Twitter’s Little Known SEO Value

Mihaela Lica joins the SitePoint blogging team, relaying her SEO tips, tricks and expertise.

For too many, SEO is synonymous with ranking on the first SERP page in Google. For too many, optimizing a site for Google means getting links, many links, no matter what. Defining and redefining SEO will not change the way these people perceive it. This is not an article for them. Those webmasters who optimize solely for Google are basically targeting only 70% of the search engine market, and disregarding the rest.

Twitter logo.This is an article for those who need to learn something new, and want to use all possible SEO channels to drive more traffic and to gain more customers. This article will prove what “real” SEO value is to be expected from services like Twitter.

Does twitter Pass Any Link Juice?

Since Twitter started gaining popularity the question about its “SEO value” has been on the minds of many webmasters who obviously want to boost their placement into Google’s SERPs. But using Twitter for “link juice” is a lost battle in Google’s ranking methodology.

Twitter adds a “nofollow” attribute to links submitted by its users. The “nofollow” attribute advises Google, and a few other search engines, to ignore the link. Some of these follow the links but exclude them from their ranking calculations (Yahoo!, Google); some ignore the links completely (MSN). The only known search engine that doesn’t comply with Google’s “nofollow” at all is Ask.com. This example alone shows that Google’s algorithms are not the gospel for all search engines.

November 2008 Web Search Market Share according to compete.

According to compete.com, Ask.com owns about 2.5% of the search engine market share. The same source shows that in November 2008 there were 255 million search queries on Ask.com. This is nothing compared to 7235 millions on Google, but can you seriously disregard a source of such traffic? Ask.com is a potential gate for visitors that could convert into customers.

So let’s ask the question again, shall we? Does Twitter pass any link juice? For Ask.com it does.

Do tinyURL Shortened URLs Have SEO Value?

The short answer is yes. TinyURLs are dynamically created URLs that redirect users to the real URL via 301 (permanent redirect). Search engines do not index TinyURLs, but index and pass PageRank to the actual URLs instead. The problem with Twitter, as we already discussed, is the “nofollow” attribute added to all submitted links.

Are There Any Other Possible SEO Advantages with Twitter?

As I already said, SEO is not only about building links. Optimizing a site is about creating and promoting content that can be regarded as a resource. “Creating” is “onsite SEO.” “Promoting” is “offsite SEO.”

Every time you submit your site to a directory you “promote it” – meaning that you do “offsite SEO.” Every time a link to your site is published somewhere on the web a gate to your site is being opened. People don’t care about “nofollow” attributes. If they see a link and they think the content it leads to is interesting, they follow.

When visitors land on a page from an exterior link some other metrics are affected: number of unique visitors, number of page views, and time on site. These metrics matter for the search engines more and more; since all other variables are so easily gamed (links and keywords are all subject to spam and black hat SEO strategies).

To make a long story short: although Twitter is a social media tool meant to create community and relationships, it does have an SEO value. For example, Twitter can affect positively your Alexa rankings by sending visitors to your pages. Usage data is a sign of quality for Google and all the other search engines. If you can make people come to your site via Twitter, then this is an SEO advantage you cannot afford to miss.

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  • http://www.dan-schulz.com Dan Schulz

    I’d agree with you if you said it had a search marketing value, or was part of a comprehensive and combined approach to Internet marketing in general, but as I consider search engine optimization to be a technical process, I just can’t bring myself to do that.

    While technical and marketing skills can and often do compliment each other when used correctly (and appropriately), they are at the end of the day separate specialties. Yes, if someone is interested in a link found on Twitter, they’ll probably follow it, and if they like it, they’ll probably provide an editorial link of their own to the page in question, but that’s a secondary (or side) effect, not a primary one.

    All in all though, this blog post is insightful, and as such I’ll be looking forward to reading your articles and blog posts in the future.

  • Hendry Lee

    The only thing I can think of quickly about Twitter’s SEO value is when someone syndicates your Twitter feed. Yes, it is not tagged with the a tag, but if the site turns they hyperlink without adding the nofollow attribute, then there’s at least some SEO value there.

    You’re right about the indirect SEO value though. Soon Google will take into account data they collect from various places like Google Analytics to measure how successful your site is. And if as a publisher we converse with people very well on Twitter, it is very likely that the engagement from Twitter visitors will be very high.

  • http://www.dan-schulz.com Dan Schulz

    You know Hendry, I’m starting to wonder if Google may possibly be taking a look at acquiring Twitter later this year for precisely that reason (Google Analytics and other data gathering methods).

  • http://blogbuildingu.com/ Hendry Lee

    I don’t know. That certainly may add value, but considering that they’ve acquired Jaiku and planned to integrate it with Google Apps may show they have a different plan for micro blogging platform.

  • shailv

    Yes, Twitter has value for off page SEO, but it can complement to internet marketing instead of being used as SEO tool.

    It is one of the way to broadcast your message.

    Best regards,
    Shailendra Vijayvergia
    Animon live

  • Shailendra

    It’s true that Twitter has nothing to do technically with SEO, but no doubt it can be used tool for internent marketing, ORM and social media marketing.

