Twitter, Social Media Signals and Google Rankings

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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:

A Tweets Effect on Ranking – An Unexpected Case Study from SEOmoz

Google’s Search Results Get More Social from Search Engine Land

Related posts:

  1. Social Media and Online Marketing Strategy – Running Before You Can Walk
  2. Spreading Your Message Through Social Media
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16 Responses to “Twitter, Social Media Signals and Google Rankings”

  1. says:

    Twitter, Social Media Signals and Google Rankings – A Serious Analysis…

    Google and Bing have confirmed that links from Twitter are being used as factors in their search rankings. But how are social signals being used and what can you do to make this work to improve your rankings?…

  2. Jackie says:


    I have been seeing quite a lot of information around the traps lately on this. Although I do struggle to understand some of the tech talk, I probably know just enough to be dangerous. Impact will be interesting especially with google working to include real time tweets in search and such.

    Thanks for putting together information in plain english for tech-so-nots to understand.

  3. SiteStream SEO says:

    Hi Jackie

    I was just thinking about it and I can probably get it into even more plain English. People tweeting links to your site is good for you. The more important those people are on Twitter the better it will be. And, this will only get more important as time goes by.

    Thanks for commenting.

  4. [...] in a digest.  For the first of many detailed responses on this subject read today’s post: Twitter, Social Media signals and Google Rankings.  Among the many complications for businesses trying to assess how they are doing in search terms [...]

  5. SERPD says:

    Twitter, Social Media Signals and Google 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….

  6. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Famous Bloggers, SiteStream SEO. SiteStream SEO said: Twitter, Social Media Signals & Google Rankings – #twitter, #seo [...]

  7. A DailyKix Top Story – Trackback from…

    Twitter, Social Media Signals and Google Rankings – A Serious Analysis…

  8. [...] How does social media drive Search Engine Optimization? How much do Twitter, Facebook and the rest affect your Website’s standing with the major search engines? The question continues to be asked among Internet marketers but a statement recently from Google has caused even more speculation. Here’s one analysis of what social media really means to SEO. SiteStream AKPC_IDS += "76356,"; [...]

  9. I wonder if google are using Klout scores to measure influence. I’ve just started noticing other tweeple’s scores since I downloaded a Chrome plug-in that lists individual scores next to their name on my follower list.

  10. Tom Aikins says:

    This is really interesting. According to Matt, there has been a big change. How do they determine who’s reputable, though?

  11. [...] SiteStream SEO‘s recent article on the topic, Alastair sums it up nicely in his comments: People tweeting [...]

  12. SiteStream SEO says:

    @Cheryl – I doubt very much they are using Klout scores directly but Klout definitely have some ideas that Google might look at. Eliminating inactive and spam accounts and measuring how often your messages spread are 2 that I’d find interesting.

    @Tom – I’d have to guess that they use many of the same principles that they do when assessing link sources. Getting followed and getting tweeted would be positive signs and they would have to filter that for various spam activities.

    Of course, if the Search Engines really find this data useful and if it ever becomes a significant ranking factor then spammers will find whole new ways to spam the system.

  13. Fundraising says:

    So they’ll place their perceived value on links from Twitter accounts they deem relevant over those that may be relevant to the site being mentioned?

    So Ashton Kuchar tweets about something he knows nothing about and it has greater value than an economist tweeting about a economy oriented website??


  14. SiteStream SEO says:

    Thanks for the comment @Fundraising (If that indeed is your real name).

    That’s a really good point and something that Google and Bing will have to watch out for. It is already an issue they wrestle with in how they assess links between websites.

    How much should the importance and authority of the site count vs knowing something about this particular subject. Over the years Googles ranking of sites has swung around a bit between favouring niche sites or large, more general sources.

    They’ll certainly have to consider the question you raised.

  15. [...] already spoke about Twitter and Social Media as Ranking Signals for Google.  This is definitely one to watch for the coming year.  If your SEO strategy was half way [...]

  16. Geno says:

    Social media signals from the right places. Sites like livejournal, blogger, wordpress and stuff, do you think that links from content in such places are taken into consideration?