To tweet or not to tweet has been a question bloggers have had to ask themselves pretty much since the dawn of Twitter.
The main question is whether or not the time, effort and energy spent on creating and nurturing a Twitter profile is justified by the benefit one gets out of it. It’s always been a tough question and one where the answer heavily depends on the blogger, their niche and their audience.
Howver, with an update to Google’s “Social Search” feature today, Twitter just received a potential boost in terms of its usefulness. Now Twitter can not only be a way to communicate with your friends, family and readers, but now it might also directly impact your site’s position in Google itself.
Perhaps most interesting of all though is that, at this time, Facebook “likes” are not having the same impact as Twitter, meaning that, for the moment at least, Twitter is the only social network that can directly affect your Google ranking, other than Google’s built-in network.
So, if you haven’t been using Twitter because you didn’t see the point, now there may be one to give you a reason to start.
How it Works
SEO experts have long speculated that tweets affect search engine ranking, something that was confirmed in December of last year, but the impact seemed to be of dubious value, making other factors more vital to focus on.
However, today’s changes to social search have the potential, especially for your followers and their connections, to greatly boost your presence.
The reason is that, for logged in users who have connected their Twitter or other accounts to their Google Account, relevant links that were tweeted by the people they follow will be sprinkled in with the regular results, often bringing sites to the front page that would not have been there otherwise.
This means that, if you blog about microphones and tweet out your links, any follower of yours who searches for information on mics will, very likely, see your page high up in the results with an icon indicating who it is from.
It is also likely, though not confirmed, that these results may also help your Google ranking in broader searches, especially if Google sees that your followers find what they are looking for at your links.
In short, Twitter could become something of a proving ground for new content, letting webmasters show Google that their content is right for the search results and that, in turn, could be a powerful shortcut or boost to Google success.
How to Take Advantage of It
The good news is that, to take advantage of it, you really don’t have to do much of anything. All that you have to do is have a Twitter account, work to grow your presence and tweet out your content.
However, if you want to see results from the people you follow in Google, you have to connect your Google Account to your Twitter account, instructions for which are in the original Google post on the upgrades.
Bear in mind that this is a new Google feature that is being rolled out over time and may not be available until next week, depending on when your account has it activated.
But how big will the impact of this new feature be? That remains to be seen but there are several reasons to be wary abou spending too much time investing in your Twitter presence because of it.
Reasons to be Wary
As great as getting an immediate Google boost for relevant searches sounds, it’s crucial to remember that it only applies for the people who have connected their Twitter (or other relevant account) to their Google account and are following you.
Most likely, even if you have a large number of Twitter followers, that’s going to be a fairly small pool of people. The odds of them searching for content relevant to your links are, in truth, fairly small.
Still, those who do perform such searchers, click your links and find useful may, in turn, give your site a boost across broader Google results. It is unclear if that will happen and the issue of how Google interprets user data into its rankings is hotly contested, but it still seems that getting clicks and lasting visitors from Google is better than being ignored or sending visitors right back to the results page.
In short though, the benefits will likely be limited to a very small subset of your Twitter followers but, it is at least conceivable that it could have an impact across the broader results because of it.
However, it’s still up to individual bloggers to decide if it is worth taking part in, meaning that we are more or less back where we started on the “to tweet or not to tweet” debate.
Once again, it’s up to bloggers to decide, individually, if it is worthwhile to invest the time and energy in setting up and maintaining a Twitter account. All that has changed is that now there is a new SEO benefit to factor in, even if the announcement back in December probably has a larger in the long run.
What is clear is that the search engines are taking Tweets much more seriously and, if you’re a webmaster interesting in maximizing the SEO potential of their site, then having an active and prominent Twitter account just makes sense.
Still, it is a lot of time and effort and there are many other factors that may be more important. So the decision is up to you, but if you’ve been on the fence about the benefits of tweeting for your site, now may be the best time to start.