    Best regards,
    Shailendra Vijayvergia
    Animon Live

  • Sadia
  • MorgBoer

    Shouldn’t search engines be forced to respect publishers “nofollow” tags? It’s like trespassing, isn’t it? I mean, if there’s a No Entry sign somewhere, it means your not supposed to go in there…?

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    Dan, I cannot really agree with you. If one search engine takes into consideration the links posted on Twitter and follows them, posting links on twitter is SEO.

    Many users use twitter just for this:link blogging. As I said, let’s not look at SEO only from Google’s perspective.

    Also, many SEO experts agree that traffic and usage are SEO aspects as well. As Hendry says,

    Google will take into account data they collect from various places like Google Analytics to measure how successful your site is.

    I actually believe that Google is already taking into consideration this data. Some experiments I conducted in the past led me to this conclusion – when I have time I will publish case studies to prove my point (but this will be on my site, of course).

    About Google acquiring Twitter… it will make no sense after Jaiku, but I don’t exclude the possibility.

  • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

    Mihaela, This is an interesting idea, especially for someone like me who has had a picture in the past of all SEO being of the “black hat variety”. Dan made a good point in disecting the semantics of SEO and SEM to a point. I think however, that SEO as a sub-function of SEM is not going to be a valid schematic for the profession in the near future.

    Look at it this way, some people’s definition of SEM is the practice of “buying” paid search listings. It occurs to me that we may be getting into a semantic argument here that has no end. In the past SEO (or SEM) of the type using Twitter, would have been considered a “Black Hat” spamdexing campaign. However, as SEO and SEM have progressed (on the credible side at least) past the point where tricks rule, SEO by this definition includes “all” strategies for optimization:


    “Search engine optimization
    (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.”

    Here we go with more semantics, but in my view SEO means anything that increases traffic. SEM, to me is a term for the campaign strategy and content of the campaign itself – for a client. SEO can also refer to Search Engine Optimizers – essentially referring to SEO’s who perform the duties for clients.

    I think what Mihaela is referring to is a new strategy for SEO wherein many know the on site techniques, while the expanding proficiencies of SEO’s require these mentioned techniques via networking ala Twitter.

    The conversations here on Sitepoint are actually wonderful, we all learn so much from one another.

    Always,
    Phil

  • Genesis

    Interesting post. I use Twitter extensively and while I wasn`t doing it for the SEO, this is good information to know. I`ve found that I do get quite a bit of traffic from Twitter, though, and that`s always good, because it can lead to other people linking to me, which has happened a few times . . . resulting in more SEO.

  • MKraft

    I can definitely see the usefulness in this I know that I’m MUCH more likely to click on a TinyURL in a tweet than a link in a blogposting.

    Think of it this way: you follow people you want to know more about, primarily because you think they have something interesting or educational to say, so when they start to link things, especially with interesting headlines/teasers, you’re much more likely to follow them. I click on links in Twitter because I want to be among the first to know something.

    Just think how much more the stats would skew if Twitter removed the “nofollow” rule.

    Cheers,
    Matthew

    Follow me @MKraft :)

  • http://www.gridsix.com raustin

    I always thought the value of Twitter was in immediate traffic and not so much for the link juice.

    Additionally, I think Twitter is far overrated for both general use and internet marketing purposes.

  • http://www.e-brighthorizons.com Saboma

    Thanks for sharing your insights on Twitter, Mig. I too have an acct with Twitter and still don’t really know why I created the acct other than I responded to an invitation. If I may say without appearing too lame, I don’t see me using it until I am comfortable with it. [Believe it or not, I am not much of one who speaks very much. I'm a listener.]

    Thanks again for allowing me to listen, Mig. I learn about more about this type of ‘stuff’ that I would never even imagine in my wildest dreams although I have many questions I’ve yet to fully think out in order to ask.

    I’m glad to see you posting and will be looking forward to reading your next informative article. ^5!

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @shailv - Let’s not transfor the discussion into a matter of semantics. Everything we do to promote a business online is Internet marketing. I just highlighted here SEO aspects and I did specify that concerning link value I am just refering to Ask.com. About usage data, there are many opinions, but most SEOs, including Aaron Wall, agree that the search engines take these into consideration.

    @Shailendra
    – I disagree: as I said, if for Ask.com alone twitter does have a lot to do technically with SEO.

    @Sadia – thank you for the link.

    @MorgBoer“nofollow” is a concept introduced by Google. I do not think Ask.com or any other search engine for that matter should all adhere to Google’s rules. :)

    @raustin – as a matter of fact you are right: immediate traffic is the most important SEO aspect. SEO is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines. This involves all search engines, not just Google. I think SEO for Google would be called… GEO.

    Now… considering that many people (including myself) use Twitter for search too… well, I think this proves the point. ;) (No, I am not saying that Twitter is a search engine.)

  • http://seriocomic.com seriocomic

    You had me interested until you stated

    Twitter can affect positively your Alexa rankings by sending visitors to yourpages. 

    Any one who places any real weight on the influence of Alexa’s skewed rankings needs to justify that a little better given that most people discount it these days.

