How Tweets Rank In Google Searches

In early February, we discussed the implications for marketers and public relations professionals over the deal Google struck with Twitter to gain access to the social network’s firehose of data to incorporate tweets into search results. We also discussed the history leading to the Google/Twitter deal. The first tangible manifestations of that deal appeared in May when Google began to incorporate Tweets in mobile search results.

On Friday, Google flipped the switch to turn on tweets in desktop search results.

Currently, Google is displaying from five to eight tweets in search results in a carousel display that you can click forward and backward through and which displays the first two tweets by default. Tweets are not displayed of every search query but you will likely encounter them for trending topics, and for well-know brands and personalities.

Whenever something prompts a surge in activity on Twitter, you’ll likely see tweets show up for that topic in search results.

The tweets that are currently being displayed are rendered in near real-time. You will not see a list of live tweets scrolling by as they are posted but rather the freshest tweets that have been wrung through Google’s algorithm.

Here are six examples of how Google is currently displaying Tweets in desktop search results with some analysis on what might be influencing the ranking of tweets.

Six Examples Of How Tweets Rank In Google Search

1. Breaking News Tweets

This morning happened to provide us with an unhappy example of how a breaking news story shows up in tweets via Google search engine results pages. The #BlackMonday hashtag is trending this morning on Twitter and the following screenshot shows what a Google search for “Black Monday” currently looks like:

Screenshot: Black Monday Tweets in Google SERPs

The eight tweets listed in this Twitter carousel in search results were posted within the hour of the Google search query but were not listed sequentially. Those tweets all included the phrase “Black Monday” and were from:

  1. Eric Weiner (48 minutes ago), who has 375 followers and only 993 tweets but whom is the editor of Bloomberg Business (included tweet – 30 retweets, 37 favorites)
  2. Carlos Lozada (1 hour ago), who has 4,487 followers and is active on Twitter with more than 12,000 tweets but who is also a nonfiction book critic for the Washington Post, a former managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, and an adjunct journalism professor at Notre Dame (included tweet – 6 retweets, 4 favorites)
  3. Streetwise Prof (22 seconds ago), has only 1,865 followers but is the account for Craig Pirrong, who is Professor of Finance and Energy Markets Director of the Global Energy Management Institute at the Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, and the publisher of the Streetwise Professor blog (included tweet – 5 favorites)
  4. Marketplace (2 minutes ago), the account for the popular American Public Media business radio program (included tweet – 1 retweet)
  5. Chloe Hubbard (5 minutes ago), has only 1,481 followers but she is a journalist (included tweet – no retweets or favorites)
  6. Dan Kaszeta (5 minutes ago), has only 2,275 followers but who appears to be a business security expert (included tweet – 1 retweet)
  7. The Journal ie (6 minutes ago), is the account for The Journal, “Ireland’s no.1 online news source” (included tweet – 2 retweets, 2 favorites)
  8. Official Rahul Tyagi (6 minutes ago), is a cyber security expert and author (included tweet – no retweets or favorites)

For this particular story, Google is clearly giving a preference to Tweets from trusted sources such as news organizations or journalists, or individuals with topical expertise who are associated with a relevant organization. Given that the first three tweets also had some engagement metrics associated with them, it’s fair to wonder and logical to assume that retweets and favorites may also factor into tweet visibility within search results.

2. Sporting Event Tweets

This screenshot shows tweets about the Minnesota Vikings for a Google search  for the #Vikings hashtag during the Vikings pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders.

Screenshot: Minnesota Vikings Tweets In Google SERPs

You can see from this example that the first two tweets listed in the carousel are from the official accounts of the teams that are playing each other. Given the fluid nature of sporting events and how people react to individual plays during the course of a game, recency is likely to be a strong factor for sporting events, in addition to authority and engagement.

