Does Twitter improve your site’s search engine results?

A Tweet's Effect On Rankings - An Unexpected Case Study

Yes. Or at least according to a couple of blog posts in the SEO blogosphere.

Back in December Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan asked what “social signals” Google and Bing count in their algorithms. Previously, the answer would have been none, as far as Twitter is concerned, because like most social media (including blog comments, forum posts and social networks) any links posted on Twitter carry a ‘nofollow’ tag, instructing search engines to ignore it.

But now that Twitter has signed deals with the big search engines, they now get the “firehose” of data from Twitter direct – without nofollow attributes. Bing tell Sullivan:

“We take into consideration how often a link has been tweeted or retweeted, as well as the authority of the Twitter users that shared the link.

Google tells him:

“We use the data only in limited situations, not for all of general websearch.”

The post contains more information about how both search engines use the “social authority” of a user (followers, followed, etc.) to further rank links.

A case study

Yesterday, the issue gained a fascinating case study from SEOmoz (image at top), when one of their articles suddenly appeared on the first page of Google search engine results for the term “Beginner’s Guide” following a tweet from Smashing Magazine and hundreds of retweets.

More interesting, the article remained on the first or second page of results for weeks afterwards.

SEOmoz’s takeaways from the experience include:

  • “It appears likely that Google (and Bing) are using the concept they described in the interview on SELand of “Author Authority” to help weight the value of tweets (as we’ve seen that bot-repeated tweeting in similar quantities doesn’t have this affect)
  • “There seems to be some long-term, nascent value carried by tweets in addition to the short-term effects. If this is consistently observed, expect a lot more SEO activity around engaging and incenting tweeting to key URLs.
  • “It’s still unknown whether and how much the text of a tweet impacts the SERPs [Search Engine Results Pages] in a way similar to anchor text. That will be an excellent next test for us to observe.”

Why is this important? Because up till now search engines – actively seeking – and social media – having content brought to your attention – have been the two major sources of traffic for most news websites.

SEO and social media optimisation (or social media marketing: SMM) have traditionally been separate: this might suggest an increasingly integrated approach.

8 thoughts on “Does Twitter improve your site’s search engine results?

  1. Jon Bounds

    So Google say they don’t use the data for websearch — maybe it’s web pages/blogs that do pull the data in and are being crawled.

    I really hope that the algorithms of the search engines don’t take too much live social content on board, or that part of the social web will be enveloped in spam as much as the blogosphere has been.

    1. Stephen

      They use it and have been using it for quite a while. You can get new sites and pages into the index almost instantaneously now by just tweeting a fresh url from a decent account

      On “More interesting, the article remained on the first or second page of results for weeks afterwards.” this may well be as the tweet from SmashingMag went around twitter for that long, not necessarily that it provided 2 weeks worth of SERP benefit

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  3. Scot Duke

    Yes, Twitter post will drive traffic to you as long as the Tweeter post is about Justin Bieber or making comment on the rumor Elvis is still alive. After that it’s..Hello…is this Mic on? You can probably generate the same increase in traffic by producing video blogs on your own site. Seems the intelligent viewers are looking for something to look at more than 140 characters.

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