
      My contention is that the top site is lying in #4 now so what’s so offensive on/about their site if Caffeine were king.
      As for the Hotels can only comment for Irish sites but here were one or two significant changes there as well.
      Maybe with feedback it will settle down.   Sep 2, 2009 04:54 pm

    • Liz Ayers

      I've been looking at the SERP for 'hotels' in the usual UK Google results and comparing it to the results in the UK Caffeine Sandbox version, and there are some significant differences.

      In the Caffeine Sandbox version, Hilton dropped out for 'hotels' whilst Hilton has been holding position #6 for the past few weeks in the usual Google results.

      The Vince update added more 'brands' to the 'hotels' SERP, but in the Caffeine Sandbox version today I am seeing 2 less hotel brands on the first page of results (Hilton & Novotel having dropped), which have been replaced with Online Travel Agents (OTAs).
      Travelodge and Premier Inn have seen increased positions in the Caffeine Sandbox version. Travelodge moved from #8 to #2 and Premier Inn from #5 to #3. Perhaps there is some bias towards UK brands in the UK SERPs or price in these financial critical times??

      In comparison with the usual Google SERP for 'hotels' I think the Caffeine update is giving a more useful result. There are more hotel brands than can fit within the first page for the SERPs, so with an even split of hotel brand sites and OTAs, key brands can be sourced within the one click and the OTAs can offer a wider variety of brands which can’t all be covered within the first SERP including those which aren’t optimized well and are less likely to rank.Aug 12, 2009 11:21 am

    • Douglas Platts - Digital Fingerprint » Fresh From Twitter today

      [...] thoughts welcome about Google’s Caffeine Update #seoCheers @SharkSEO . ‘car insurance’ looks different couple of [...]Aug 11, 2009 04:50 pm

    • Ben Adam

      I dont think we'll see to many big changes in results, Matt Cutts comments on his caffine post that "most of the changes are in things like our core indexing, so there’s less changes for things like rankings"Aug 11, 2009 03:14 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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