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Google Demos New 'Caffeine' Search Technology

Google is introducing new search infrastructure technology that aims to improve searches' speed and accuracy -- while dramatically reshaping how Web sites rank in its results.

The project, dubbed Caffeine, represents a "next-generation architecture" for Web results, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) said in a blog post, with work on the effort having been ongoing for at least the past several months.

Now the word is out, with Google inviting users to test a preview of Caffeine and to provide feedback on the changes.

"It's the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions," Google engineers Sitaram Iyer and Matt Cutts wrote in the blog post.

Those changes could prove critical for the company as it seeks to maintain its lead over players like Microsoft, whose new, rival search engine Bing is making slow but steady gains in market share.

Part of that success has been due to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) focus on designing and marketing Bing as a tool that delivers the right results quickly.

In addition to concentrating on improving the accuracy of its search, Microsoft also has been working to expand its breadth. The No. 3 search player scored a major win thanks to a new deal with Yahoo in which the two online giants will join forces in a unified front against Google. Through the deal, Microsoft's technology will power Yahoo's search, which currently ranks in a distant second behind Google.

Google strikes back

But with Caffeine, Google is aiming to rev up its own search engine.

"The new infrastructure sits 'under the hood' of Google's search engine, which means that most users won't notice a difference in search results," Iyer and Cutts wrote. "But Web developers and power searchers might notice a few differences, so we're opening up a Web developer preview to collect feedback."

As a result, the effort could change how results are ranked. That has important implications for search engine optimization, but so far, it's uncertain how the practice could be impacted.

At the very least, any fine-tuning of the Google search algorithms could mean that businesses relying on SEO will have to rejigger how they optimize their sites.

For some industry insiders, that's good news.

"We think this will accelerate the trend to make SEO more measurable and accountable," Mark Hoffman, CEO at SEO firm Enquisite, told InternetNews.com. "Too often today, CMOs have limited investment in SEO because they don't know explicitly the results that are driven by SEO. How many incremental clicks, transactions, revenue were driven by SEO activities? This is difficult to determine today."

"SEO visibility is rising, and Caffeine will accelerate that -- companies without a proactive organic strategy will see their traffic drop," he added.

Update adds comments from Hoffman.