Google and Twitter have been teasing us with a new integration of tweets into Google search results for months, but this week they finally made the official announcement. Real-time tweets are now showing in Google search results on mobile devices with desktop integration to come soon.
What do you think of the new feature? Do you see any opportunities to help your site or online presence? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The integration takes the form of a carousel that appears in search results, which lets you swipe sideways to see various tweets. It only appears on some searches, and it's unclear how and when exactly Google decides to show them. The examples we've seen have been for Twitter profile searches, celebrity searches, and newsy/trendy topic searches.
The placement of the tweets in search results varies. I assume it's based on now relevant Google feels those tweets are to a particular search. If the search is related to an event, perhaps Google will be more likely to show them toward the top while it's actually happening. I'm only speculating.
Google isn't saying much of anything about how it determines what tweets to show or how it shows them. It's refusing to answer questions about this, and the blog posts from both Twitter and Google on the integration are pretty short and vague. It's easy to understand why this would be the case. They don't want people to game the system and abuse the feature.
It's entirely possible that we're only seeing the very beginning of what Google will ultimately do with its newfound tweet access. We spoke with Stone Temple Consulting's Eric Enge about the new integration, and he believes Google will be doing a lot of experimenting and potentially evolving its use of the tweets.
Earlier this year, after Google's deal with Twitter was announced, we had a conversation with Enge about some studies his company had conducted, including one that analyzed Google's use of tweets at the time. There were a lot of interesting findings in those, which you can learn more about here. Now that the new integration is live, we wanted to see what Enge thought about it, and if he can see any validations or contradictions to what the study found. Here's what he told us:
Right now the integration between Google and Twitter is quite light. Currently, it’s only visible from Smartphone devices. In addition, it’s clear that they are experimenting. For example, when you search on a name, such as "Taylor Swift”, you see tweets that she has put out there. Yet, the initial release showed tweets that mentioned her. This is typical of Google, where they experiment with different implementations to see what works best, before settling on one for the longer term. I expect this experimentation to continue.
What this means for visibility in the short term is not much at all. This process is in the very early stages. Think of this as Google proving that they can access, process, and leverage the data from the Twitter firehose. I’d expect more substantial integration sometime soon. The whole process may take months to play out.
What I’d love to see is Google do something involving personalization related to Twitter. I.e., if you share a link in a tweet, and then later search on a related topic, that particular article might rank higher in the search results. I have no way to know if they are getting enough info to implement something like this, but it would be a very cool feature for them to be able to add.
As you know, our two most well-known studies on Twitter evaluated how Google Indexes tweets, and how to maximize Twitter engagement. The current integration tests between Google and Twitter don’t really feature anything that would dramatically change the conclusions of either of those studies. I think the real story is yet to come.
Frankly, I expect both studies to change. Twitter indexing could well skyrocket, as our indexing study showed indexation rates for Tweets of just over 7%. Imagine if this jumps to 50% or more. This could be a huge deal!
In addition, the simple act of rendering tweets in search results will not create a new source of engagement, which is whether or not you are able to get displayed. In particular, how timely are you with Tweeting our news. If you are fast with this, your tweet will get far more attention than ever before.
Overall, I think this initial integration is big news because it’s the start of a process. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the story unfolds!
It does seem like Google may use hashtag searches as an indication of when users might want to see tweets. While not all hashtag searches yield twitter results, others mainly related to things that are being talked about a lot at the time do.
Under Google's previous Twitter deal, it had a realtime search feature, which included tweets in addition to content from other services. It would be cool if they could bring content from other sources like Instagram, Facebook, etc. into the carousel, at least for hashtag searches as hashtags extend well beyond the Twittervese these days. Either way, Google's approach seems like all the more reason to include hashtags in tweets for visibility purposes. It is unclear how often people are actually searching Google for hashtags however.
As you can see in the screenshots, the tweet section displays media (images/gifs/videos) from tweets. This seems like a greater incentive to include media in tweets, as they are more eye catching on the Google results page.
In terms of which tweets Google chooses to show, it could be taking any variety of factors into account. It does say "Popular on Twitter," on some carousel results, but it sometimes shows tweets that are only seconds old and haven't had much time to become too popular, so it's likely taking other popularity signals into account. Possibly follower count or popularity of shared links, for example.
In its initial blog post, Google showed an example of a search for Malcolm X, and included a tweet from Stacy Parker LeMelle, who has 10.5K followers. The tweet was just 12 seconds old. Google is likely using the popularity of the actual link being shared as a signal as well. That same tweet included a link from the New York Times, which was no doubt shared plenty of times.
Excerpt - Malcolm X - By Manning Marable http://t.co/X1eSg0qRmo /I highly recommend Marable's biography. Happy birthday to you, Malcolm.
— Stacy Parker LeMelle (@StacyLeMelle) May 19, 2015
Ahead of the actual integration launched, we also talked with Conversocial CEO Joshua March about how it might impact the reputations of Twitter users and businesses. It may be early in Google's integration, but as it stands now, it does make the tweets quite prominent, particularly when they appear at the top of the page. The lessons from that discussion pretty much still apply to what Google has already rolled out.
"Tweets from customers about issues or bad service experiences could be on the front page," said March. "If businesses have a social first approach to customer service then they can tackle these quickly and head on, creating positive engagements that will show up instead. This deal has the potential to accelerate the kind of service-related Twitter crises many brands have already experienced.”
If nothing else, the feature could net some who show up in search results some new Twitter followers.
What are your initial impressions of the rollout? Do you like Google's approach? How would you like to see them change it? Share your thoughts in the comments.