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If You Sit at the Cool Kids’ Table, Google Displays Your Tweets

by Jesse Laffen

Have you noticed Google’s real-time results for certain queries being integrated into the organic search results? If you haven’t, here’s a snapshot of what they look like:

These blog posts, news stories, and, most often, tweets are fed into Google and Bing’s organic results as they are created, stacked on top of each other as they come through the search engine. The scroll bar on the side allows you to see previous real-time results. Typically, for queries generating real-time results, there is a new item about every minute to 30 seconds (this feature is only included in the organic results when the query trips a certain threshold for real-time integration).

On Monday, Phil, Ali, Blake and I went off on a fun tangent, discussing what factors we thought went into selecting the tweets that are fed into the Google search algorithm. Apparently, the folks over at  Technology Review were wondering the same thing, and got some interesting feedback right from the source.

In this interview with Amit Singhal, Singhal breaks down what the four of us agreed upon: That the strength of a tweet comes from the collective authority of the author’s followers.

“One user following another in social media is analogous to one page linking to another on the web.” Singhal said.

This is logical. After all, just as on-page factors can be manipulated far easier than links around the web by any webmaster who has read “SEO for Dummies,” a tweet could be optimized easily, probably far easier than a web page, given the limited nature of a tweet.

It does, however, set up an interesting dilemma for Google: Is it possible to bypass organic rankings just by having a respected Twitter user pass along your URL? After all, Google works hard to protect users from spam, malware, and other questionable content, but does it follow all the links that may appear in real-time results? The easy answer is to disallow any tweet with a link in it from appearing in the real-time results, but things get messy when you start thinking about promoting a link on the page by tweeting about it constantly or even cases where a competitor could start committing ‘tweet libel’ by constantly dogging a site just above or below the real-time results.

The interview is worth a read since I’ve over-simplified the issue for the sake of brevity, but it will be interesting to see how soon savvy marketers grasp onto the possibilities of real-time search and just what they use it for.

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