“Its a myth that Twitter links are nofollow”search guru Danny Sullivan told me at his conference, SMX West. Danny warns readers not to be fooled because links in tweets are marked “nofollow” on Twitter.com – Twitter should be part of your SEO strategy. I later confirmed Twitter’s SEO value with Google’s findability guru Maile Ohye and other SEO experts.Â This means you should give people an option to “Tweet This!” on your pages. And remember, tweets now appear directly in Google’s social search and real time search results!
Why Wouldn’t Twitter Marketing Help With Google?
Twitter tells Google ignore to the web links in tweets. This is how Twitter and Google discourage spammers from abusing Twitter.
How does it work? Behind the scenes, Twitter marks the links in your tweets as “nofollow'”, and Google’s search algorithm ignores them as a result.
Technically, tweets should not affect SEO because of they are “nofollow” – but this cut and dry view of Twitter ignores the dynamic nature of social media.
Danny Sullivan on How Tweeting Helps Google Rankings
Danny says that if your tweets are popular, this popularity will affect the Google search rankings of the sites you link to from your tweets.
“There are lots of places those tweets show up, like blogs, and those sites drop the nofollow tag. When you tweet, it goes into various sites and transmits authority back to the sites you link to.” Danny explained.
Authority is a key concept in SEO. Every site has a Google PageRank, which is a measure of its authority on the web. SocialTimes.com has a PageRank of 6 (out of a possible 10), for exampleÂ When we link to a site in our posts, we “pass PageRank” to that site in the eyes of Google.
The important thing to understand is that your tweets must be popular. Twitter’s SEO value kicks in when your tweets are syndicated out to blogs via Google Gadgets, or get picked up by sites like Topsy that aggregate popular tweets. These sites often drop the nofollow tag from the links in your tweets, and that is when Google’s search algorithm starts to pay attention to them.
Social Media is Good SEO
“Sites should ask themselves ‘Is social media generating improved usage?’ If so, they should want to participate more” Danny explained. Danny added that social media is a smart way to drive traffic, and if you get a search engine benefit, then thats icing on the cake. “It not that if you want links, you should go into social media – that would mean you are probably not approaching it the right way.”
SEO via Good Old Cut and Paste
Social media activity leads to links in many ways, and those links in turn leads to credit with the search engines.Â The simplest way is when people cut and paste links they discovered on Twitter onto their pages on Facebook, blogs, etc..
“Imagine that go to Twitter, see your site, and go to it. They will then cut and paste the link to reference that – so all of a sudden you are getting inbound traffic from what was originally a nofollow link” Danny explained.
Google’s Maile Ohye About Twitter SEO
I got a chance to speak with Maile Ohye, rumored to be Matt Cutts’ heir apparent at Google.Â Maile confirmed Twitter’s SEO value.
Maile says that tweets have a “residual effect” on Google’s rankings. Various syndication mechanisms that pull in Twitter feeds can remove the “nofollow” in links. While these modified tweets do not pass the “huge PageRank” of Twitter itself to their linked pages, they do have a smaller effect that helps with SEO.
Google thinks its important that people chose to include your tweets on their pages. “Tweets are another vote” for Google about a site’s popularity, Maile summarized.
SEO tips from Google’s Maile Ohye
SocialTimes and AllFacebook have a challenge in that Google ranks other social media sites that syndicate our content higher than our blog for our own keywords!
Maile gave tips to AllFacebook.com to help with our ranking challenge. Maile recommend we include self referencing links in our blog posts (meaning put a link to SocialTimes.com within each post). Also Maile said to use absolute, not relative links in posts (an absolute URL contains the actual domain name: www.YourSite.com/Path/To/LinkedPage.html, and relative links just have /Path/To/LinkedPage.html).
Perhaps including your own domain name in links within syndicated content causes Google’s search algorithm to consider your domain name, triggering Google to connect the dots and figure out that you are the original source of the syndicated content.
Covario: Tweets Are a Leading Indicator of Search Rankings
Craig Macdonald, CMO of Covario, explained the SEO value of Twitter from a unique perspective: event driven marketing campaigns promoting movies for Sony Pictures.
“If you do linking strategies right, social media sites become big traffic hubs at very specific times, and this gets noticed by the engines.”
“Keywords that get more tweets get better ranks” Craig says. Tweets play a critical role in Covario’s search engine optimization for movies with common words for names like “Salt” and “The Bounty Hunter”, which studios need to show up in the search engines during the release window of a film.
Tweets are a leading indicator for search engine rankings. Covario conducts regression analysis against changes in search ranking, using tweets, comments, updates, YouTube Views, etc. as variables. Craig says there is a definite a correlation between Twitter activity for certain keywords and search engine ranking for those keywords.
Only the search engines themselves know how “causal” the relationship is between Twitter activity and search rankings, but Covario has proved it to be correlated Craig said.
A Twitter SEO Tip from Michael Martin
Michael Martin, SEO Director at Resource Nation, gave me a Twitter SEO tip about using the right kind of links in tweets.
Michael says to chose your URL shortening service wisely. Some URL shortening services use 301 redirects – permanent redirects, which pass on link value to Google, while other services use 302 redirects – temporary redirects, which do not create SEO value.
If this is confusing, don’t worry. Michael made recommendations for our audience:
301 redirects – Use for Twitter SEO:
302 redirects – Don’t use for Twitter SEO:
* Note: I looked at HTTP headers, and confirmed bit.ly and tinyurl.com are 301’s, and that ow.ly is not.
Finally, Michael said to watch out for your URL shortening service going out of business. If they do, all that SEO link juice you created will evaporate overnight!
Twitter Should Help With SEO
I believe Twitter SEO and organic search results should go hand in hand.
SEO is the discipline of optimizing your web presence to rank high in the organic (non paid) search results on search engines. While your site’s content is important to succeed in with SEO, getting sites to link in to your pages is also critical.
For search engines, organic search results show their understanding about what’s really happening on the web. Twitter drives a lot of traffic for sites, both from Twitter.com and tweets that are distributed across the Internet.Â Google seems to be adjusting appropriately to Twitter, essentially coming up with a new PageRank algorithm that accommodates the dynamic content of social media.
So rest assured, Twitter SEO is great for driving traffic, generating a search engine lift and web visibility in general.
And don’t forget to link to, I mean, TWEET this post!