Twitter search optimization: Will Twitter reputation become the new PageRank?

May 7, 2009

Twitter just announced they are updating their real-time search to index links. If done properly, Twitter search could morph into a strong competitor to Google and may become critical in driving traffic to web sites.  In this post, I’ll explain why Twitter reputation may become as important as PageRank and give specific advice you can use to improve yours.

Why is today’s announcement important?

If the predictions are right, Twitter users with excellent reputations will be able to have their sites instantly indexed and have their Tweets appear at the top of Twitter search results.   This will give established Twitter users the ability to drive large amounts of traffic to their sites, especially if Twitter search becomes a major destination (or is bought by a top search engine).

Twitter search will never have the index size of Google, but it doesn’t have to. Twitter’s advantage is that it knows about events seconds after they occur (even minor ones that only effect a few people).  Sure, Google News is fast, but it still needs to wait for a reporter or blogger to write up a story, edit it and post it.   And most micro-stories don’t get picked up by Google news and if they do make a local paper or small blog they can take days to be indexed.

Just like Google, Twitter will need to come up with a good search algorithm and find ways to filter out spammers who try to game the system.   Google relies heavily on Pagerank, site authority and incoming link analysis.  Since Twitter controls their environment, they can do this without indexing and analyzing billions of pages.

Twitter’s enhanced search has not been released yet and it’s search algorithm isn’t finalized,  but I like to conduct my Twitter activity as if it has.   If I was writing their new algorithm, here is what I would look for…

  • date userid first registered (the equivalent to Google’s rewarding older domains)
  • percentage of tweets that are retweeted (taking into account the number of followers a user has)
  • number of tweets per day
  • percentage of tweets which are replies to other tweets (indicates taking part in conversations)
  • the reputation of the people you are following and the reputation of people who retweet you

I’d also put in the following ‘red flags’ to specifically demote spammy listings

  • threshold for the number of Twitter ids registered from same IP address
  • people who haven’t taken the time to update their profile picture or description
  • people who have included certain spammy phrases or URLs in their tweets (e.g. gain 20,000 followers in one day, etc.)
  • number of times a user is blocked
  • excessive following

This would reward established Twitter users who actively use the service. It would also discourage un-targeted mass following and neutralize the viral component of many spammy instant follower programs.

What to do today

1. If you aren’t on Twitter yet, take two minutes and register your Twitter ID.

2. If you are already on Twitter, you may want to consider the above algorithm when you use the service.    Customize your avatar photo (this alone will boost the percentage of Twitter user’s who follow you).      Be selective in who you follow.  Take a moment to look at their profile and their last few Tweets.   Just as you wouldn’t link to a spammy site, don’t reward spammy Twitter users by following them.

For more tips, you might want to read my ‘Don’t be a Twitter Twerp‘ post and follow me on Twitter.


{ 1 trackback }
05.09.09 at 7:55 pm

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

James 05.09.09 at 7:58 pm

Nice advices, I hope someone at Twitter will take them into account when developping their reputation system, because spammers trying to game the system will exploit any flaw in the Twitter reputation system’s design.


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