SEO · Twitter

Twitter SEO – the Future of Keywords

The future in search appears to be how real-time data is going to be accessed by users. Twitter is at the forefront of this with its enormous feed of status updates from its users.

As we speak, the data is being parsed by hundreds of websites that use the Twitter API. This data is manipulated in many different ways. However, there is one way to search this data that will always be true, keywords.

We all know how important keywords are in content thanks to Google. Twitter is teaching us how important these keywords are in our Tweets. Relationships are created via the keywords that are in the Tweets and people are finding Tweets based on those keyword searches.

There are two types of keywords on Twitter.

The first is actual keywords as you imagine them, such as “seo” and then the hash tag version of keyword, such as “#seo”.

The first version, the actual keyword, is where I believe the future of Twitter exists. Let us take Google as an example. As we all know, arguably, meta data holds very little to no weight with Google (specifically the meta keywords). Hash tags are essentially meta keywords.

But for this particular article, I will focus on the first version of a keyword (without hash tags). I will address hash tags in depth in a following article.

The future of keywords on Twitter.

In a character constrained world, timing and placement is everything. That is to say that where and how you use keywords in your Tweets is important.

There are a few things you must remember when using keywords on Twitter:

  • Twitter search has problems with punctuation.
    On more than one occasion, I have witnessed an exclamation point next to a keyword be picked up as part of the keyword. e.g. “apples!” Which means I did not show up for that search (apples) because I placed my intended keyword next to punctuation (in this case, an exclamation point). I would expect this to be fixed in the ensuing months.
  • Twitter uses absolute match.
    A search for “apple” will not yield results for “apples” and vice versa. Due to this, it is important to use different variations of a keyword in a tweet if it applies.
  • Word recognition.
    Twitter currently does not have the ability to understand that “closetdoor” is two words. It also does not understand misspelled words. However, “closetdoor” will show in search results for “closet”.
  • Shortened URLs are fair game for keywords.
    I recently did research into shortened URLs and found that keywords located in the shortened urls are as important as keywords in the Tweet, arguably more.
  • Timing is everything.
    In the real-time search world, the timing of your tweet is critical. This could be why popular tweeters blast out 5-10 tweets simultaneously at peak hours.

Google has spoiled us with their search capabilities.

When something like Twitter comes along and produces results that aren’t exactly what we are looking for even if it is showing results for exactly what we searched for, it makes us realize how good we had it with Google. Google was once explained to me as, “They just know what I am looking for.”.

This is why I believe the future is in natural keywords in the tweets. Soon Twitter will not need us to tell them which keywords are important with a hash, they will just know. I may be giving them too much credit and over-simplifying search, but Twitter will become better at search either by themselves or opening up their data to someone such as Google.

Food For Thought

If you’re open to a new URL shortener, take a gander at http://9mp.com/branding.php. It explains how you can utilize keywords in a shortened URL.

e.g. http://seo.9mp.com/K1y/twitter
e.g. http://seo.9mp.com/K1y

As I stated earlier, I have noticed popular Twitterers are using software that schedule their Tweets. It is conceivable how releasing 5 tweets targetted at certain keywords could put the tweets at the top of search results for a short period of time, thus driving massive traffic. I have not personally used http://TweetLater.com, but I have had it recommended to me.

If you have any additional suggestions or experience with anything mentioned in this article, please feel free to leave a comment so that we can start a dialogue.

Joshua Odmark is a technology consultant at Simply Ideas LLC and also blogs for Performance Marketing Blog. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Comments are closed.

41 thoughts on “Twitter SEO – the Future of Keywords

  1. Joshua, Great article! It is so important, especially for those who are doing Social Media Marketing, to understand that tweets are indexed in the search engines. Too often, the SEO benefit of Twitter is overlooked.

    The words closer to the beginning of a tweet appear to more important for indexing. This is a good reason to put the RT @username at the end of a retweeted tweet that contains strong keywords.

    Of course, we don’t need to think about optimizing every tweet. You share some great points and insight. Well done!

  2. Thanks Dana!

    So you feel that keywords at the beginning of the tweet are more powerful than at the end of the tweet?

    In my research I found people adding keywords to the end of the tweets, rather than at the beginning. I took this to mean that the end of the Tweet was the most important “part” of the tweet.

    Surely location is going to matter in some respect. For example, keywords immediately after a URL, or even, immediately before.

    An interesting suggestion none-the-less. I will have to explore ;). If you have any articles on the matter, I would greatly appreciate it.

  3. Honestly, you need to check out Tweetlater. You can simplify the who Twitter “work” by post dating all of you tweets at peak periods.

  4. The problem with blasting out 5-10 tweets is the appearance of being SPAM. While it helps with visibility for those searching…but for those already following you, you may find yourself blocked if they don’t like seeing 5 or more repeat messages coming across. You no longer appear as someone with something interesting to say, but more as a bot on a schedule.

    I don’t think there is any compromise for being visible to searches and not irritating followers. It’s one or the other…isn’t it?

  5. S.J. Mitchell, that is exactly how I feel.

    But you can do it over a 5-10 minute period. Rather than using the same identical tweets, you create 5 unique tweets all referencing equally valuable 3rd party resources, such as SEJ, TechCrunch, etc.

