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How Does Google Index Tweets Today? How the New Twitter Deal Will Impact SEO

Get caught up! We have updated this study two more times since this was published. See the latest version: Google Indexing to Tweets Appears to Decline.
Late on Wednesday evening (February 4th, 2015), Bloomberg broke the news of a new deal between Google and Twitter. The following day Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan put together an FAQ on what the deal is about. These articles are definitely worth a read.
In this post we will show you which tweets Google places the most value on, and hence help you understand how you can position yourself to derive SEO benefit from this change in the marketing landscape.
UPDATE! We have now measured Google’s indexation Twitter after Google announced they are beginning to implement their firehose access to Twitter. See and compare the results here.

Brief Background

One of the key sections of Danny Sullivan’s article is titled “Can’t Google just crawl Twitter for tweets?” He points out the overall impracticality of Google’s crawling tweets to capture all the Twitter data. He states: “There are so many tweets that if Google tried to capture them all as they happened in a traditional search engine manner, by constantly visiting the site and ‘crawling’ to find new ones, it would likely cripple Twitter with all of its requests.”
In order to dig into this further, we pulled data on 133K+ tweets to see just how Google indexed them. Here is the high-level summary of what we saw:
Percent of Tweets that Google Indexes
We looked at a total of 138,635 tweets, and only 7.4% of them are indexed! This by itself should tell us a lot about why Twitter came to the table looking for a deal. Each tweet that is indexed has a chance of getting traffic from Google, so more is better. Even to get the data that it gets today, the burden on Google to crawl Twitter constantly is a very large one.
Study shows Google currently indexes 7% of tweets
Getting data via API (the “firehose” as many parties call it) allows Google to get this data in real time without having to crawl Twitter to get it. One reason for Google to do this deal is to get more data with less effort. The end result should be more indexed tweets, and more opportunities to obtain traffic. This is really at the heart as to why Twitter wanted to do this deal.

What Tweets are Most Valuable to Google?

Great question? In July of last year, we published a study on How Does Google Index Tweets?. This study reviewed the state of the situation at that time. Since then, Twitter invested some effort in making it easier for Google to access and index their tweets. In short, they created thousands of search-optimized landing pages for their most popular hashtags. But of course, these pages themselves become the search result, not the individual tweets on the pages.
So the question remains: How many individual tweets are indexed by Google, and which ones?

Follower Count

First up, it’s evident that people with larger follower counts are getting more of their tweets indexed:
Tweet Indexation by Follower Count
This may be only a correlation. I.e., I don’t think that Google is looking at follower count specifically. Perhaps other signals are affecting which profiles get indexed more, such as links to those people’s profiles, or something along those lines. However, it’s clear that more value is placed on an authoritative profile.
Study: Tweets from users with more followers more likely to be indexed by Google

Indexation Rate Over Time

In our July study, we showed that the indexation of Tweets was less than 6% in the first week. In this study, just over 1800 Tweets were under 1 week old when we checked them, and just under 26K were less than 7 weeks old when we tested them (the rest were older). When we tested these more recent tweets, we were surprised to see that the indexation rate has gotten worse since July:
Google Indexation of Tweets by Day
By the end of the first week, less than 1% of the 1812 tweets that we examined had been indexed. That’s just stunning. This suggests that Twitter’s significance as a news source to Google was not a factor at all. Google had moved on from thinking about Twitter in that way.
Looking at this over a 7 week period, the cumulative indexation rate only reaches a grand total of 6%. That’s still pretty slim pickings:
Google Indexation of Tweets by Week
Bear in mind too, that over 40% of the tweets in our study were generated by people with 10,000 followers or more, so we believe it is likely to be biased towards high end uses that one would guess that Google is more likely to want to index.

Twitter Content that Google Prefers

So what type of content does Google prefer to index? Let’s jump right into the data:
How Does Content in Tweets Impact Google Indexation?
Images and/or hashtags do seem to increase your chances of getting indexed, as the percentages are significantly higher than the average overall percentage of 7.4%. Mentions appear to be negative. It’s not clear, however, if this is simply a correlation.
Study: Tweets with images, hashtags or links more likely to be indexed by Google
It appears, though, that the effect of certain features in tweets is more pronounced within Twitter than as a search indexation factor. Our recent study on Twitter engagement shows that images have a huge impact on overall engagement, and that hashtags are also a significant factor.
As we also showed in that study, mentions appear to be negative. But, the real punchline is that this study shows the significant impact of links from 3rd party sites (other than Twitter) to the tweets. Google still loves links. 26% of the tweets with an inbound link from sites other than Twitter got indexed. That is nearly 4 times as much as the overall average rate of indexation.
So how much effect does having inbound links have on the likelihood of a tweet of being indexed by Google? The following chart shows just how that rate of indexation scales, based on the number of links your tweet gets:
Do Links to Tweets Increase Chances of Google Indexation?
Link quantity correlates highly with the tweet getting indexed. What we did not measure here, but which is likely a factor, is the quality of those links. Don’t expect that throwing a few crappy links at a tweet will make Google care about it. It’s probably just a few quality ones that are driving this much higher rate of indexation.

Summary – So How Do I Benefit From the New Google – Twitter Deal?

