When it was reported that Google and Twitter had signed a new agreement to give Google access to Twitter's fire hose of real time tweets back in February, the announcement was met with a level of uncertainty. What does that actually mean for Twitter, or Google? Will Google search be inundated with tweets? What's in it for them, why would they do this?
We got our first glimpse of how this new deal would play out in May, when Twitter showed off a few examples of real-time tweets in Google's mobile search results.
The results were interesting, but not game-changing - a study by Stone Temple Consulting published in June found that while Google is definitely indexing a lot more tweets as a result of the new deal, they're still only including a small amount - around 0.6% of tweets were being indexed before the deal, which increased to around 3.4% after. In essence, while we're now seeing more Twitter content in search results, the vast majority of tweets are still not making the cut, so the probable boost in SEO value given to tweets as a result of this deal is not really playing out - if 96% of tweets are still not being included, there's not really much reason for brands to be too concerned about the Twitter/Google deal, right?
But there was one proviso included in the Stone Temple report:
"By no means do I think that this will be the end of the story. I would bet that Google is testing many things with Twitter integration, and that we will see changes over time."
One of the most significant changes will be when Twitter starts integrating tweets into desktop search, in addition to the current mobile-only status. Why is desktop so significant? Because while mobile is rising, desktop still contributes the largest amount of search traffic, according to comScore:
Now, that figure has likely changed since this report (in May, Google said more searches are now taking place via mobile devices than they are via desktop in 10 nations, including the US and Japan, though there was no data to quantify this), but either way, desktop still contributes the majority of overall search traffic. What's more, search results on desktop are more spaced out, thereby leaving more room to integrate Twitter results on the page. Once tweets are shown in Google search results on desktop, that'll be a big turning point, and it'll likely mean a big boost in the value of tweets from an SEO perspective.
And now, Search Engine Land is reporting that tweets are, in fact, appearing in desktop results for some users:
(source: Search Engine Land)
So What's the Big Deal?
The big deal is this - those tweets, as shown in the screenshot above, could prove extremely influential in a user's search efforts. As you can see in this example, the tweets shown are from Debenhams' official Twitter account, so there's nothing of major contextual relevance there, it's just another data source shown to the user based on their query. But what if the tweet results showed something different, something more impactful in a contextual sense, but less beneficial for the brand. For example:
Debenhams customer service sucks, 22 min phone call cost me£2.50 16 mins on hold, no promised call back or sight of my £60 order. #shocking- joodif (@NorrisJude) November 29, 2014
What if, when someone searched for your brand via Google, they were shown this tweet:
Do not stay at the Mount Olympus Resort in the Dells.. #BedBugCentral- Christina Hanson (@christinaaa39) August 11, 2015
That's a likely decision changer, right? And while the results of Stone Temple's study showed Google has been preferencing tweet content from influential users - those with high follower counts or influence scores - what if Google started showing a wider range of tweets, giving searchers a more expansive series of data points from users to establish better context around their query? And what if some, or all, of those tweets are like these two above?
Who cares about more tweets being shown in search results? You do, because tweets like this can and will lose you business - brands need to be making themselves aware of the Twitter conversation around their company, or the consequences could be significant.
An Evolving Arrangement
As of right now, Google's still only showing a portion of the overall Twitter results around searches in order to assess the value of the additional context these tweets bring, data they can then use to further refine and improve how they show tweet data in search results. But they are refining, they are improving - you can bet that Google is exploring a wide range of different ways to better integrate Twitter data into search, and Twitter, with it's real-time 'news feed of the world' flowing through 24/7 is an expansive data set, a valuable data addition for any search query. Twitter data can be used to predict flu outbreaks, can be used to detect stock market fluctuations and help investors understand what shares to buy and when. With the level of insight Twitter can provide, you best believe it can add significant contextual depth to almost any Google search query too.
Given that, and given we're seeing the next stages of the Twitter/Google partnership now play out, it might be beneficial for your brand to start familiarizing itself with the Twitter community and the wider conversation around your brand. Because one day soon, it may be what everyone who searches for your products and services sees when they go looking. And that could play a crucial role in your overall conversion process.
Thumbnail image via Quka / Shutterstock