    Spam is a huge problem on Twitter, and it is only going to get worse.

  6. Good info. Are there any blogs who specifically cover possible twitter search optimization? Or is it too early for that?

  7. I am sure one exists, but it seems to be too early.

    Is there something specific you are looking for? I might be able to help with that.

    With the hiring spree Twitter is on, and who they are hiring, it suggest they are going to be building their own powerful search tool.

    I hope they work out a deal with Google though. I don’t think they can produce a search that is as powerful as Google’s.

  8. Twitter’s search will only be as powerful as the links attached to the keywords. Often times you find people attaching spam links to messages that involve “trending topics” because they know it will gain the most exposure.

    If you search for keywords and get a lot of conversation and no links to websites that reference the dialogue…the search you just made has been rendered useless. That’s why Google is well ahead of the game still. It’s not a conversation/micro-blogging platform, it’s a search engine with valuable information at your fingertips. Twitter is still a fledgling party room where you go to migrate with those talking about similar interests; albeit with a few viable links scattered about.

    A search in Twitter is much like showing up at a family reunion and shouting “Did anyone see the game last night?” once you see a raise of hands…you head over to that group to discuss it.

    With Google you enter “Last night’s game” and you get news articles, team websites, forums, blogs, fan sites etc. but no conversation.

    I feel the focus on search between Twitter and Google is Apples to Oranges at this stage.

  9. Well put.

    My point of view is a bit more of the technical aspect.

    We accept that Twitter provides real-time data that needs to be accessed in real-time. Google’s infrastructure is what would allow them to mold their technology around this concept.

    It is like taking a product that was built for something else, and modifying it to work in a slightly different way, but still within the vertical market.

    Google indexes and returns accurate results based on keyword searches. Granted, currently there must be a delay that allows Google to compile the results, but I bet they are putting more hampsters on the hampster wheel trying to remove that “delay”.

  10. Twitter certainly has a bit more work to do on their search results, but I think the point of the article is a good one. Real time search data is very useful. How do you currently optimize for twitter search?

  11. Joshua, excellent article and interesting thoughts around hash tags.

    I think at some point they could become irrelevant as the search algorithm on twitter matures.

    Now if only Google & Twitter would play nice together it would create some real value for twitter users and possible advertisers.

  12. Yes exactly Matt.

    Imagine if Microsoft acquired Twitter. What a waste that would be.

    But then again, if Google buys Twitter it will be another step towards Skynet.

  13. You are exactly right about using keywords in your Twitter posts; I don’t think most people have not even thought about it. Using keywords in the links is contrary to 95% of the people how post on Twitter and shorten there url’s automatically. But I guess that’s what makes SEO so much fun, going against the herd. I have been using new software that lets you shorten your own url, and adds any keyword you like to the end. Not new technology by any means, but works well for branding your own url and adding keywords.

  14. Very interesting points, Joshua. Concerning hashtags I don’t agree they compare to meta tags because they’re visible so can be used as a strong signal. On top of that they do an amazing job to thread conversations. I don’t believe engines can do a better job than people, especially given limitations to infer context.

  15. Marcos, you make a great observation.

    My biggest stink with hash tags is the fact that they are not natural. If I want to tag something with lets say, Affiliate Convention, it is not natural to type #affiliateconvention.

    Futhermore, without proper capitalization, they are difficult to read.

    I have so many reasons I am against hash tags that it warrants a follow up article. Which as I mentioned, I am working on.

  16. Very true. Most of the times hashtags suck. They’re useful only as a convention among several people (e.g #iranelection). On the other hand, Squarepaces just managed to mess the hashtags concept giving ipods to be hashtagged in any tweet.
    Definitely they have to be treated with caution. Looking forward your next article, Joshua!

  17. Great article and excellent insight. I agree that keywords will be important for a long time to come, but I also agree that Twitter is going to be a part of search more and more in the future. Thanks!

  18. I am sorry to say but although we love twitter and as such we also enjoy the SEO topics associated with it, on the forefront of technology the future of Twitter is not secured, even after the iranian bust.
    The way google position the Wave and the way that protocol works there is a better solution to the paradigm of a family reunion.
    The ability of google later to harvest the data and Googlize it is also secure so search will be natural rather then imposed as in the twitter case.

  19. I think one very important point was left out of this article… Language usage on Twitter is not the norm. People only have 140 characters and tend to truncate words or use abbreviations in order to fit within that restriction. This especially applies to hash tags. Furthermore …

    I think if you are advocating optimizing your tweets for keywords or using a tool like Tweet Later (which seems to be designed to facilitate Tweet spam) then you are misunderstanding the true value of Twitter from a marketing perspective.

    Its about conversations. If you don’t understand how that applies to Marketing, then you are a bit behind.

    “I believe the future is in natural keywords in the tweets.”

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, if this does, I apologize. If everyone adopted the general principal upon which this article was written, Twitter would soon be of no value to anyone. People would leave in droves due to all the spam and then the spammers would only be spamming each other.