I thought you would never ask! Our indexing study shows that Google appears to value links to tweets. It also shows that Google values the same things that drive Twitter Engagement: images and hashtags.
Here are some basic ideas on how to proceed:

  1. Invest more time in Twitter to build your presence there is one obvious place to start
  2. Make your tweets more engaging, as illustrated in our above-linked study on engagement:
    • Create link-worthy content within your tweets. This will not be every tweet you do! The next 3 tips will give some advice on how to do this
    • Use high impact images for your most important tweets (but not every tweet)
    • Leverage hashtags for greater visibility and engagement
    • Note that longer tweets tend to generate more engagement on average
    • Include links and mentions wherever appropriate, but recognize that these generally do not directly drive higher engagement
  3. Consider using Twitter Ads to jump start visibility on the platform

What we learned is that Google appears to value the same things that drive Twitter engagement. This should be no surprise to us, because Google wants to value the same things that people do. So the big lesson may be a simple one: focus on driving higher engagement on Twitter, and Google is more likely to reward you with higher indexations rates for your tweets. Think of it as holistic content marketing at the micro level.
Google’s current pattern for indexing tweets tells us what content they believe is most worthy. Use it as your road map to how Google will value the tweets they see once the firehose is fully turned on in a few months time.
Want more? Click here to see all our data studies on one page!

Thoughts on “How Does Google Index Tweets Today? How the New Twitter Deal Will Impact SEO”

  1. If you think that all your tweets should be indexed, you should have a very boring timeline…
    I don’t know if 7% is a good rate, but more than 25% shouldn’t be a good new, in my point. If you’re looking for the best, you can’t take everything.

  2. Thanks for giving me another reason to be active on Twitter. Can you also tell about how to increase followers, as it is perhaps most difficult thing for a new blogger like me.

  3. Sam – the best way is to find people who like to talk about similar things as you on Twitter and get actively engaged in dialogues with them. Follow them, comment on their tweets, and find ways to add value to the conversation with them. Be careful to not do a lot of promotion of your stuff. It takes time to build a strong presence on Twitter, so be patient. Over time you can build an audience, and start to get good results.

  4. Great post. I appreciate the use of real data taken over time, and the caution around correlation not being causation.
    Creating engaging tweets is an evergreen given, but looks like the value of followers gets a bump in priority.

  5. Excellent analysis Eric. I was ready an interesting article the other day that talked about how people tweet and re-tweet others but rarely do they actually take the time to click the link and actually read the story. It was a really interesting read from someone who spent a considerable amount of time looking over his analytics.

  6. Eric – great data share. Quick question about inbound links – I am familiar with inbound link value in terms of SEO and your website but what constitutes an inbound link to a Tweet? This is different than a quoted tweet or a retweet I assume. Thanks.

  7. Hi Amber – It’s basically the same as the links you think of with your web site. It’s a link from a domain pointing to the individual URL for the tweet.

  8. Hey Eric
    Good article and analysis on tweet/twitter. You gave a good and understandable information in tabular form. I like the answer of ‘What Tweets are Most Valuable to Google?’ because some people do a lot of self promotion on twitter. And that is not a good and proper way. It takes time to build a reputation on Twitter!

  9. I didn’t have the idea behind such thing but now, it is completely clear to me. Now i can understand how much tweets can be indexed and what type of tweets can be indexed. I think your influence and no of followers does matter.

  10. I’m curious what type of content is indexed. Just news: sports, politics, etc.
    Also, I wonder if “klout” is figured into Google’s indexing algorithm.
    Too bad accounts with less <10k followers aren't considered noteworthy. Some of my fav accounts with high quality info and tweets are less <5k followers.

  11. Sera, I don’t believe we saw any topics emphasized more than others in the tweets that were indexed. I also highly doubt Google relies on Klout, a third party service with which they have no partnership. Much more likely they use their own algorithm to determine what they index, and as with all their algos, we can never know all the factors that go into that.
    Also note that we did not say lower followed accounts never get indexed, just that accounts with higher follower counts are more likely to get indexed.
    Thanks for your comment!

  12. Its quality content and engagement.
    Hashtags get found in search so see increased views.
    Images look better so increase the user engagement.
    Difficult to tell whether value is hashtags and images independent of engagement.

  13. Hey Eric,
    You just gave me another reason to take twitter seriously.
    I was more active on facebook, but henceforth twitter will also be in my daily activity.
    Thanks again

  14. In another word, I should call twitter as “active”, if you’re more active than only it will helpful for us as worthless. As Eric explained all in very informative ways that how much tweet index in Google and which is most important as per Google. After this agreement with Google twitter user has the opportunity to explore more result in the SERP and index their tweets. As percentage of indexing tweets increasing since last year.

  15. Great article. Very informative and well put together. I believe that Twitter is working hard to create a more user friendly site. As that continues a believe that Google will find more ways to index Tweets.

  16. Hi,
    As a marketer how can we leverage this partnership in our advantage? I’ve got an account with 30 k and Google doesn’t bother having my tweets in SERP.

  17. Dan, we haven’t yet tested what factors may be most affecting whether or not one’s Tweets get indexed and shown in search, but based on what we’ve seen so far raw follower count is probably not high on that list. More likely there is some kind of social authority metric involved. In other words, it’s not how many people follow you, but how many people engage with your tweets, and whom those people are.

  18. Very useful information. Seem Big G. and Twitter are going to closer. And it’s time to put social signal to higher position when start a SEO campaign.

  19. I think the SEO business gets a bad rap from the amount of cowboys and
    outsourced companies currently set up
    Shared on StumbleUpon, they would find this useful!

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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