matt-cutts.jpg This week's Four For Friday is a little different. Rather than asking you, our readers, to weigh in on four issues currently impacting businesses, today I'm asking someone else to answer four questions of my own (questions that similarly reflect the current climate in business). If this goes well--meaning if you like the format and approach--Four For Friday will continue down this path from now on.

In case you missed it, earlier this week, Google announced the completion of a new web indexing system called Caffeine. According to Google software engineer Carrie Grimes, Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than the company's last index, resulting in the ability for users of Google.com to find links to relevant content sooner after it is published than was possible before. With this development in mind, I sat down with Matt Cutts, the engineer who heads up Google's Spam Team in the search behemoth's Search Quality Group, to find out exactly how Caffeine might impact the way businesses plan and execute search engine-related strategy.

Mikal Belicove: How will Caffeine impact businesses that rely on Google for natural search results to drive traffic to their websites, blogs and landing pages?

Matt Cutts: The main difference is that businesses will see searchers arriving faster on their websites because Caffeine can index pages much more quickly than our previous system. The nice thing is that Google users will see fresher results without users (or business owners) needing to do anything special.

Business owners can find ways to put this additional freshness to work for them. For example, owners might want to consider putting limited-time promotions on their website, since people will be able to find those promotions more quickly while they still apply. 

MB: Since Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than your last index, and the vast majority of business websites tend to be static; do you recommend businesses without blogs start blogging?

MC: I would recommend that almost any business have a blog. Blogging is a great way to show people the human side of your company and provide information to customers and visitors. Blogging is also much lighter-weight than a press release. The only time I'd refrain from blogging is if you don't anticipate updating your blog very often. If you only do a blog post every year or so, it makes your site look more like a ghost town than a vibrant community.

MB: From Google's perspective, what's the best domain hosting strategy for a business blog: standalone domain/top level domain (www.businessname-blog.com), subdomain (http://blog.businessname.com) or subdirectory (www.businessname.com/blog), and why?

MC: All of those choices can work, but typically we recommend either a subdomain or a subdirectory. A standalone domain can have branding issues (e.g. how do visitors know that it's your real blog vs. a fake one?), not to mention that some businesses forget about their extra domains, don't pay their domain registration fees and then other people might end up grabbing your blog. Between a subdomain versus a subdirectory, you should probably go with whichever choice is easier for your content management system (CMS).

MB: What role will PageRank play in determining which websites Google crawls and indexes the fastest, and what are the top three things businesses can do right now or in the future to positively impact their Google PageRank?

MC: PageRank is an important part of how we determine when to crawl a page, so having editorial links from reputable sources can really help. Starting a blog is a fantastic idea--people definitely link to insightful blog posts.

An ever better idea is to produce a free service or resource that is so amazing that people link to your site because they love it. It can be useful information or a demo of your service, but offering something besides a "brochure-like" website will really help. 

Finally, consider participating in social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Buzz or FriendFeed. It can be an easy way to connect with your biggest fans, which in turn can lead to more links in the future.

Thanks, Matt. That was great information that should help business owners and entrepreneurs make informed decisions about their search engine-related marketing and the online positioning of their brands.

To our readers, please let us know if this was helpful, and if you'd like to see this format continued in the future. To weigh-in on this or anything related to today's topic--Google Caffeine and what it means for your business or start-up--please click on the comment link below.