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Does Google Use Twitter as a Ranking Signal?

An analysis of Twitter usage shows some similar results to those we saw with Facebook. In Twitter’s IPO filing, the company reported that it is handling more than 500 million tweets per day on average.  shows a combination of two Google search queries that attempt to find out how many Twitter status updates Google has in its index.

This data suggests that the indexing rate of tweets is actually quite low. However, as we mentioned with Facebook, the number of results from site: queries is not always that precise. The study also included an analysis of the indexation of posts for 963 different Twitter accounts. Of these, 58 had at least 100,000 followers. These were hand-selected to be highly influential people. The study then tracked the indexing of their tweets over time. The results.

Taken together, we that Google’s overall indexing of tweet content is low, but it does index a high percentage of tweets from more influential accounts. Note that it is possible that this is because these tweets tend to receive links. This would increase Google’s desire to index the content in the tweet. and shows the source code for a tweet containing a shared link. As with Facebook, this link is followed, so no PageRank is passed.

Does Google Use Google+ as a Ranking Signal?

Google+ is the social network owned by Google itself. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google obtains information from Google+ in real-time. As soon as you complete a share in Google+, Google knows it has happened. This makes it seem far more likely that Google would use this data as a ranking factor in its search results. In fact, there are a few clear ways that Google+ impacts the Google search results.

Google+ Personalization

Personalization plays a significant role in Google’s search results, and Google+ can be a part of that. For example, if someone is following you on Google+, the chances that she will see your posts in Google’s search results go way up.  shows an example of this.

The highlighted listing ranks #1 in the organic search results when the searcher is logged in, but ranks only in position #12 when the same user performs an incognito search (in Google’s Chrome browser, this mode turns all personalization off). This is a big impact! The reason for the change in the personalized results is that four people whom this user follows on Google+ have +1’ed the content.

Google+ Posts in the Search Results

Another benefit of Google+ is that your company (or institution) can create a brand page. If you properly connect that brand page with your website using the rel=”publisher” tag (which is covered in more detail in Chapter 6), and you have some basic level of activity on the page, it can show up in the search results as well.

Google+ Brand Pages in the Search Results

This is nice real estate to own, and can really add to the brand impression of your business. For Major League Soccer, we see the number of followers it has on Google+ and a Follow button at the top right. Google obtains additional information from many different sources, but it is experimenting with allowing publishers to get their social profiles added to the panel shown on the right.

Last word

Despite the evidence to the contrary just shown, many people still believe that activity in Google+ can drive search rankings. For that reason, Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge performed a study on this as well. The study was designed to see if Google+ shares of links to a web page (not on Google+) would improve the rankings of those pages.

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