May 29, 2011
It’s official. Google and Bing include social signals – namely, links that get tweeted on Twitter – when determining rankings in their search results. This was confirmed by Danny Sullivan in his December 1, 2010 post on Search Engine Land, and it was likely a factor for a while before that.
To put this new factor in perspective, Google uses hundreds of signals to determine how it should rank a website. These include inbound links to the site, the title tag of a web page, and site speed.
Getting people to link to your site is really all about having great content that people want to share, whether on their blogs or websites, or on Twitter. As Google and other search engines increasingly take note of social activity and the links shared on sites like Twitter, having a good social media presence will become increasingly important for ranking well in search results.
Many companies have been employing social media as a part of their marketing strategy, and for good reason. Now that social activity has so much impact on search engine optimization (SEO), companies that take SEO seriously know they must use social media as part of their strategy for getting onto the first page of search results.
Note for those who are not familiar with Twitter: “tweets” are the 140-character (or less) messages that people post on Twitter. Twitter offers help for new users on its site.
How Can I Use Twitter To Help My SEO?
The ways of search engines are mysterious, and people are always trying to figure out which specific tactics will help more than others. But just as we know that other ranking factors are considered in light of giving searchers the best information for their queries, you can bet that search engines will elevate the best content on the social networks – especially the content that’s shared by real people who have influence.
Based on case studies, the more quantity and quality of tweets that link to your website, the more of a lift you can expect to see in your search engine rankings for the linked-to page or pages.
#1 Mind the Text
When you tweet a link, it’s likely that search engines use the text you enter to determine what your link is about. It’s very similar to the way that search engines regard anchor text on web pages – the text on which a link is built tells the engines what the linked page is about. This in turn can help the linked page rank better for the keywords contained in the anchor text.
#2 Who Says?
Who links to you on Twitter matters. You probably know already that it’s more beneficial if influential tweeple – “people” in Twitter-speak – tweet about you, or retweet your tweets, because they will reach a wider audience. The same is true for the SEO value of Twitter. Google and Bing both say they look at the author’s authority or quality when evaluating links that appear in tweets.
The search engines are mum on how they determine author quality, but here are some indicators of authority that SEO experts think search engines consider:
*Presence of an avatar or portrait. Spam accounts often don’t have one.
*Has the account been verified? Did the person confirm their email address? (People can’t see this, but Twitter has this information, and the search engines may be able to get it.)
*Quality followers. (This means people who follow someone for a good reason – NOT purchased followers!)
*Ratio of following to followers.
*It may be better if the URL in someone’s profile doesn’t match domain they’re tweeting about, because then it’s certain the person isn’t engaging in self-promotion.
*Twitter handles that don’t have numbers. (Many spam accounts on Twitter have user names like Name8765.)
*A bio with complete information.
*Engagement. (Accounts that never reply to other people certainly seem spam-y to me.)
*Included in lists created by quality tweeple.
*The PageRank of a Twitter profile
Think of it this way, who would you rather have link to your website?
The idea of author quality is much like PageRank for web pages. If a web page has 100 links, each from a different page with a PageRank of 0, they probably provide the same SEO value as a single link from a web page with a high PageRank. A link tweeted by a respected and well-followed person on Twitter will be worth more – both for your reputation and your SEO – than 100 tweets from spam-y bot accounts.
Something to keep in mind is that using bots or cheap labor to create a ton of Twitter accounts and tweet links to your site would be nothing but a spam-y waste of time and money. You won’t get any SEO value, and you could be identified as a cause of Twitter spam.
If you notice a spam-y Twitter account, click “report [username] for spam”.
What Can I Do To Encourage Tweets and Links?
1. This should be pretty obvious – I hope. Create great content that people will want to share.
2. Make it easy for people to tweet and share your content. Consider including a Twitter button, a call to action, or some simple way for people to share a link to your website.
3. Engage with your followers and attract new, quality ones. See our Twitter Marketing 101 article for guidance.
4. Keep tabs on who has mentioned or linked to you and thank them. You can also ask them to link to the newest thing you’ve created.
What Do We Know About Twitter and SEO?
The people at one website noticed the site suddenly ranked on the first page for a particular keyword right after the site was linked to by a prominent Twitter account – one with more than 350,000 followers – and that tweet was retweeted more than 100 times.
In a recent experiment, people were asked to link to one page from their website, or tweet a link to another page. The results so far? The page that was linked in 522 tweets outranked the page that was linked 646 times across 36 different websites. It showed up as the first result for a specific
Points of Order
*Search engines take note of public Twitter accounts only. If you see the lock symbol, and you have to request to follow someone, their tweets won’t help anyone’s SEO.
*Websites still matter. You must continue to build good backlinks to your website to guide more people to your site and rank well in search. Links from Twitter are a new tool to help your SEO, but they can only do so much.
*Links from Twitter are still NoFollow. That’s because Twitter can’t possibly monitor them all, and judge which ones should be followed – that is, confer some link juice. However, when search engines look at the entire stream of public tweets to evaluate what’s being discussed, there are no rel=nofollow tags present on those links. Search expert Danny Sullivan believes that means links in Twitter do carry some weight, and help the links rank.
*Google and Bing look at links on Facebook, but they can only do so in profiles that have their status updates set as public. Most people have their Facebook accounts set to be private (the opposite is true of Twitter), so search engines see mostly just the information that’s on public business pages.
What We Don’t Know
*How long will the SEO boost from Twitter links last? Most SEO experts believe the boost in rankings from a tweeted link diminishes over time. That’s because tweets are constantly replaced with new tweets, unlike a web page. So tweeted links don’t have the persistent presence of a link on a web page.
*If you’re going to get X amount of tweets linking to a given page, is it better if they’re retweets of the same content, or uniquely written tweets? Not enough is known about this yet, but people can certainly get tired of looking at the same tweet over and over again in Twitter feed. That’s not going to help you get more clicks.
I expect that we’ll know more about Twitter for SEO as more information is gained from experiments and studies.
Taking note of social activity makes SEO and search engine algorithms more complicated than before, and hopefully better equipped to produce search results that really matter to people.
For website owners, it makes sense to think about earning links in the social networks, as well as on websites and blogs. Don’t leave the benefits of sharing on the social Web on the table.
Check out how your home page looks to search engines and people with the free Home Page Analysis. Want a deeper look at all your site’s pages? Try an AboutUs Site Report.