Last week Twitter and Google made a seemingly minor announcement that made a big splash in the tech world. Starting this year, Twitter will give Google direct access to its stream of tweets, allowing them to more easily show up in search results.
At a glance this may not seem like a big deal. After all, public information on Facebook shows up in search results—why not Twitter, too? And in fact, tweets already turn up in searches. It’s the way they get there that’s changing.
Currently, content on Twitter make its way to Google the same way as content on any other site. Google’s indexing robots (its “spiders”) check the site on a regular basis, effectively archiving everything they see and feeding it into Google’s indexing algorithm to make it findable by search.
This method has its limits. Crawling was originally designed with static websites in mind, where a robot could check in every week or two and not miss the latest changes. Today, higher volume and more important sites get crawled every few minutes, which works well for news sites like CNN. But Twitter has over 270 million active users who send about 6,000 tweets per minute—that’s 500 million a day. Even Google doesn’t have enough robots to keep up with that.
The new deal means they don’t have to. Instead, Twitter is providing them with a direct flow of all tweets, nicknamed the firehose. True to its name the firehose will pour all of Twitter’s updates straight into Google’s search engine. That means tweets can appear in relevant searches almost instantaneously, not days or weeks later.
(Presumably, this only applies to tweets that are already public; protected tweets aren’t searchable.)
The Ups and Downs
This arrangement has a clear benefit for Google: their search results are more complete, and they can stop spending resources trying to crawl one of the largest and fastest updating sites in existence. But why is Twitter game?
The answer is new users. Twitter’s growth has slowed to a crawl, and one way to get new converts is by putting tweets in front of non-users. If more tweets show up in search results, more people will see them.
Twitter has invested substantial effort in making the “logged out” version of the site (the version non-users see) more alluring. Their hope is that more people will find interesting tweets via Google, and then decide to sign up as tweeters themselves.
(Twitter formerly had a firehose agreement with Google and let it lapse in 2011. That they developed renewed interest just as growth tapered off is no coincidence.)
But that doesn’t mean everyone wins in the deal. One question that remains is whether the presence of more tweets in search results will be a good thing for searchers. After all, if you’re looking for a news story or a how-to article, how helpful will a 140-character blurb really be?
A lot will depend on how Google plugs tweets into its algorithm. Twitter is a high ranked site, but individual tweets may not get the full benefit of its SEO power. That leads to an interesting conundrum: if search results are littered with tweets, users will get frustrated; but if tweets are pushed far down the results, Twitter won’t actually get any new users.
Making Twitter Work For You
The one certain thing about the new policy is that a company’s tweets will be immediately searchable, and will show up in searches for your business. That means it’s more important than ever to tweet in a way that supports your brand. As a bonus, it also means that timely and useful tweets—and those that link to valuable content on your site—are even more valuable from an SEO perspective. They’re not just social signals in an algorithm anymore; they’re search results in their own right, in a way they haven’t been in four years.
If you need help with your social media strategy or creating great content, EverSpark Interactive is here for you. We offer a free consultation to help your determine the best next steps for your brand. Contact us and get your consultation today.
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