Like everybody else who gets paid based on the performance of a Web site, I spent about an hour today running some test searches on the sandbox of Google's new Caffeine, which Matt Cutts says is potentially the biggest update to the monolithic search service since 2006.
(If you get paid based on the performance of a Web site, you also know who Matt Cutts is, but if you don't, he's the guy Google sends to trade shows and press availabilities to tell it like it is -- which has earned him a broad reputation as a good guy.) Cutts is saying that Caffeine is primarily an infrastructure play, but when there's no way it will leave the details of current Google rankings untouched.
Anyway, we seemed to hold up fairly well, at least on the pages I know are performing above average in the current Google index. An article by our Lora Bentley fell from the 1st organic result to third for the term "hitech act." A winner in the Blog post cluster for the term "outsourcing" was on the first page in both indexes this morning, but has since drifted off the radar. Our sample form is still the top organic result for "social networking policy."
OK, enough of the shameless plugs.
Book results seemed to flag a bit in the new sandbox; I have not noticed Wikipedia results falling off as much as has been reported elsewhere.
The only real points to make here, at least from my perspective, are:
A) It behooves you to know off the top of your head the top 10-20 organic pages on your site and how they are doing this week.
B) I am very concerned about whatever Google may decide to do with its index
C) I am totally powerless to influence what Google may decide to do with its index
There was a time, about four years ago, when "SEO experts" at some Web-based firms were the golden boys -- their ability to manipulate the Google algorithms with iffy (we had a consultant call them "dark gray") technical nuance was the secret sauce of a lot of firms you've probably heard of. Then came a series of algorithm updates (most notably in 2006), and now a lot of those golden boys, and even some the firms they worked for, are no longer on the scene.
Now, search optimization is all about cultivating links from credible sources (tip: Google loves referrals from .edu domains) and taking advantage of social media like Facebook, which seems to be the only credible threat to Google as the defacto home page for many users (I have NO data to back that up, just intuition). Here's a nice intro to link building.
You also have to attend to some technical details (literal URLs, meaningful meta headers) that used to be edgy but are now just best practice -- which tends to happen to any tech after a few years.
We do the best we can, but it's still incredibly intimidating to know that another business has that much impact on your own fortunes. And that's true for anybody doing business on the Web.