The announcement of Twitter’s new deal with Google, giving the search giant access to Twitter’s firehose of real-time tweets, once again highlights the micro-blog giant’s determination to advance and evolve into new avenues of profitability. While the latest Twitter numbers showed user growth is still slowing, revenue numbers have continued to increase, indicating that Twitter is on track to produce significant profit in the near future. Through increased advertising options and steps taken towards monetizing every aspect of Twitter’s audience, there’s a lot to like about the company’s future, and those innovations, many of which have come in quick succession, underline its place as the real-time social network of choice – but what will the Google deal actually mean?
The Rise of Social Search
This isn’t the first time Twitter and Google have combined their powers. Between 2009 and 2011, Google indexed tweets, till there was a disagreement between the parties and the relationship ended. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, in the company’s Q4 earnings call, made it clear that the new deal with Google was not the same as the previous one, meaning it will likely be more sophisticated and complex, which makes sense, given Twitter’s growth since the cessation of the previous pact. For Twitter, it gives them exposure and access to a whole new audience of ‘logged-out’ users, which the company estimates increase its reach by some 600 million people in addition to its ‘logged-in’ user base. For Google, it helps them maintain the battle for search eyeballs, with an increasing number of people turning to social for search purposes. This was underlined in by Facebook’s search upgrade in December 2014, enabling users to search for content posted by friends and people within their extended networks. The evolution of social search no doubt has Google slightly spooked, as the pervasiveness of word-of-mouth is significantly more compelling that product reviews and hand-picked testimonials. The deal makes perfect sense, but the make-up of the actual functions will be of significant interest, particularly to those in the SEO and digital marketing arenas.
The Possibilities of Innovation
While the enhanced indexing of tweets is, in itself, significant, it’s likely, also, that tweets will be given a different prominence in search results. Google’s indicated that a new version of ‘Google Real Time Search’ would be unlikely, but what we may see is more innovative integration of tweets into search streams. A break out option, for example, where you may see a clickable indicator in your Google search results saying ‘there have been X tweets about this subject in the last 24 hours’ to provide additional context around a search term’s popularity and link users directly to that conversation. Options like this would give Google users a more expansive view of the topic they’re investigating, providing additional context and giving them access to that important word-of-mouth insight. Google Trends too will benefit from having access to tweets – rather than tweets having their own separate search function, a new option in Trends could better enable specific Twitter data searches. Such functionality is essentially already available through apps like Topsy, but Trends might be able to do this with more oomph, more expansive data mapping functionality, powered by Google.
It’ll also be interesting to see if there’s specific integration of Twitter data into other Google properties, like Google Maps. We’ve already seen the power of Twitter data in highlighting sentiment across different regions – visualisations like those available on Twitter’s #Interactive showcase, mapping the popularity of sports teams or the details of election results, are extremely popular and effective in communicating the expanses of Twitter’s data insight. While the more complex elements of such analysis will always require expert input (likely through Twitter’s own Gnip), there may be ways to integrate Google and Twitter data to give users to ability to map their own correlations, specific to their region. Of course, these are just possibilities and speculations, but the opportunities of an improved, enhanced, Twitter/Google partnership are exciting, and may help strengthen both companies in the battle against Zuckerberg’s towering behemoth.
The SEO Factor
And then there’s SEO. The integration of Twitter data into search results, likely in ways we’ve not seen before, could make Twitter a key element of the SEO process. Giving tweets more prominence already points to this, but a new Twitter indexing process could put more emphasis on the importance of brands being active on Twitter generally. What if someone goes searching for your products or services and a tweet from your competitor appears, high in the search results, with a message that resonates with that customer? You may have just lost that sale by virtue of not being present or not engaging via tweets.
At present, the main motivator for Twitter in this new deal appears to be the ability to show more ads to casual users and provide more incentive to get new people active on the platform, but as noted by Danny Sullivan in Marketing Land’s FAQ on the new deal:
Partnering fully with Google will make it likely much more of Twitter’s relevant content will appear before Google visitors, sending Twitter lots of traffic that it can use to convert into new Twitter users or to show ads.”
If relevant tweets are more likely to appear to searchers – customers seeking to inform their purchase decisions via Google research – the need to have your content appear high in those results will also be more pressing. If your brand isn’t active on Twitter, this may be a new element to consider in your SEO process.
Twitter’s noted that it’ll take several months for any changes to appear, and we’ll obviously hear more when the time comes, but it’s interesting to consider the possibilities and motivations behind this move. Either way, Twitter’s latest changes, and the speed at which they’re implementing new processes and innovations, bode well for the future relevance of the platform. Maybe nothing major comes of the Google/Twitter deal, but all indications are that this will be significant. How significant, exactly, only time will tell.