How Will Twitter Affect Search?
2 min read

How Will Twitter Affect Search?

Blogging and search have been good to each other overall. Bloggers have cranked out millions of links, which drive search algorithms, and in turn search has rewarded bloggers by ranking their content high in search results, which is to a large degree a function of bloggers giving each other so many links. (Blogging platforms like Google-owned Blogger are also a vehicle for spamming search engines to generate Google AdSense revenue, but that’s another story.)

What I’m wondering is — how will Twitter affect search, and what will search make of Twitter?

Much of the hype over Twitter has characterized it as short-form blogging. But if you look at a Twitter pages and see all the messaging going on (e.g. @thisguy), it appears that Twitter is as much if not more a form of public instant messaging.

Nonetheless, many prominent bloggers are channeling content into Twitter instead of their blogs. Jason Calacanis announced he was taking a month off from blogging but would continue to post to Twitter. Looking at Jason’s and other Twitter pages, the content on these pages raises a number of interesting issues for link-driven search algorithms:****

  1. Links from individual Twitter pages on the domain already has a PageRank of 8 out of 10. Jason Calacanis’ blog has a PR of 7. But Jason’s Twitter page only has a PageRank of 3.

2. Use of TinyURL for links

With 140 characters per post, many Twitter users are using TinyURL. Here’s one of Jason’s Twitter posts:

how much equity do digg shareholders get in Kevin Rose’s 3rd startup? :-)

3. No anchor text for links that use the direct URL

Twitter doesn’t permit the use of HTML. From Jason:

davewiner on podcast device…

4. Little surrounding context for links

Again, with only 140 characters, there’s not much room for keyword rich context. From Jason:

i love

5. Fewer links overall

Many Twitter posts make references to ongoing Twitter conversations, with no referring URL. From Jason:

doesn’t that guy have a non-compete or something!?! whoever did his employment contract please call me… I want that deal!

and also from Jason:

@Genuine: that webpage showing AdSense earnings is FALSE/MISLEADING. I didn’t make $100k a month in ADSENSE.. WEBLOGSINC DID…w/ 75 blogs!!

6. Not much linking to Twitter posts

You rarely see one Twitter post link to another because the assumption is that everyone has added each other as friends and that everyone is following the conversation. Twitter posts also contain so little information that there is little reason to link to them from non-Twitter sites. So with no links in, it will be more difficult for search algorithms to determine the value of links out. So on the rare occasion that a Twitter post does contain useful information that someone might want to find, it will be difficult for that information to rank high in search results.

Twitter may represent a new paradigm for online communication and information sharing, but it’s definitely not enriching the link-driven semantic web.