Weekly SEO news: 12 January 2010
Welcome to latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

How does Google rank tweets in the real-time results? The Google engineer who led Google's real-time search development shares some insights.

In the news: the latest search engine statistics, Bing changes the result pages for some queries, Yahoo's social plans and more.

Table of contents:

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Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Official Google statement: how Google ranks tweets

Last month, Google started to display real-time results in addition to the regular top 10 pages on their search result pages. The real-time results are meant to offer web searchers access to brand new news items as fast as possible.


The main element of Google's real-time results are tweets. Tweets are the real-time messages that Twitter users post on Twitter.com. Google's Amit Singhal, who led the development of Google's real-time search, recently revealed how Google ranks tweets in the real-time results.

There's some kind of PageRank just for tweets

Google's PageRank algorithm looks at the link structure of a web page. The more websites link to a website and the more websites link to the linking websites the more relevant is the linked website.

Tweets are not about links but about followers. On Twitter.com, people "follow" the comments of other Twitter users. The more followers a Twitter user has, the more reputable are the tweets of that user. If Twitter users that have many followers follow another Twitter user then these users will have a larger impact on the reputation of that user.

"It is more than a popularity contest", said Google's Amit Singhal. "One user following another in social media is analogous to one page linking to another on the Web. Both are a form of recommendation.

As high-quality pages link to another page on the Web, the quality of the linked-to page goes up. Likewise, in social media, as established users follow another user, the quality of the followed user goes up as well."

There are additional filters and algorithms

The follower reputation rank is only one of Google's methods to rank tweets:

  1. Hashtags

    Twitter users often use "hashtags" in their comments. Hashtags are symbols that start with a # followed by a popular topic, for example #earthquake.

    If such a hashtag is included in a tweet, the tweet will show up in the real-time results when other Twitter users click the hashtag's topic word elsewhere on the site.

  2. Spam

    While hashtags can be useful to maximize the exposure of a tweet, they are also often abused for spamming. The wrong hashtags can serve as a red flag that triggers Google's spam filters.

    Amit Singhal didn't go into the details but he said that Google modeled the hashtagging behavior in ways that tend to reduce the exposure of low-quality tweets.

  3. The signal in the noise

    There can be thousands of tweets that contain a very popular word such as "Obama". To find the relevant tweets, Google looks for "signals in the noise". Such a signal can be an increasing number of tweets that mention other words near mentions of "Obama", for example "Cambridge police". The tweets with the signals will be chosen for the real-time results.

The problem with Google's real-time results is that they don't last. The time and efforts that you have to invest in getting listed in Google's real-time results is better spent on optimization for Google's regular results.

If your website is listed in Google's regular results, it will usually stay there for a long time. Real-time results last only a few minutes (often less). To get in Google's regular top 10 results analyze your website with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer.

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2. Search engine news and articles of the week

Number of clicks comScore releases January 2009 U.S. search engine rankings

"Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in December with 63.0 percent of the searches conducted, followed by Yahoo! Sites (21.0 percent), Microsoft Sites (8.5 percent), AOL LLC (3.9 percent) and Ask Network (3.7 percent). [...]

Americans conducted 13.5 billion searches at the core search engines, up 7 percent from December. Google Sites handled 8.5 billion core searches, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 2.8 billion and Microsoft Sites with 1.1 billion. [...]

Google Sites led with 11.7 billion searches, up 5 percent versus December. Yahoo! Sites ranked second with nearly 3 billion searches, followed by Microsoft Sites (1.2 billion) and AOL LLC (781 million)."

Discussion: Bing automatically shows results for related queries

"Checking Bing SERPS today (admittedly not something I do very often) I see they've started embedded search results for 3-5 related queries. That's fine, but as part of doing that they are now show only 5 results for the primary query. Seems like it makes it harder to rank for the target query, but could also be a way to get on page one for some competitive keywords."

Editor's note: If you want to get in Bing's top 10 results, try IBP's Top 10 Optimizer with Bing. IBP supports Bing for many countries, including the USA, the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Spain and many more countries.

Yahoo Yahoo's big plan for the social web in 2010: aggregate it

"When it comes to the social web, the company does have a master plan, said Yahoo’s Cody Simms and Chris Yeh in a visit to GigaOM this week. [...] What Yahoo wants to do is aggregate its users’ activities from around the web. The Facebook Connect integration is the first in a string of coming deals with other social sites."

Apple vs. Google

"When companies start to imitate one another, it's usually either an extreme case of flattery—or war. In the case of Google and Apple, it's both. Separated by a mere 10 miles in Silicon Valley, the two have been on famously good terms for almost a decade. [...] Still, in a battle over the future of computing, friendship will almost surely be a casualty of progress."

Google Maps: now adding reviews from non traditional review sources

"Google Maps is apparently now reaching across hyperlocal blogs, local portals and news sites and retrieving blog entries, general editorial reporting and even blog comments for inclusion as reviews on their Places Pages.

This change portends a dramatically changed review landscape where both the volume of reviews for some types of businesses will rise and the dynamics of reputation management will change."

Search engine newslets

  • [Chinese] Alibaba upset with Yahoo.
  • German news publishers file complaint against Google.
  • Google probing possible inside help on attack.
  • Bing has its own shortening URL, binged.it.
  • Google's Haiti help page.
  • Aol quietly launches an expert site called Owl, and feeds it seed.
  • Google agrees to censor Encyclopedia Dramatica entry in Australia.

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3. Success stories

"I was a believer in no time."

"Several years ago I started out with one website www.crabgrassalert.com and one product for sale to kill crabgrass. I tried all of the tricks for years trying to fake out the search engines. My online business was going nowhere.

I had a commercial produced and ran it on local TV, placed expensive ads in magazines, paid for banners on web sites and even spent thousands on Google ad sense.

A friend introduced me to IBP and I was a believer in no time. I cancelled everything except a few website banner ads that brought traffic.

Talk about easy, yes easy. IBP walks you through step by step. I knew that if I could get people that wanted to kill crabgrass to find my site they would buy and I was right. [...]

I am on the first page on all major engines and in most cases in the top 3 to 5 choices on page 1. In some cases I have two pages on the first page. IBP will be at the top of my business plan in 2010 and years to come. Thank you everyone at IBP."
Jim Harmer, www.crabgrassalert.com

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4. Previous articles

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