    It was interesting, however, to learn about the shorten URL’s being 301′d to the original – something I haven’t had time to look at yet.

    Also consider that when you say

    Defining and redefining SEO will not change the way these people perceive it. This is not an article for them.

    Then follow up with

    Creating” is “onsite SEO.” “Promoting” is “offsite SEO.

    is does come across as a bit contradictory.

    All critiquing aside, you’ve piqued my interest enough to look forward to your next post(s), as I am the last person to think that it’s possible to know everything about SEO.

  • eric j henderson

    Mihaela: thank you for the well-reasoned and supported case and for bringing attention the real and important thing: relevant content. I have had excellent results using Twitter as one method of driving traffic.

    ejh

  • jeff m

    Like Craigslist, Twitter posts get high SERP rankings. Just jam you tweets with keywords and a link and boom – traffic. The difficult part is how to do this while not being spammy.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @seriocomic – for many bloggers and webmasters the Alexa rankings are important. Of course I know they are not entirely accurate, but they are relevant to an extent.

    Also, saying that

    Creating” is “onsite SEO.” “Promoting” is “offsite SEO.

    is not defining SEO. :)

    You are absolutely right: we’ll never know everything about SEO, or any topic for that matter. We always learn.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @eric j henderson Personally I use twitter mostly to follow updates of SEO and PR experts. The traffic is a fortunate side effect. :)

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @jeff m – that’s correct. :) to do that without appearing spammy… hm, it’s a hard one. Let’s just say, if your updates don’t read like a link list, they will not appear spammy.

  • Stephanie Quilao

    I found your post via a Tweet from @ProBlogger. Getting a Twitter influential to post a link is fabulous for traffic because I’ve seen it with my blogs. And vice versa, I’m @skinnyjeans on Twitter and I make a conscious effort to tweet links to helpful posts. Twitter has helped my blogs so much in traffic, exposure, and building new readers/community.

    This article was very helpful because it’s more Oprah speak than Geek speak. I swear I get lost half the time reading the techie SEO stuff as I’m a lifestyle blogger, more of a right brainer, and learning more about how SEO works.

    http://www.thrivingmedia.com

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @Stephanie Quilao – you made me smile, Stephanie. Oprah speak? LOL. Well, it wan not meant to be techie, that’s for sure. Thank you for your comment. I am following you now on twitter (I am @miguelstil)

  • http://fantomaster.com/ fantomaster

    All other issues aside, mobile Twitter actually still passes link juice: these links aren’t nofollowed.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    That’s correct, Fantomaster :) I cannot believe I forgot about that.

  • Alka

    I do click on the tinyurls that my frenz post on their twits. And I think it is a better way of advertising.

  • bart

    Thanks for explaining the complete advantages of Twitter.

    Regards,
    Bodhost.co.uk

  • D4ce

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    i really get lot of useful knowledge

    by: D4ce.net

  • D4ce

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    its my twitter id please friend follow me, i ll follow u

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  • 2houseplague

    Something not covered in the above discussion, that is quite fascinating, is how Twitter distributes Pagerank throughout its own domain — Twitter SEO

  • http://twitter.com/jagadeeshmp Jag

    Great web search market share report, thanks

  • http://www.moneymakersportal.com mmportal

    Thanx for information about Ask.com search share, Mihaela. I didn’t know it.
    But I didn’t get it about cloaked urls we use to shorten our tweets.
    You were token about Tiny and what about other cloakers?
    Nofolow attribute is signrd to coloaked url either?

    Thanx ahead!

    Vitaliy Syromyatnikov
    Follow me on Twitter!

  • Dee_1

    If a Twitter feed links into a blog or website and therefore updates the blog/website a couple of times a day, this will surely increase SEO, right?

  • Paul Holmes

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong. Please respond if I’m off the mark here.

    It appears that while there is a nofollow on twitter.com, I noticed they are not in RSS feed content, so any sites that syndicate and publish twitter content (few now, but lots to come, I suspect) do not have the same nofollow added, and thus are potentially a huge opportunity.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    Paul, that’s correct – I didn’t mention it in the article because, as a rule, this is a known fact. What I should have noted is that twitter mobile doesn’t add nofollow to links – this is also a good SEO opportunity. :)

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    Dee-1 – not much, but it will, of course.

  • Rickegan99

    One point for linking on Twitter or for that matter any site which adds a NoFollow tag to their links is that these editorial links are often followed and when a link is followed then if the content is of value, then people will share that link with their friends and when this happens links are created back to the original source of the content.

    As an SEO you have to think of the big picture and how a link gets created if you pigeon hole yourself into only getting links which are followed then you miss the viral opportunities which are the only way to create really vibrant link campaigns.

  • Jera Westfall

    This is super-cool. If you want to see what the most popular tweets about a subject are, take a look at http://labs.windward.net/ It provides avisual graph of the tweet trends against a word or phrase.

  • tony8980

    This is super-cool. If you want to see what the most popular tweets about a subject are, take a look at http://labs.windward.net/ It provides avisual graph of the tweet trends against a word or phrase.