SEO Guide: Google’s Caffeine Update

10 CAFFEINE Google Update Blog Image

Over a decade ago, Google underwent a major update that revamped its indexing system. The Caffeine Update of 2010 greatly increased the efficiency of Google’s web crawling, allowing web pages to appear on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) faster.

This update provided opportunities for lesser-known sites to appear on Google’s SERP. As a result, content creators and web developers were encouraged to consistently source fresh and reliable content.

Let’s go over the details of what this update entails.

What Was Google’s Caffeine Update?

Google announced Caffeine in August of 2019 but was not implemented until June 2010. The extensive size of this update went through a lengthy testing and development phase for web developers.

To clarify, Caffeine was not an algorithm update but rather more of an indexing update. The update itself pertained to faster indexing or adding pages to Google’s SERP. Google was hence able to crawl, or visit webpages, much more efficiently and store more data.

Experts of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) saw this update as an opportunity to boost page rankings by creating fresh content, taking advantage of the faster indexing system. However, Caffeine was not designed to impact rankings. Changes in ranking were likely due to Google’s algorithms.

Why Was the Caffeine Update Created?

As the internet became more integrated in our daily lives, content of all forms exponentially grew. Google needed a new process of getting new content on their SERP to accommodate the rising internet usage.

The Expanding Web

Google’s first indexing update rolled out in 1998 with 188 million internet users and 2.4 million websites. These numbers expanded to roughly 1.8 billion internet users and 238 million websites by 2009, dwarfing the initial stats by a factor of 100.

On top of that, advancements in technology led to creation of various media forms like video and maps that needed indexing.

With that, you can see how Google’s initial capacity might have been overwhelmed. The indexing system prior to Caffeine used a layering system that lacked frequent updates.

The Previous Indexing Update

Before Caffeine, Google’s index system had layers which varied in update times. The highest priority layer would update at least biweekly with other layers taking up to four months to index. Pages in the upper layer had more authority and likely created faster fresher content.

Refreshing an old index layer required the entire web to be analyzed. This resulted in long intervals between when Google found a page and when it appeared on its SERP.

In contrast, Caffeine analyzes the web in smaller sections and continuously indexes pages, almost instantly. This update allowed searchers to find fresh information as content came out without the restrictions of layers.

Visual description of how googles indexing has changed from old (blocky grip index) to caffeine update index (shape of an atom).
Comparison of Indexing Systems. Image Credit: Google Search Central

Futureproofing

Not only was there an imminent need for Caffeine due to content overflow but demands and expectations in search also rose. Users expected fast and relevant search results and publishers wanted site traffic soon after publishing.

Google understood that search engines would change as devices and content advanced. Upgrading the indexing process was the first step in maintaining user experience, keeping the world in touch with each other, and improving future Google updates.

In fact, the Caffeine Update gave way to its successor, the Freshness Update and the Hummingbird Algorithm Update.

What Did the Caffeine Update Affect?

Unlike most Google updates, Caffeine did not negatively impact a wide section of sites since it was not focused on ranking. While some sites did experience a decrease in rank or traffic, the update brought mostly beneficial factors for search.

More Effective Google Searches

During it’s 10 month development phase, Google asked web developers and power searchers for feedback on Caffeine. Here are some fruits of their collaborative efforts:

  • Faster Search Results – Searchers can find content almost immediately after it is crawled. Software Engineer Carrie Grimes notes that Caffeine yields 50 percent fresher results on the SERP than before.
  • Increased Storage Capacity – To accommodate the influx of content and data, Caffeine’s indexing infrastructure became massive. It stores nearly 100 million gigabytes of data in a database.
  • Flexible Content Saving – Caffeine expands the type of details crawled pages store. These details may include links, keywords, etc.

Effects on SEO

For SEO specialists and content creators in general, the Caffeine Update levelled the playing field for sites that produced content.

Sites no longer had to be in the ‘fresh’ category for quick indexing as the prior indexing system did. This meant sites could now focus on other aspects of SEO and take advantage of the speedy indexing.

Crawling and Indexing

We know that Caffeine brings users content faster but let’s dive deeper into how crawling and indexing work to make Caffeine possible.

Web Crawling

Googlebot, Google’s web crawler, visits web pages and stores the information like meta tags and keywords on Google servers. In turn, Google searches essentially look through these servers and return pages that Googlebot has already been to.

Web crawlers use embedded links on pages to find other pages and index those as well. With the Caffeine Update, Googlebot crawls continuously.

Google Search Console is offered to site owners to decide how their pages are crawled.  

Google Index. Image Credit: dotNEK
Google Index. Image Credit: dotNEK

Indexing

Caffeine indexes incrementally as opposed to the outdated method of indexing the entire web at once. With continuous crawling, almost instantaneous indexing is possible in small portions.

Google claims that it accumulates new data in the hundreds of thousands of gigabytes every day using Caffeine. Every second, Google processes hundreds of thousands of pages.

Why Are My Pages Not Indexed?

Even with the improved indexing system, your page may not appear in the SERP. If that is the case, one of the following are likely the culprits:

  • Crawl errors – Crawl errors occur when Google fails to communicate with your site. There may be server issues or other internal issues where Googlebot cannot access your site files.
  • URL errors – Pages that have dead links or cannot be accessed will return a 404 error. Since users cannot view your page, Google may omit it from the SERP.
  • Soft errors – When your page is running but Googlebot thinks it should return a 404 error, a soft error is returned. The reasons may be incorrectly detected keywords or there is no content.

How to Rank Higher with Caffeine

Although we already established that the update does not directly affect ranking, there is definitely a connection. Your page won’t get much traffic if it is indexed quickly but never appears on the first few SERPs.

Create Fresh Content

Even if Google is not organized in layers anymore, fresh content should not be neglected. Here are some strategies that can still be applied to modern sites:

  • Blog often and consistently
  • Get involved in social media
  • Expand your brand to multiple platforms

Link Building

Focus on linking building strategies that will bring even more traffic to your site faster. Pair this with Caffeine’s fast indexing and your site will surely build authority.

Do note what successful websites are doing to increase traffic. Even if you publish content regularly, your competitors might be incorporating other factors that appeal to Google more.

Takeaways

Google’s Caffeine Update significantly altered how its search engine worked. The new infrastructure provided searchers with faster and fresher search results.

The growing amount of web use worldwide rendered Google’s old indexing system incapable. The new update gives users 50 percent fresher results, stores more data on Google servers, and indexes pages almost instantly as they are created.

Fresh content still is a key factor in getting your site ranked high on the SERP. With Caffeine’s speedy indexing, make sure to consistently create content like blogs or social media posts to get fresh content out to your audience.

Since Google constantly changes their search engine, it can be difficult to know what they are looking for. Connect with an SEO expert to receive assistance on creating stronger content.

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