The impact of Twitter in Google SEO – Part 1

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The battle for online and mobile supremacy rages on between the big four (Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google), whilst we sit back and wait for the victor to emerge.

Google’s aggressive push with Google+ sets the tone for their social ambitions while Facebook still remains the king of social – no matter how much their share price has dropped since the IPO. Whilst Twitter has been a revelation in how people go about their every day lives.

Owning all assets on Page One

For all businesses and brands owning all possible page one assets is now key in search strategy. But how do these social platforms compare in the Google SERPs for celebrity searches? Do these assets dominate page one for a popular celebrity or sportsperson? Do the amount of followers/tweets/posts impact the position of the asset?

Here I take a look at the phenomenon of Twitter and how Google has improved the rankings of twitter.com within the SERPs over the past few years. Part 2 and Part 3 will look at Facebook and Google+ respectively.


What I aim to present is a number of charts highlighting the position over time for a number of celebrities and their Twitter accounts. I will then look at specific time periods when the asset improved and see whether or not this was an algorithmic change that happened naturally, or whether the variables within the account played a part (number of followers, number of RTs and indeed number of Tweets combined with the traditional SEO practises).

Alan Sugar on Twitter

The former Tottenham Hotspur chairman and star of the The Apprentice generally uses his Twitter account to have a spat with the eternally smug Piers Morgan, however the chart below highlights the improvement in position for his Twitter asset towards the end of 2010:

Alan Sugar Social Media Assets in the SERPS

Alan Sugar's social assets within Google.com over time

What is quite interesting here, is that the account Twitter.com/lord_sugar was only created on June 29th 2010 – so what was positioning so highly for ‘Alan Sugar’ on Twitter before then? It was this spoof account:

http://Twitter.com/igotlotsofmoney

Alan Sugar spoof Twitter account

Interesting that the spoof account dropped during the ‘May Day’ algorithm change (see chart below), could this be that due to the fact the account didn’t tweet nor was it verified, it was not a great result to return for ‘Alan Sugar’? Hopefully.

As any shrewd business man would, Lord Sugar saw the opportunity of Twitter and got someone to sign him up. The chart below highlights the position movement of three ‘Alan Sugar’ accounts. The red line highlights the official verified account:

The 3 Alan Sugar Accounts on Twitter in the SERPS

Twitter.com movement for three Alan Sugar accounts

Being an official account, the Twitter handle gained a vast amount of coverage across popular newspapers, such as The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Guardian – to name a few.

His public spat and Twitter follower challenge with Morgan no doubt raises the interest of the general public wanting to ‘follow’ for entertainment value. With this, we can safely assume that Lord Alan Sugar’s one million plus followers have helped to influence his position in Google’s SERPs. The same can surely be said for the next two individuals.

Wayne Rooney & Rio Ferdinand

Sir Alex Ferguson once remarked that Rio Ferdinand ‘invented Twitter’ due to the amount of time he spends on it. Indeed, he has had his fair share of controversy on there – rowing with the tedious Oliver Holt and of course his promotion of a chocolate bar – which was investigated by the AFA.

He has even took the quite drastic step of publicising his Twitter handle on his football boots. One recommendation I’m sure you SMOs will not be able to replicate with one of your clients!

Wayne Rooney has also been criticised for ‘having banter’ with a football fan who was being abusive towards United’s number ten. He has also discussed unfortunate events involving rivals players – such as the Toure brothers trip to the African Cup of nations.

Below is a chart highlighting the movement of their accounts within Google.com over time:

Rooney Versus Rio on Twitter in the SERPS

Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand Twitter movement

Interesting that there is a big improvement for Wayne Rooney’s Twitter in July 2011. The actual date the first jump occurred was on the 28th June 2011. The fluctuation continued for about two weeks before settling down on page one with consistent results across the board for all the Twitter accounts assessed.

How Twitter Accounts rise in the SERPS for Footballers

A number of high profiled footballer Twitter accounts in Google.com

In the summer of 2011 Google rolled out a few iterations to the Google Panda Update, which saw a number of Twitter accounts for popular footballers improved around the 11th July. Was Twitter a beneficiary fo the changes enforced by Google Panda or was it simply a coincidence that these assets improved in positioning at this time?

