The advent of Google Caffeine will see Google's technical infrastructure undergoing a massive change, the biggest one since Big Daddy in December 2005, and if you're not prepared for it, your site will sink down the search engine rankings.
Matt Cutts, head of Google's webspam team, explains this update: "Caffeine is a fundamental re-architecting of how our indexing system works." Now after two years of development Google Caffeine has gone public.
Google are making sure the roll out is not disruptive as they don't want a repeat of the public relations disaster of the Big Daddy update, where the indexes were in flux for a couple of months during peak shopping season Christmas 2005.
In short, as a result of lessons learned from that incident, you and I won't really see much of an immediate change in search engine ranking positions.
So if the results are not different, then why the fuss? Being an infrastructural upgrade, it allows Google to process more data more efficiently. This means more signals can be incorporated within the search algorithm and so it can move closer to generating what it thinks is the perfect search index.
As we know, search engine optimisation (SEO) is about making a site friendly to search engines and exploiting their weaknesses. However, with a profound shift to a far more intelligent Google search engine it will be really hard to break open these weaknesses and game your way to the top of the rankings.
Today we can pay our way to the top through good site optimisation, careful link buying and online PR. Tomorrow, the only way businesses will have prominence on Google will be via Pay Per Click Adwords (PPC), demand from end users, clever social engineering or luck.
As fas as PPC is concerned, Betfair PPC expert Kemley Sellars, believes Caffeine will allow Google to make niche phrases on its index more relevant and thus more profitable for both Google and the businesses advertising. He sees a broader distribution of spend across the search index, allowing more advertisers to profitably work with Google.
Generally users are not interested in commercial offerings, unless they are actively seeking this information and are in buying mode. So for Google to filter relatively irrelevant commercial listings from non commercial indexes is good for the user and good for Google since it will motivate businesses to spend on PPC around more commercial phrases.
With organic search, businesses looking to generate revenue online will need to think hard about building websites users care about. Unless you want to face potential exclusion from Google, you will not be able to fake solid indicators like click through volumes to your site from the search results.
So the answer lies in ensuring your website is useful to your users, or doing some clever social engineering to make sure your website looks like it is useful for users.
I think links will still be valuable for SEO, but Google will rely more on signals you can't fake. In the end there may be only one choice... to build a great website. I know this will be a tough call for lots of businesses.
In any case a profound change is coming, so get ready.