Get caught up! We have updated this study two more times since this was published. See the latest version: Google Indexing to Tweets Appears to Decline.
Late on Wednesday evening (February 4th, 2015), Bloomberg broke the news of a new deal between Google and Twitter. The following day Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan put together an FAQ on what the deal is about. These articles are definitely worth a read.
In this post we will show you which tweets Google places the most value on, and hence help you understand how you can position yourself to derive SEO benefit from this change in the marketing landscape.
UPDATE! We have now measured Google’s indexation Twitter after Google announced they are beginning to implement their firehose access to Twitter. See and compare the results here.
One of the key sections of Danny Sullivan’s article is titled “Can’t Google just crawl Twitter for tweets?” He points out the overall impracticality of Google’s crawling tweets to capture all the Twitter data. He states: “There are so many tweets that if Google tried to capture them all as they happened in a traditional search engine manner, by constantly visiting the site and ‘crawling’ to find new ones, it would likely cripple Twitter with all of its requests.”
In order to dig into this further, we pulled data on 133K+ tweets to see just how Google indexed them. Here is the high-level summary of what we saw:
We looked at a total of 138,635 tweets, and only 7.4% of them are indexed! This by itself should tell us a lot about why Twitter came to the table looking for a deal. Each tweet that is indexed has a chance of getting traffic from Google, so more is better. Even to get the data that it gets today, the burden on Google to crawl Twitter constantly is a very large one.
Getting data via API (the “firehose” as many parties call it) allows Google to get this data in real time without having to crawl Twitter to get it. One reason for Google to do this deal is to get more data with less effort. The end result should be more indexed tweets, and more opportunities to obtain traffic. This is really at the heart as to why Twitter wanted to do this deal.
What Tweets are Most Valuable to Google?
Great question? In July of last year, we published a study on How Does Google Index Tweets?. This study reviewed the state of the situation at that time. Since then, Twitter invested some effort in making it easier for Google to access and index their tweets. In short, they created thousands of search-optimized landing pages for their most popular hashtags. But of course, these pages themselves become the search result, not the individual tweets on the pages.
So the question remains: How many individual tweets are indexed by Google, and which ones?
First up, it’s evident that people with larger follower counts are getting more of their tweets indexed:
This may be only a correlation. I.e., I don’t think that Google is looking at follower count specifically. Perhaps other signals are affecting which profiles get indexed more, such as links to those people’s profiles, or something along those lines. However, it’s clear that more value is placed on an authoritative profile.
Indexation Rate Over Time
In our July study, we showed that the indexation of Tweets was less than 6% in the first week. In this study, just over 1800 Tweets were under 1 week old when we checked them, and just under 26K were less than 7 weeks old when we tested them (the rest were older). When we tested these more recent tweets, we were surprised to see that the indexation rate has gotten worse since July:
By the end of the first week, less than 1% of the 1812 tweets that we examined had been indexed. That’s just stunning. This suggests that Twitter’s significance as a news source to Google was not a factor at all. Google had moved on from thinking about Twitter in that way.
Looking at this over a 7 week period, the cumulative indexation rate only reaches a grand total of 6%. That’s still pretty slim pickings:
Bear in mind too, that over 40% of the tweets in our study were generated by people with 10,000 followers or more, so we believe it is likely to be biased towards high end uses that one would guess that Google is more likely to want to index.
Twitter Content that Google Prefers
So what type of content does Google prefer to index? Let’s jump right into the data:
Images and/or hashtags do seem to increase your chances of getting indexed, as the percentages are significantly higher than the average overall percentage of 7.4%. Mentions appear to be negative. It’s not clear, however, if this is simply a correlation.
It appears, though, that the effect of certain features in tweets is more pronounced within Twitter than as a search indexation factor. Our recent study on Twitter engagement shows that images have a huge impact on overall engagement, and that hashtags are also a significant factor.
As we also showed in that study, mentions appear to be negative. But, the real punchline is that this study shows the significant impact of links from 3rd party sites (other than Twitter) to the tweets. Google still loves links. 26% of the tweets with an inbound link from sites other than Twitter got indexed. That is nearly 4 times as much as the overall average rate of indexation.
So how much effect does having inbound links have on the likelihood of a tweet of being indexed by Google? The following chart shows just how that rate of indexation scales, based on the number of links your tweet gets:
Link quantity correlates highly with the tweet getting indexed. What we did not measure here, but which is likely a factor, is the quality of those links. Don’t expect that throwing a few crappy links at a tweet will make Google care about it. It’s probably just a few quality ones that are driving this much higher rate of indexation.
Summary – So How Do I Benefit From the New Google – Twitter Deal?
I thought you would never ask! Our indexing study shows that Google appears to value links to tweets. It also shows that Google values the same things that drive Twitter Engagement: images and hashtags.
Here are some basic ideas on how to proceed:
- Invest more time in Twitter to build your presence there is one obvious place to start
- Make your tweets more engaging, as illustrated in our above-linked study on engagement:
- Create link-worthy content within your tweets. This will not be every tweet you do! The next 3 tips will give some advice on how to do this
- Use high impact images for your most important tweets (but not every tweet)
- Leverage hashtags for greater visibility and engagement
- Note that longer tweets tend to generate more engagement on average
- Include links and mentions wherever appropriate, but recognize that these generally do not directly drive higher engagement
- Consider using Twitter Ads to jump start visibility on the platform
What we learned is that Google appears to value the same things that drive Twitter engagement. This should be no surprise to us, because Google wants to value the same things that people do. So the big lesson may be a simple one: focus on driving higher engagement on Twitter, and Google is more likely to reward you with higher indexations rates for your tweets. Think of it as holistic content marketing at the micro level.
Google’s current pattern for indexing tweets tells us what content they believe is most worthy. Use it as your road map to how Google will value the tweets they see once the firehose is fully turned on in a few months time.
Eric Enge leads the Digital Marketing practice for Perficient Digital. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO. Learn More About Eric Enge