As one of the more intriguing internet marketing stories of the past week, Google has announced that they have partnered with Twitter again. If you recall, Google had access to the Twitter “fire hose” a few years ago, but that agreement expired in mid-2011. Since that time, tweets have gone mostly unindexed (some sources have indicated that less than 8% of tweets can be found in the Google SERPs).
Let’s take a few moments today to review the deal and consider the reasons, as well as the expected impact of the deal.
About the Google / Twitter Deal
For those of us who have been in the internet marketing game for the past decade, we should recall the days when Google provided real-time search results, including tweets. These results disappeared from the index on the day that the original deal expired.
After close to 3½ years working separately, the two have joined forces again. At some point in the first half of 2015, Google will start to index tweets again as they come out. This is a pretty big change, as tweets had to be crawled for indexing since 2011. Now, Google will be able to index as many Tweets as they decide to build into the process.
Why Do Google and Twitter Want This Deal?
While the deal sounds like a great idea on the surface, we should consider why each company needs it.
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Why Twitter Wants It
Twitter was one of the fastest growing social networks a few years ago. In recent months, however, user adoption has slowed. In fact, there were questions about whether or not growth had slowed as far back as 2012.
Twitter is clearly concerned about slowing growth, just as they are getting serious about trying to figure out what their ongoing revenue stream will be. They need exposure, and this deal will certainly put tweets in front of people who have yet to try out Twitter, or users who are logged out of the service and may not keep Twitter top of mind.
As part of this “pursuit of growth” process, Twitter had already opened up the fire hose to both Bing and Yahoo! some time ago. It was only a matter of time before they managed to reach across the aisle and figure out a way to play ball with Google.
Why Google Wants It
From Google’s perspective, we should have seen the writing on the wall when they began to de-emphasize Google+ and authorship markup last year. By abandoning authorship markup, Google+ turned into a social site and little more. Unfortunately, their experiment had failed and adoption of the platform was nowhere near what I’d expect they hoped to see.
Given that Google+ was focused on helping them figure out social search, they had to start reviewing their options in the aftermath of killing authorship. It’s pretty clear now that they failed at creating the platform to achieve their social search goals on their own.
There’s also the fact that Twitter is a worldwide phenomenon, with close to 300M users signed on to the platform. Even if those users average one single tweet per user per day, that’s over a quarter of a billion pieces of 140-character content that is mostly going unindexed. If their goal is to understand social and factor engagement into the algorithm, Google has no choice but to find common ground with Twitter in this fashion.
How Will This Help Google Users and Other Stakeholders?
Now that we have an idea of the motivations, what’s in it for you and me? Given Google’s stated goals of trying to improve the search experience and maximize relevance in the SERPs, this move is certainly playing into their long-term vision of SERP quality.
Google News has been live for some time now, and it is a great feature they offer. That said, news breaks in real time on services like Twitter. By not indexing tweets in volume, Google’s SERPs fail to provide real-time news and information as it comes out. They had to mostly wait for a blogger or journalist to cover the news for it to get indexed.
Now, with full access to the fire hose, they can index that content the moment it gets tweeted. Of course, the shelf life of a tweet is much shorter than longer form content, so I’ll be curious to see how they prioritize what tweets show up on searches based on how old or new they are. This is a key piece of making real-time search work again.
Another area I’d expect Google to use fire hose access is for personalization purposes. With more information about what a user tweets, Google will be able to better tailor content and messages to those users. This was one of the things they aimed to do with Google+, and it worked well for G+ adopters. However, there has been a great deal of debate about how many people actively use the platform, and how much that user base overlaps with Twitter users.
The bottom line is that this gives Google access to social activity for many more users, regardless of how much the two overlap. With privacy concerns driving most Facebook users to keep their activity private or limited to friends only, Google has to find another way to track social. And that way is the Twitter fire hose.
Personally, I was excited to hear the news that Twitter and Google will again work together to get tweets indexed. There’s really no downside to the deal, only the potential for Twitter to claim new users and engagement while Google further improves the quality of the search results either via personalization or simply having more current content in the index.
Kudos to both companies for working out a deal that helps make all of that happen. I look forward to seeing tweets in the SERPs in the coming months.