The legacy of Vince and Caffeine

by Peter Young on November 13, 2009 · 2 comments

A lot of column inches have been written about Caffeine and Vince. In particular the Vince update has accumulated a lot of interest particularly from people attempting to explain a number of phenomena which have happened since Vince occured.

I won’t go through the history of the Vince update, as Jonathan Stewart has written a fantastic overview of Vince, which includes a very good breakdown of the history and many of the posts attributed to Vince

I for one have to completely agree with many of Jonathans conclusions at the end of the post particularly when many of Google’s recent tools should only serve to highlight the fact that Google has, and more importantly is using the vast amount of data it has at its disposal already to power tools such as Wonder Wheel and Google AdPlanner, so why not use that data for the search engine results as well.

However it was a recent seminar down at Google (the branding summit of all places) that got me really thinking about this. It wasn’t actually something Google highlighted in their presentation, it was a question from the audience about the source of data for the Google Ad Planner tool that did it. The response from Google was fairly clear in terms of where they obtained the data for Ad Planner namely:

  • ComScore
  • Alexa
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Toolbar

Further to this, Google were continuing to present the benefits of Wonder Wheel which allows users profile what people have done after they have searched for a particular term.

This got me thinking. If Google has got all this data, and is able to draw on all the behavioural activity that it can collate via logged in accounts – why would they not be using this as part of their algorithm. For example, if I type holidays into Google, chances are (before Vince) my next port of call would probably have been Thomas Cook or Thomson as one of the biggest tour operators in the UK.


If one takes a further look at car insurance, one can see this further evidence taking place. Direct Line heavily sell themselves on the fact they are not on the aggregators, something many of their competitors do and you see will see them very prominently positioned.

This is not new – this is something very well covered by the lads over at iCrossing when they hit the nail on the head here. However where it gets interesting is what happens when we combine the improvement made during Vince with those of Caffeine.

I personally don’t think the two should be looked at seperately, and when one considers the increase in popularity of real time search rivals such as Twitter and Facebook you can see where Google are gearing much of their thinking around. Caffeine is not an algorithmic update, its an infrastructural update. It is not therefore so much about improving the manner in which data is crunched, it is more concerned with having enough power and grunt to be able to crunch that data – and thus the feasibility of real time search is now put into context – particularly if you see the following video of Eric Schmidt (from Revolution Magazine via ReadWriteWeb):

In the Video Eric particularly makes reference to the following key points:

  • “Real time information is just as valuable as all the other information, we want it included in our search results.”
  • “We can index real-time info now – but how do we rank it?”
  • It’s because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources. Learning how to rank that “is the great challenge of the age.” Schmidt believes Google can solve that problem

Take that scenario and combine it with the recent algorithmic updates on Vince and you have a very powerful behavioural real time search engine, something which in my opinion offers something different to the offerings available from the current ‘simplistic’ Twitter and Facebook models. Whether or not my thoughts above are on the ball or whether they are rants brought on by a severe lack of sleep are still to be seen, however the latest changes are likely to keep Google very much on the forefront of search for the short to medium term still.

Other posts on Vince and Twitter
Google Vince
Jonathan Stewart’s comprehensive guide to Vince
Richard Baxter – Google Vince – Brand or No Brand
SharkSEO – Is this Googles UK glitch
iCrossing – Unlocking Googles Vince update
Aaron Wall – Brand vs Query Refinements – Google using second search

Google Caffeine
Dave Freeman – The Google Caffeine update – Whats it all about
Matt Cutts – Expect Caffeine after the holidays

Google+ Comments

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan Stewart November 13, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Cheers for the mention Pete – completely agree, from what I’ve seen it looks like this will be much more about processing user data much more quickly

Gabriel Translation April 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Very interesting points of view Pete. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, but there are interesting changes taking place at google and other search engines, for sure.


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