    When SEOs look at something from only the SEO perspective, we tend to shoot ourselves in the foot more often than not. This is a perfect example.

  20. I completely disagree.

    To quote you, “If everyone adopted the general principal upon which this article was written, Twitter would soon be of no value to anyone.’

    You preceded this with my prediction that the future of Twitter is in natural keywords.

    You’re saying the future of Twitter is not natural keywords, it is in fact “abbreviations and truncate words”?

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I would suggest changing the “WE” to be “You and the people you know” for the SEO perspective.

  21. LOL … I’ll would agree to disagree for sure if you understood my point at all, so I guess not.

    And your right, I am sorry for including you in the “We”. My apologies.

  22. There is a gap between what you call “conversations” and people finding those conversations.

    Furthermore, just calling them conversations is simplifying a complex idea.

    Twitter is about conversations, but if you’re not in the conversation, then what? Can it still provide value to you? Of course.

    But if you were in the conversation, and read my article, you could have shaped your tweets in the conversation in such a way as to help others find your tweets and the conversation it is associated with.

    Does that make sense?

    I am trying to understand your point of view.

  23. Joshua, I suggest you read a couple of books. One called “Cluetrain Manifesto” and one called “Naked Conversations”. Once you do, hit me up on email and we can discuss further or you could DM @JohnCarcutt

    Keywords are not (and probably will never be) how information spreads via Twitter. Conversations, RTs and Community should be your focus. If you are trying to get your tweets indexed for a specific keyword, good luck with your link building campaigns.

    BTW: I wouldn’t worry to much about Twitter being indexed in search engines until they fix their duplicate content issue with http: and https:

    I see tweets fall in and out of SERPs on a regular basis depending on which version is indexed on any particular day.

    ALSO: Rreferencing tools such as “Tweet Later” shows me you are not thinking about the full ramifications of your “advice”. That tools is designed for the Tweet Spammer 100%. Here look at some of the “Pro” features.

    “Unlimited Twitter accounts”
    “Do the same action on multiple accounts”
    “Schedule recurring tweets”
    “Run your own Twitter bots”

    Sound like someone you would want to follow or have follow you? I know this is not a tool I would recommend to anyone.

  24. “Keywords are not (and probably will never be) how information spreads via Twitter.”

    What do you call trending topics?

    “I wouldn’t worry to much about Twitter being indexed in search engines until they fix their duplicate content issue with http: and https:”

    That was never a focus of the article.

    Just because spammers use a service does not make it a bad service. And just because you don’t see the value of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any value.

  25. WOW .. thought you were trying to understand my point of view .. my mistake.

    I take it back, don’t email or DM me please. Anyone else interested in my point of view… feel free.

    No point in beating a dead horse, done here.

    1. I agree with you 100% John. I think Joshua might have taken your comment a little too personally. Twitter is a conversation tool. IMHO I see it more valuable as a communication engine that will become integrated into devices like Cars (GPS tweets location), local business review sites like @foursquare and possibly payments.

      For me SEO is trite. Good SEO is simple, tell the truth about yourself and do it often and couth – Google will follow.

      :D

  26. Clearly you’re onto something advanced.

    So advanced that it is beyond our understanding and that of Twitter.

    You should direct message @Twitter with your findings. Don’t forget to send them the titles of the books you mentioned.

    They must have this keyword thing all wrong. They are using natural keywords and hash tag keywords as trending topics to “spread information on Twitter”.

  27. Escuse me John but according to your comment
    “Keywords are not (and probably will never be) how information spreads via Twitter. Conversations, RTs and Community should be your focus.”
    How will i find my group to join to? how will groups unite to make bigger groups? what is the way that information is to flow amongst groups?
    Since we are talking about information there should be some way to link information.
    What is the replacement of keywords?
    Dont beat me if it is hiding in one of your posts i nearly trying to understand.

  28. I don’t follow keywords, I follow people. If they’re interesting in themselves (Wil Wheaton) or they pass on interesting links (Lew Rockwell – economist) then they stay on my list. I tweet back and forth with a name SEO I know now and then, and also one or two folk I know personally. But mostly I check people out, see if they have interesting to say. I’ve tried following industry leaders, but these guys don’t make great tweeters. I think myself longterm to market on Twitter you’ll have to research someone with many genuine followers who’ll be interested in your product, and get him/her to tweet about it. Twitter isn’t anything we know, it’s its own thing, and it’s developing still. It’s personality-driven, it’s most akin to broadcasting. Everyone who tweets is a DJ with their own radio station, and you find stations you like and tune into all of them.

    BB

  29. I agree that keywords are important today. How could they not be? And sure, you should be tweeting with certain practical rules in mind, so the essence and impact of your message doesn’t get lost in a retweet or reply.

    Nevertheless, I would refrain from stating that keywords are “one way to search this data that will always be true”. Keywords are our unfortunate heritage from the pre-web era when we used search with text documents. We’re dragging this litter ever since like a broken trailer.

    Keywords will diminish sooner than we’d think. Just think about natural language processing in the semantic web. Of course there are more drastic attempts at getting rid of keywords, but those are in an early experimental phase.

    @DanielStocker