Twitter has a long history with Google, leading to a lot of confusion about whether signals from Twitter influence Google’s search results. Today I’m going to sort that out (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). Then I’m going to look at current best practices for upping your influence in search using Twitter.
Google Loves Twitter: Yes, No, Maybe So?
A few years ago, there was a lot of buzz about search engines using social signals to impact SERs. For a little while, Google did index tweets. Starting in 2009, Google had access to the full “fire hose” of Twitter’s data stream. A year later, Matt Cutts told us that these signals would officially be picked up by Google’s algorithm.
But the partnership was over a couple years later. In 2011, Google’s fire hose agreement with Twitter ended and Google rolled out its own proprietary social network, Google+.
Fast forward to this year, when Cutts went on record saying that “signals” from Twitter (and Facebook) are not part of the Google algo. The breakup between Google and Twitter would seem to be official.
But even now, a lot of SEOs insist that Twitter and Facebook activity weighs into Google’s search results. Most of the arguments point to observations that there’s a high correlation between activity on certain Twitter (or Facebook) accounts and their rankings in search engines. But, come on, folks … dust off your high school stats: correlation is not the same thing as causation.
The correlation is almost certainly about this: If you publish great content and it gets a lot of social shares, chances are it will also get links. Links, not shares, are influencing the search engine results.
If you’re interested in a deeper analysis of what Cutts said in his announcement earlier this year, and what it means, check out Mark Traphagen’s excellent post on that.
The most damning evidence against Google using Twitter data currently comes from Stone Temple Consulting’s recent analysis of how and when Google indexes tweets. Those guys found that only a few tweets are being indexed and those that are coming mainly from superhero accounts of more than a million followers. And … the indexing is slow.
Conclusion: Google is almost certainly not indexing tweets in any way that brings SEO benefits to most of us. So let’s take our eggs out of that basket—at least for now.
What about Bing?
Now, having said that, I need to point out that Bing does use social signals from Twitter. That’s documented and you can bank on it.
For the rest of my post, though, I’m going to focus on using Twitter for Google SEO—indirectly.
Twitter Still Helps With Google SEO. Here’s How.
Assuming you agree with my arguments above, here are some key ways you can use Twitter to help improve your resultss with Google. It’s not a comprehensive list, but these will give you the most bang for your buck.
Encourage Natural Backlinks.
Links are still the foundation of the Web and the Google algo. They’re our best way of telling Google that our websites and content are valuable and trustworthy. And Twitter’s one of the best social avenues for building organic connections that lead to natural, “honest” links. So-the best way Twitter can boost your SEO is for building natural links.
You have to start with great, useful content. Wherever you publish this—your own website/blog, Google+, LinkedIn or guest blogs, etc.,—you can use Twitter to attract readers who will want to share and link to it.
To encourage this, you’re going to need to focus on Twitter habits that will:
- Build genuine community and connections
- Make your tweets more shareable
Best Practices in the Twitterverse
To build genuine community on Twitter, focus on these actions:
- Engage. Be as social as you would at a party. Be friendly, follow others, retweet, and link to content of people you’d like to do the same for you. Especially try to do this with influencers in your industry or field.
- Share useful content. Spread your tweets out through the day and know when to post. There’s lots of data out there about optimal times and quantities for tweeting, like this advice from Buffer.
To make your tweets more shareable, try these things:
- Use Twitter cards. These are bits of code that enable you to improve the user experience by adding photos, videos, product descriptions, and more to your tweets.
- Use keywords from traditional SEO. This is a way your search and social teams can work synergistically together. Chances are Twitter users will also use some of the same keywords you’ve researched for your SEO campaign. Experiment with using them in tweets and as hashtags.
Optimize Your Personal Information
One of the easiest tricks is to optimize your identity on Twitter. Have a complete profile that includes some keywords for your industry, and a username that’s the same as your company name, individual name, or product. Twitter bios are highly rankable in Google when people search for your name or company.
Use Twitter to Understand Your Customers.
Lastly, as a corollary to the point above about using SEO keywords in tweets, you can use Twitter as a rich source of trending keywords for SEO and/or topics for content creation. The search/social synergy goes both ways.
To wrap up, the key SEO benefit from Twitter right now is link building. Bing is using signals from Twitter to influence its results, but the preponderance of evidence is that Google is not. This could definitely change. In the meantime, the ideas outlined here will help you maximize Twitter for Google SEO benefits.
The only constant at the intersection of search and social is fast and constant evolution. So stay on top of the trends. Use these best practices now, but keep your eye on the future.