On 5th February we reported breaking news that Google and Twitter had re-established relations after a four-year standoff. The new deal again allows the search giant access to Twitter’s “Firehose” data stream. But since then, there’s been radio silence – a verbal void that’s generated enormous speculation around what search results will look like and how Google will use the Twitter data. Search expert Miriam Hirschman, writing this week in SearchEngineLand, has offered some informed suggestions.
We already know from Google itself that its breathtakingly sophisticated algorithm picks up well over 200 “signals” (i.e., region, terms on site, freshness of content and so on) which between them help determine each individual search’s unique results. Now, with access to Twitter’s tweets restored, Hirschman identifies four categories of Twitter signal that Google will likely include in its search results:
- Trend strength (literally, how many people are talking about a given trend at any one time). Signals: frequency of hashtag and keyword use.
- Tweet strength (how popular a specific tweet is, as measured by how many people have interacted with it). Signals: Retweets, Favourites, Video plays, Link clicks.
- User Influence (the strength of a specific user as indicated by his or her follower network). Signals: Follower/Following ratios, Follower numbers, @mentions and Lists included in.
- Link/Page Strength (a measure of traffic to sites beyond Twitter itself generated by links within Twitter). Signals: Link Clicks, # Links to a specific page.
An additional signal – time – runs through all of them: Google is bringing the real-time web back into its search results, so it’s likely to keep tabs on what links have attracted the most links in the last 24 hours and what’s trending right this moment.
In the absence of any statement (yet) from Google, no one can be sure which of these metrics it will use or how they’ll be blended into existing algorithms. What we do know is that currently, before opening that tweet-filled firehose, Google indexes only about 7 per cent of tweets. However, after the firehose is opened and all tweets become indexable, how will search engine results be influenced?
Hirschman answers succinctly:
“That’s something we can only make a reasonable guess about. But what is clear is that it will be ever more important for both companies and individuals to invest in their social engagement.”