Google has officially partnered with Twitter and will begin displaying tweets in the search results. With this partnership, Twitter has granted Google full access to their feed of tweets commonly known as the Twitter Firehose. The benefit of Google having access to Twitter’s feed, instead of just crawling Twitter for individual tweets, is that tweets will have the ability to be displayed in a more timely manner than in the past (R.I.P Google Real Time Search). In a nutshell, your tweets will be searchable online, in real time.

We know that, in some capacity, Twitter affects SEO. Google stated that “Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article…” With the recent partnership, one could say that tweets won’t just be affecting SEO…tweets are SEO.

So what should SEO strategists do to prepare for this?

  • Make sure your brand and brand supporters have a strong Twitter presence. Do not surrender potential real estate on the front page for lack of having a Twitter account.
  • Add Twitter sharing buttons to all pages of your website.
  • Ensure that the content you are tweeting is thoroughly optimized so that both the tweet and organic listing can be found.
  • Use Majestic to analyze the backlinks to Twitter accounts and be on the look out to grow the links to your account
  • Begin to test and measure how clicks on tweets are affecting rankings.
  • Pay close attention to any changes in your site’s Google Analytics data.

I sat down with Search Engine Optimization Strategist Brynna Baldauf, and she explained that her team is “excited to see the ever changing SERP and the form it will take, but we fear that it may be additionally hard to segment out each channel’s traffic and hence difficult to measure the performance over time.”

We concluded that ultimately we aren’t sure how tweets will be displayed within the search results, but predict that you will have to click through to Twitter to engage with the tweets (and to follow the links they include, if any).

To further elaborate on her initial speculation, Baldauf pointed out that:

“We know from other tests that if it is displayed out of search results (i.e. in the call out boxes near the ads section) that it will begin to move traffic from the original source to the social media site. We are concerned at the number of steps this might take a user to find a specific piece of content now and the impact it might have on conversions. Should the user enter their query into Google, to see the Tweet about the content appear above everything else (including the original content), then they must additionally click into the website from Twitter. This may not only affect the amount of time it takes a user to find the content, but also the attribution of that user in our analytics system. If we are looking into organic traffic, that user who visited through Twitter will not be counted and hence may skew the numbers, even though it was Google that led them there.”

This is most likely a valid concern for the SEO world, based on what Twitter CEO’s Dick Costolo confirmed during Twitter’s Q4 earnings call. He stated that the Google search deal will basically be used for onboarding and that if a logged out user sees a tweet in search results and clicks on it, that person will be directed to a special logged out page, which will likely not only give him/her an option to sign up, but also deliver an ad or two.

With that said, it appears there may be both positive and negative effects of this partnership from an SEO standpoint.

What should social media strategists do to prepare?

A good social strategist has already been incorporating SMO tactics into their daily Twitter activity. But now more than ever, with the chances of Tweets being displayed more often and more prominently, we need to pay more attention to making sure they are optimized. From a social engagement standpoint, we must also keep this balanced with making sure our tweets are still optimized for people – and not just search engines.

A few tips that we foresee being helpful to get your tweets ranking are:

  • Share a link to every new piece of content you publish via Twitter.tweet-all-the-things
  • Re-share your site’s evergreen content with various forms of updated copy.
  • Optimize your tweets by using targeted keywords, while still keeping the phrasing of the tweets readable and engaging. In other words, don’t keyword stuff your Tweets to the point that it decreases engagement.
  • Continue to grow your list of followers.
  • Connect with influencers (people in your industry with a lot of followers) and get them to tweet your content.
  • If possible, obtain a verified account. It’s possible, especially in the beginning stages of this roll-out, that Google’s algorithm might display tweets from these accounts over other users. It’s worth noting that recent rumors have spread word that you may soon be able to pay for that little blue check mark.

What about community and reputation managers?

Brands should also keep in mind that this new change will give the consumer an even larger voice than ever before. Unfortunately, a single Twitter user complaining about your product or service could displaygoogle-alerts-on in search results and negatively affect your brand. On the other hand, if someone tweets a positive review of your brand then that could contribute to improving your brand’s social trust factor to a much wider audience than before. We recommend that community and reputation managers take a pro-active approach and setup Google Alerts to monitor this.

Overall, we are looking forward to discovering the opportunities this partnership gives to brands and digital marketers. There’s still a lot to be uncovered, and we’re left with questions such as:

  • Will paid/sponsored tweets rank higher?
  • Will verified accounts show up above non-verified accounts?
  • Will your number of followers affect your tweets position in the search rankings?
  • Can we expect to see more enhanced results beyond just text (i.e. Twitter cards)?