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Is Twitter a Google Killer? Not Yet

Mark Jackson
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Warning: today's column is strictly editorial, so those of you looking for actionable tips might want to check back in next week.

I have been reading a lot about the impending demise of Google for months, even years now. Most recently, it's Twitter search that's expected to push into Google's marketshare.

I pay attention to these things, and because of my involvement in the industry, I guess I'm probably an early adopter (earlier than the typical person). But, because of my years in the SEO Industry, I'm also not one to have knee-jerk reactions when it comes to strategy. I have to be considerate of the long term, while not ignoring the short term.

Let me back up first and provide a little personal history.

My initial involvement in the Interactive industry came when I started working at Lycos, back in early 2000. At that time, Lycos was a pretty big player in search, with both lycos.com and hotbot.com. There was much discussion at the time as to who would be the remaining "Big 3" that would eventually win the search wars. Mind you, the search engines that were considered at that time were Lycos, AOL, MSN, Yahoo, AltaVista, and Excite.

Search back then was the wild frontier. Search was spam-riddled. Keyword stuffing was the norm in search engine optimization. Users would need to click through many pages of search results to try and find exactly what it was that they were looking for. Then, along came a little company called Google. Google had figured out how to deliver much higher quality search results, and delivered them in a very clean interface.

As time has passed, Google has gotten even better at addressing any "spam" issues, and the results have continued to get better and better. Still, though, the methodology of search engine optimization was that you needed to get a page indexed, get links to it, and let it sit for a while, until the search engines would begin to index the page and rank it.

No more.

Google addressed this, too.

Today's Google results are a blend of web results, press release/news results, video results, local results and blog results. I even recently added a Google profile. Instantly, there I was in the search results for people searching "Mark Jackson" on Google. Often, my Search Engine Watch column or blog posts on my company's blog will show in Google's Blog results within the hour for people searching "search engine optimization" on Google.

With our A.D.D. society, a one-hour wait for "fresh" search results doesn't seem to be good enough. No, people want better than that. They want "instant" search. In fact, they want others to do the searching for them. So, they use Twitter search.

A lot of people seem to be jumping on this bandwagon. Now, I am saying this here...I retain the right to change my mind on this, but this is how I'm currently seeing things.

People are trusting Twitter search, and their Twitter friend's opinions (and the blog posts that they link to) more than they are trusting Google's algorithm? What's easier to spam?

I do have some friends that I trust (people that I actually KNOW, not just people that follow me on Twitter or that I happen to follow). And, I do value their opinions. And, I would trust their opinions more than conducting blind searches on Google. So, I think that what is going on with Twitter search is the beginning of something, but there are just too many "bugs" to get worked out for this to be a Google killer, at least in the short term.

There is talk that in the future, to gain "authority" in Twitter and hence "optimize" the search results, you will need to have a lot of followers, post often, and get ReTweeted. Check out this topic on WebmasterWorld. If Twitter Search begins crawling links in your tweets, and assigning reputation points to users, with some new-fashioned SEO, your Tweets will begin ranking highly in Twitter search for your keywords.

You wanna know what else? There are ways to automate a lot of this process. Or, you could do like Guy Kawasaki (and many others) and hire people to post Tweets for you.

So, even though you might trust Guy Kawasaki's opinions, are you really hearing directly from him? Or, someone working for him?

Matt Cutts and his team deserve a lot of credit for what they've been able to accomplish at Google with cleaning up spam. Right now, Twitter Search is just too easy to manipulate. One thing that my years in the SEO industry have taught me is that users want spam-free results, and the good search engines are the ones who find ways to counter those trying to manipulate the results. The easier a search engine is to manipulate, the less likely it is to deliver quality results.

Once someone develops a method of bringing aspects of social into web results that are not easily manipulated, you might then have the tool that delivers quality, fresh results.


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