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Geolocation of Tweets Affects the Rankings in Local Google

06 Jan 2011, Posted by admin in Featured,Social, 22 Comments

Geolocation of Tweets Affects the Rankings in Local Google


At the end of last year Danny Sullivan wrote an article for Search Engine Land titled “What Social Signals do Google & Bing Really Count?” which featured an interview between representatives from both search engines. The article confirmed that Google and Bing use Twitter and (possibly to a lesser extent) Facebook as another signal to determine where a site is able to rank in the regular search results.

While a lot of SEOs had begun to suspect that tweeted links were influencing rankings, it was really good to see it actually confirmed.

What Google & Bing didn’t mention, though, was how strongly they were using these social signals as a ranking factor. Google has claimed for years now that there are over 200 ranking factors, so it’s hard to say whether their use of Twitter is a majorly influential factor (like links) or whether it’s just one of many neglible factors.

Google also failed to mention how long the Twitter effect would last – I think quite a few people may expect it to be a very time-sensitive thing, particularly around breaking news. The assumption is that, when Google uses tweets to boost a page for a search term, the ‘Twitter effect’ will eventually stop being such a strong ranking factor after enough time (or when the tweets stop) and then the regular SEO factors (links, on-page keywords, etc) start to take over. This wasn’t confirmed or suggested, it’s just what I would have expected.

A final point that wasn’t mentioned is whether or not Google differentiates between tweets from specific countries – so whether tweets from UK users to a specific page helps boost that page in Google.co.uk, or whether it also helps in US results in Google.com.

These two points – tweet locations and how long the Twitter effect lasts for – is something that I wanted to look into because of a post I wrote a while ago on Raven Tools. I wrote it very shortly after Sugarrae published hers, and I noticed something interesting about the two posts – my post very quickly started to rank very well for the term “Raven Tools” in Google.co.uk, out-ranking Rae’s even though I linked to her post from mine, and despite the fact that Sugarrae’s post, by all the regular SEO metrics like number of links and domain authority, greatly deserved to outrank my post. My post ranked so well on Google.co.uk that the only domain that outranked it was Raventools.com itself. This wasn’t true in Google.com though, the US results showed the results that you’d normally expect, with Sugarrae outranking me and with my site towards the bottom of page 1. I should also point out, my site isn’t geo-targetted to any location in particular.

Is there a time limit to the Twitter effect?

At the time I assumed it was some kind of query-deserves-freshness effect, and that eventually my site would drop down the search results. That would fit with my original idea that Google’s use of Twitter is to spot breaking news and promote tweeted articles when the topic was hot, but then dropped those articles in favour of the most linked to over time, when the topic wasn’t being tweeted about as much.

It’s been over 5 months since my Raven post, and it’s still only outranked by Raventools.com in the UK.

This would imply that, in this case at least, the Twitter effect may not be time-based, and tweets from months ago may still help your page to rank well.

Does Google use tweet locations?

I wanted to look into why my post was ranking well in the UK results, but not anywhere else. It’s a .com, hosted in the US and it isn’t geo-targetted to any country, Google shouldn’t consider it a UK specific site.

Using Backtweets I grabbed a load of the data around who tweeted my post and compared it with who tweeted Sugarrae’s. An important point to remember is that Google is likely treating some tweets diffently to others, depending on how authoritative they think a Twitter user is.

While Sugarrae had more tweets to her article than I had mine (she had 23 to my 13), the majority of my tweets were from people who had their location set to somewhere in the UK (9 of the 13), while Sugarrae had the vast majority of her tweets from the US (17 of her 23), and she only had 2 UK tweets.

This would suggest that Google is using the location of tweets to determine which search engine the page gets a boost in. The theory is, if a page becomes incredibly popular amongst UK tweeters – it may only be relevant to people in the UK, and so it only gets a boost in Google.co.uk. This is an observation for just this one specific example – it’s not a cold, hard scientific fact – but if anyone was planning on testing how tweeted links can affect rankings, I’d suggest looking into how long the effect lasts for, and whether the location of the Twitter user plays a part.

And you can download the sheet here, if you’re so inclined.

Flickr image from view-askew.

Thanks to SEO Scientist Neyne for the title advice.

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22 Comments

January 7, 2011 9:46 am

malcolm coles

I noticed that my http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/rss-dead-newspapers/ post is ranking first for “Is RSS dead” on G.co.uk – only had 48 tweets which on the face of it I wouldn’t have thought was enough (though it also got a link off the front page of http://www.currybet.net). Those results are a strange mixture of old ULRs about that and new ones – but I’m surprised how low the post that kicked off the recent kerfuffle was (http://camendesign.com/blog/rss_is_dying) though I supposed he talked about it dying not being dead … But then that post also isn’t ranking first for RSS is dying.