3. Television Show Tweets

Fear the Walking Dead, the spinoff from AMC’s hit Walking Dead series, aired the pilot episode on Sunday. Here’s a screenshot from last night for a search for the #FearTheWalkingDead hashtag:

Screenshot: Fear The Walking Dead Tweets In Google SERPS

Like sporting events, people will react to the on-going action unfolding during television programs. One added dimension to this particular Twitter activity is the participation of the actors and actresses themselves during the show. Those tweets will likely enjoy much greater weight for visibility in search results.

This screencast video demonstrates both how people react on Twitter to a television program (using Glee as the example) and shows how Google used Twitter data from their previous deal in 2009:

4. Personality Tweets

Well-known personalities who have an active Twitter account will now see an accompanying tweet carousel in search results for their name. Here’s a screenshot for a search for “Donald Trump” featuring tweets from the official @RealDonaldTrump account:

Screenshot: Donald Trump Tweets in Google SERPs

5. Brand Tweets

3M Tweets In Google Search Results

This screenshot for a search for 3M (a client) demonstrates how positioning of the Twitter carousel within the search results depends upon the nature of the search query. In this instance, Google assumes local intent and displays the Map Pack followed by two official brand domains before listing the tweet carousel.

It is notable that the Twitter carousel is displayed before Wikipedia, which has traditionally enjoyed top search ranking for many searches. It is also notable that the Twitter carousel also appears before the In The News block, though that would likely change were media actively covering a story about 3M.

Screenshot: 3M Tweets In Google SERPS

Karwoski & Courage Tweets In Google Search Results

Here’s a screenshot of a search for “Karwoski & Courage.” As with the same query on a mobile device, we get a carousel featuring our most recent tweets. Take note that our tweets include images, which tend to draw the eye. Including images in tweets should be standard practice by now, but if you need more evidence for why you should do that, here you go:

Screenshot: Karwoski and Courage Tweets In Google SERPS

6. Twitter-Specific Conversations

Finally, there are some conversations that are if not unique, particularly active, on Twitter.

Twitter chats are an obvious example of a type of online conversation that is unique to the channel. But there are other Twitter conversations that you can depend on occurring routinely. For such continual hashtag-based conversations, you will likely find related tweets included in search results. Here’s an example using the #MusicMonday hashtag:

Screenshot: MusicMonday Tweets in Google SERPs

3 Considerations For Optimizing Your Tweets For Search

There are several things you’ll want to consider now that your tweets have the possibility of finding their way into search results:

1. Keyword Research

If you’ve already done keyword research for the queries that are relevant to your business and brand, then it would be a good idea to take a fresh look at that research to inform how you want to craft your tweets. If have not done keyword research or it has been some time since your last survey, now might be a good time to take on that project.

2. Tweet Frequency

If you’ve let your Twitter presence languish and tweet only occasionally, you might want to devote some time and energy to be more active using the channel by tweeting more frequently and following and engaging with other accounts that are relevant to your business. Google is frequently refreshing the tweets in search results, so if you’re not active on Twitter daily, you shouldn’t expect to get any visibility for your tweets in search results.

3. Topic Authority

As you saw from the breaking news example, Google appears to favor those accounts it considers credible sources for a given search phrase. There are likely two algorithms at work here: Twitter’s and Google’s.

Think about the topics you discuss in your tweets and wether those are topics for which you want to be found in search results.

For those topics for which your business or brand is an expert, consider how others are reacting to your tweets about those topics:

  • Do they Favorite them?
  • Do they Retweet them?
  • Are you being added to Twitter Lists that contain keywords related to your topic?
  • Are people who are themselves experts or authorities for that topic following you and engaging with your tweets?

Those are likely social authority signals that Google will factor into its own Twitter algorithm.

Keep in mind that this is the first iteration of Google’s inclusion of tweets in search and in all likelihood, it will not be the last. So while the manner in which Google displays tweets is almost certain to change in some way, shape or form, if you simply keep in mind that Google wants the most relevant content for any given search, you’ll be on the right track.

As you can see, and as we’ve been saying for some time, Twitter is an increasingly important aspect of public relations.

The e-Strategy Academy covers all aspects of digital marketing including search optimization & marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing & public relations.