On February 4th, 2015, Bloomberg.com reported that “in the first half of the year” Google search results will show Tweets in real time. The two parties have agreed to a deal that will give Google access to the Twitter “Firehose” – a streaming database that allows Google to quickly access and index Tweets without creating bandwidth implications. This deal is similar in concept to an agreement the two companies once shared from 2009-2011.
Multiple sources cite Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and CFO Anthony Noto as being aggressive in trying to create new opportunities to increase revenue and to engage non-registered Twitter visitors more actively. Twitter’s biggest challenge in the last year has been demonstrating significant user growth, which has created long term concerns about its potential to grow revenue. In November of 2014, Twitter “made search pages more friendly to engines”, which reportedly increased logged-out user traffic tenfold, from 7.5 million visits to 75 million visits. The next step was to then figure out how to capitalize on and monetize this traffic.
This partnership represents a true convergence across digital channels. Having been working at a performance marketing agency, I have long seen the synergies between paid media (eg. search engine marketing) and owned media (eg. social media). This partnership will make Google more “real time” in its ability to provide information, and make Twitter more discoverable and impactful outside of its own walls.
How This Change Affects Search Results
It is unlikely that Tweets will fully invade search results on all queries, pushing static websites to lower positions. Google is skilled at ranking content accurately on its own scale of merit, awarding higher positions to more valuable, helpful, informative, education and inspiring content. Individual, real-time Tweets will have to outrank all other media to earn high ranking positions in Google search results which, given Google’s algorithm for standard search results requiring longer-term metrics and standing, is unlikely.
What is more probable is that real time Tweets will rank in competition with Google news results and other universal search results, similar to how Google treated real time search results as part of its standard search engine results page (SERP) in its previous incarnation.
How This Change Affects Social Media
According to reports, when people who are either not signed up for Twitter or logged out of their accounts click on the Tweet results from Google, they will be taken to a logout page where they will be served ads, along with a choice to sign up or sign in. This could significantly increase Twitter’s user base but the challenge will be to keep these people on the platform as long term users. Although nothing further is known at this time about what the advertising options will look like and when they will be available, this will likely be very appealing to advertisers looking to extend reach on Twitter. It should also appease investors concerned about Twitter’s financial future as it opens up new monetization possibilities.
For advertisers, this move will drive opportunities for brand discovery in closer to real time, as its likely when people are searching Google for news on hot topics they will see relevant tweets from brands as well as individuals. This could lead to greater awareness of and engagement with these brands. However, it can also lead to risk if negative tweets about a brand surface in search results, and it is unclear if the algorithm to select tweets could solve for this.
How This Change Affects Organic Search
While Firehose access will expose a wider range of Twitter content to Google, due to Twitter’s short-form nature and nofollow linking on Twitter it is unlikely that Twitter will become a strong, direct weapon in aiding your website to rank. Much like Knowledge Graph results and Instant Answers, it could mean less visibility for traditional search results and fewer clicks for even top-ranked sites.
On the flipside, it would give marketers further visibility for news topics and hashtag trends, by giving even more prominence to Twitter activity.
Even though Twitter itself cannot pass value to a site, the more often a piece of content is seen and consumed, the greater the chance that your content will ultimately be shared on blogs, forums, websites and other properties that can pass value.
However Google ranks Tweets, they will probably trump natural search results in only a small percentage of queries initially, with growth over time, perhaps into more static queries. Location of the searcher, authority of the Twitter username, relevance of the Tweet to the search query and freshness of the Tweet will probably earn top positions.