A couple of months ago Google confirmed that they do indeed count links from Twitter as a factor in search ranking. The original article was by Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land and we covered it in the online marketing digest. SEOs have been speculating for months and probably years that social mentions will factor into search rankings but up until now we haven’t been able to get confirmation.
Twitter links are generated by users not by Twitter and they are “nofollowed”. In the normal run of things that should mean that Google will not count them. They would be dropped from Google’s link graph of the web and not pass link weight or anchor text value. Indeed that was the position taken by Google’s representatives right up until now. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Web spam team, came out with a video on Wednesday in which he changed his advice from last year to reflect the new position.
What does this mean for your search engine rankings?
The search engines are convinced that social signals (that is mentions and possibly sentiment measures from social media such as Twitter, Facebook etc.) can help improve the quality of their rankings. You can’t simply count links from Twitter as a normal link though. That would be spammer heaven. They’d just put out a tweet and hey presto get a link from one of the most powerful domains on the Internet. Instead, Google seem to be confirming in Danny’s article the existence of a sort of Twitter Rank.
Imagine a Page Rank like calculation that creates a measure of the most important Twitter accounts. It could consider not only how many followers an account has but by recursively considering who follows who, stronger accounts would pass on more weight than weaker ones. Google has already successfully used the theory to measure the importance of web pages.
Armed with this ”Twitter Rank”, Google can assign a value to links from tweets. Not a value based on the strength of Twitter, which would be stupid, but one based on the authority of the person (Twitter account) who tweeted your stuff.
It would get more complicated than this obviously. Google could look at how often someone’s content is retweeted and by whom. They would also need to build in some anti-spam assessments. It would make sense to look at whether your content is being tweeted repeatedly from one source or from many (me tweeting my article 100 times is not the same as 100 people tweeting my article, right?). They could also look at the text of the tweet and possibly do topic analysis that says “This account tweets a lot in this content topic”.
You can see how you can use this to improve your rankings. You get powerful Twitter accounts to link to your content. You can see how to build the power of your own account too. Get followed by people with plenty of authority. Preferably in related niches.
The weight of these and related factors in the web search results is difficult to assess. I would expect it to be pretty limited for now although it may have more effect where queries are time sensitive. Also keep in mind vertical search and blended search.
In the original article when asked,
3) Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who tweets it?
The Google response was, “Yes we do use this as a signal … but it is currently only used in limited situations in ordinary web search.”
So this is a factor to watch. Not something to get your knickers in a knot over but if social signals help the engines then their influence is likely to increase.
When we looked at SEO reasons to blog, I mentioned that your blog can and should function as the Hub of your social media efforts. That your blogging and social media strategy should look at creating brilliant content and syndicating it to be consumed and shared via your social media. Possibly the main takeaway from this post then should be:
The need for an integrated strategy where Social Media is used to enhance your SEO is only getting stronger.
As it happens, there have been a couple of interesting pieces that relate to this subject in the last couple of days, so if you want further reading you could check out:
Google’s Search Results Get More Social from Search Engine Land