Number of tweets per day influence position? Not for Joey Barton

Joey Barton has had his fair share of controversy on Twitter since he signed up. He had a row with the cast of TOWIE, a rant at John Terry and then rounded it off with a pop at squatters. He announced that he would be leaving Twitter at the end of March, before posting briefly on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and then come running back to the Twitter community at the start of May:

Joey Barton Twitter updates between March and May

In this time, would his Twitter account be considered a relevant result, considering he wasn’t active? Should Google have dropped Twitter.com in the rankings? Lets see:

Joey Barton Twitter postions in the SERPS even during Time Off

Joey Barton Twitter account in Google.com

So if you were viewing Joey Barton’s account, above the fold on page one at the end of April, do you think this is the most useful result for a searcher to land on? Its debatable, but I think this proves that posting volumes do not influence rankings – because if they did, surely his account would have dropped in position? Interested to hear your thoughts on this as Google can quite clearly see the number of posts from accounts:

Joey Barton Twitter account update from March 24th 2012

If he was serious about leaving, he could do what Micah Richards did and delete his account all together…

The effects of Deleting a Twitter Account in the SERPS

Micah Richards Twitter ranking within Google.com

Perhaps it’s quite obvious that a deleted asset will plummet in rankings as the URL is returning a 404 error page – nothing new there.

Katy Perry photo and Retweets

Excuse the poor quality of the image, but I assure you – it is legitimate. When Katy Perry married Russell Brand back in 2010, she Tweeted a picture from her Twitter account. Many fans retweeted that tweet and the image used in Twitter appeared within the SERPs for twenty four hours, before being replaced:

Retweets help images in Google’s SERPs?

Google SERPs picture from October 2010 showing Katy Perry wedding picture from her Twitter account

 

Andrés Iniesta – Tiene que clasificar bien?

Iniesta one of the finest midfielders of his generation and the Barcelona star started his Twitter account in November 2009, ten months before scoring the goal that won Spain the World Cup. One interesting point I picked up one was his relatively low ranking within Google.co.uk in comparison to Google.es. Check out the chart below:

Differing performance across global SERPS

Chart highlighting the positions of Andres Iniesta's Twitter account in Google.co.uk and Google.es

I’ve done an audit of the backlinks to the account and there are a vast number of .co.uk domains pointing to the handle (of course, a wide range from around the world also), whilst there is still demand in the UK for the search term ‘Iniesta’ over the past twelve months (although nowhere near as much as Spain – where he applies his trade):

Google insights for 'Iniesta' over the past twelve months in Spain and UK

The last point I’d like to make about Iniesta’s popularity in the UK is that his Twitter appears second in Google suggest when a user starts typing his name:

Google Suggest results for Iniesta

However, one of the key issues for a UK audience is that Andres Iniesta – tweets (not surprisingly) in Spanish! Could this be the main reason for the low position in Google UK and the high position in Google Spain?

Conversely the result is very high in Google.mx, which according to Google insights – has the same demand as the UK!

So is Google not returning Iniesta’s Twitter on page one in the UK because the language is in Spanish? I did follow Kaka for sometime and although I couldn’t read any of his tweets, I did appreciate some of the pictures and videos he supplied – so in some instances I would argue that a certain result is relevant despite a foreign language being used. I will do a more in depth blog on this over the next month or two.

Conclusion

The purpose of this blog was to merely highlight the changing landscape of page one in Google now that social (and mobile) has become such a vital part of how we communicate and interact with one another and our business needs.

I would recommend every business has a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ page – however, creating the accounts is one thing, but the real hard work and value comes in the planning and implementation of the overall social strategy.

With someone like Rihanna, page one is filled with her individual assets – with only The Sun and The Daily Mail moving up to page one for relevant news stories. This means that Google News becomes even more vital for newspapers as Google is favouring her personal assets over latest news stories. This example is only in isolation for Rihanna and not for a specific business or not as famous celebrity.

Check out the page one in Google for ‘Rihanna’ back in 2008 and now compare it to today:

Owning Page One

The Domains returned for “Rhianna” in Google.co.uk 2008:
Google's SERP results for Rihanna in May 2008

The Domains returned for “Rhianna” in Google.co.uk 2012:

Here we see Rhianna’s social media assets taking prominence in the SERPs as well as a few newspaper articles.
Google SERP results for Rihanna in May 2012