Search News: Google Piggybacks Twitter Search, Gets Closer to Real Time (UPDATE)

Written By Peter Hershberg | March 23, 2009 | No Comments

Piggyback

There is lots of talk today about Ad Age’s article “Media Giants Want to Top Google Results”  which focuses on big media companies being annoyed that they aren’t getting higher rankings in Google.  While I agree that Google generally does a pretty poor job of ranking news stories, I think the issue isn’t Google’s so much as it the result of poor SEO.  But that’s a topic for another day.  What is far and away the most significant aspect of the story is embedded in this passage:

 “Search results for “Gaza” on March 20 began with two Wikipedia links, a March 19 BBC report, two video clips of unclear origin, the CIA World Factbook, a Guardian report and, most strikingly, a link to Gaza-related messages on Twitter.”

The “link” is to Twitter Search and you can still see it in the results today: http://bit.ly/4pssNi

I decided to search for some other keywords specific to time-sensitive events and information and found that Twitter Search is being indexed in a number of instances:

March Madness: http://bit.ly/12z9wB

SXSW: http://bit.ly/CH9Q

If Google doesn’t think Twitter provides any real differentiated or valuable benefit in search and is in fact, “poor man’s e-mail” as their CEO Eric Schmidt put it, they have a funny way of showing it. It’s weird to see them featuring links to another engine’s search results on their own search results page.  The twist here is that Twitter has generally not done much to make their content followable or easily indexed by Google’s spiders. This explains Google’s use of Twitter Search to generate results.

As we’ve pointed out before, Google clearly hasn’t addressed “real-time” search on its own, so this is a way of laying the groundwork to deal with it near term.  Whether that means simply using Twitter as their real time search or studying them to initiate their own rival (perhaps based on FriendFeed, which is stocked with ex-Googlers) Google is showing that they are keenly interested in how to incorporate real time results into their search service.

Keep in mind that it still takes Google over an hour (compared to first mention on Twitter) to get a breaking story like Lance Armstrong’s crash on the front page of Google News (Sports section, even) or on the main SERP’s page in connection with searches for “Lance Armstrong.”

UPDATE: 

TechCrunch alliteratively reports today that Twitter has tweaked it’s title tags (try saying that 5 times fast) for user profiles, allowing them to better rank on Google search results. It’s a step closer to opening up a users influence beyond the number of followers they have, as we predicted:

“To this point, the “Twitterverse” has pretty much been living in a bubble – one where all updates are made and consumed within Twitter and its associated applications alone and where some believe that having 10,000 followers means that you are an authoritative or influential figure.  While I believe that is, in fact, the case for some (and I won’t diminish the value in having a large following), the volume of traffic some individual Twitter updates will receive from organic search will dwarf what they are typically able to generate from Twitter alone.  It also means that Twitter accounts with fewer followers – but with something important and to say on a given topic – will start to see some increased attention as well.  Much like many of the early bloggers did.  And when that happens, the whole question of influence and authority will once again be turned on its head.”

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