Twitter: Google Should Be Ranking Us Better For @username

    January 11, 2012
    Chris Crum

Twitter made it clear that it was not thrilled with Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” set of personalization features very shortly after it was announced.

Twitter General Counsel Alex Macgillivray tweeted:

Bad day for the Internet. Having been there, I can imagine the dissension @Google to search being warped this way. 1 day ago via web · powered by @socialditto

And the company emailed around a statement saying:

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet.

Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

Google responded (via Google+ of course):

“We are a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments about Search plus Your World, because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer (, and since then we have observed their rel=nofollow instructions.”

Twitter hasn’t responded to that, exactly (at least to my knowledge), but Macgillivray did tweet on the subject again, this time pointing to a specific example of where Twitter is taking a backseat to Google+ for the query “@WWE”:

In case you can’t see it well, the organic rankings are as follows: Official WWE site, WWE Google+ account and YouTube videos. The screen cap cuts of there, but after that comes WWE on Wikipedia, then WWE on Twitter.

Interestingly, when you hit the toggle button to display the results without Search Plus Your World, it makes no difference. I’m not sure if Twitter was ranking better for this prior to the rollout (my guess is not), but the fact that WWE on Google+ is ranking over WWE on Twitter in organic search seems like a separate issue (anti-competitive or not). Granted, Google+ does get the added boost from the prominent “People and Pages on Google+” section on the right-hand side, which is where much of the controversy lies.

Perhaps another question we should be asking is: does Twitter own the “@” symbol? When you search for @username, yes you are most likely looking for a Twitter account. Google knows this, I’m quite sure. It’s a valid point. But, on the other hand, the symbol has been adopted throughout social media, blog comments and forums simply as a way to address someone specific. Kind of like the hashtag has also been adopted by…Google+.

Danny Sullivan points out that Twitter still gets better placement for this query on Google than it does on Bing.

We’ll see if Google responds to this too.

By the way, it’s really easy to find WWE on Twitter. Even from Google. Type “WWE on Twitter” and boom. Top result.

More on Search Plus Your World:

Google Search Plus Your World May Draw FTC Complaint
Google’s Matt Cutts: “Search, Plus Your World” Returns More Than Just Google Content
Google “Search, Plus Your World” Makes Google More Personal Than Ever