Another odd one recently was the story about Russell Brand posting a picture of Katy Perry without makeup on Twitter. This page: http://www.holymoly.com/celebrity-news/russell-brand-sticks-picture-katy-perry-twitter-without-her-makeup-bollocked51989 had 698 tweets and 1,397 facebook likes. It was the first to publish the pictures of any big site and appears to have loads more social media shares than the sites that rank above it for the relevant search term: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=russell+brand+katy+perry+makeup

This higher ranking Metro page for instance appears to have 0 tweets from its tweet button: http://www.metro.co.uk/showbiz/851542-russell-brand-posts-makeup-free-katy-perry-pic-on-twitter (presumably as it doesn’t even have the picture!)

What does all that mean? Don’t know. But hope it helps :)

January 7, 2011 10:10 am

Zona Bloguismo LVIII | Bloguismo

[...] Google? Sin duda, o al menos éso parece por artículos como el de SharkSEO, realmente interesante: Geolocation of Tweets Affects the Rankings in Local Google . Hablando de SEO: 5 SEO Tactics to Explore in [...]

January 15, 2011 12:03 am

steveplunkett

are u logged in? is personal search off? are you logged into any other OAuth connections that store additional profile information? is it favourited on your twitter account? anyone else’s in the UK? how many verified profiles retweeted the url? verified in uk vs verified in us and/or EU? how many Rt’s from uk vs us vs EU? what is follower/following ratio? among accounts who rt’d it? …………………………………………………

keep going mate.. =)

January 15, 2011 9:26 am

Admin

Thanks Steve, great comment – I don’t know how well Google could get other information from shared OAuth connections (unless they have some kind of deal with Twitter). The follower/followers, retweets and location data from this (small) example is all downloadable here, but I really love the idea of how favourited tweets could be a factor – that’s worth testing for sure. Just so you know, in this case there weren’t any Twitter verified accounts retweeting it – but it’s entirely possible that Google may allow a verified account to hold more weight – again, something else that’s worth testing. Thanks again!

January 17, 2011 9:47 am

MOGmartin

@admin

Quote: “I don’t know how well Google could get other information from shared OAuth connections (unless they have some kind of deal with Twitter).”

Google do have an information sharing deal with twitter – 100%, I’ve been told by google (and Im pretty sure its public as well, I’ve seen it on the blogosphere as well).

January 30, 2011 9:58 pm

Trond

Hi Dave,

I was currently investigating how the Geolocation is affecting the SERPs and found your post through social search deep below the spam trolls (!)

I must say, I find this post very interesting. I have done similar research showing that there are more magic in Twitter (even with nowollow) that we seem to understand at the moment.

Social media (e.g., Twitter tweets, Facebook likes, customer reviews) is UGC and looking at the linking algorithms this IS more safe and real to use as a data source when prioritizing and delivering relevant and good content to their users based on their intent and need for solution.

I think we will see a move from link spam into social media spam. While we already are used to link farms, black hat SEO and others so-called unethical SEO we are now no longer talking about link spammers and black hat SEO consultants – but LIARS 2.0 ;-)

Manipulating Google using social media is too “easy”, changing a location (Geolocater) is easier and gaining high volume “votes & reviews” is easiest.

How do you think this will affect Internet marketing, social search and the users? Will Social Media Optimization and Search Engine Optimization finally marry and we will have another “Titanic” in the horizon?

Best regards,
Trond :-)

February 7, 2011 2:43 pm

Nilhan

This makes a lot of sense. Relevant geolocation is notoriously difficult business. Especially for non commercial queries where server hosting and domain told’s are less important. Social signals could plug that gap

February 9, 2011 1:55 pm

36 Must-Read Local SEO/Google Places Resources from 2010/2011 | SEOptimise

[...] Geolocation of Tweets Affects the Rankings in Local Google | Shark SEO [...]

February 20, 2011 2:41 pm

David

You really had some great thoughts here in this article. I really found it fascinating that your experiences leads to the twitter affect not being time relevant.

March 4, 2011 5:39 pm

36 Deber-Lea Local SEO / Plazas Google Recursos de 2010/2011 | Tips to Blast your Blog

[...] Geolocalización de Tweets afecta el ranking en Google Local | Tiburón SEO [...]

March 15, 2011 4:14 pm

Richard Mills

A great article, I think your right about Google’s use of Twitter to spot breaking news, maybe your Raven Post is still only outranked by Raventools.com in the UK because there has been no other news to super-cede it that has been shared as much as your post.

I think the more online chatter an article generates will play a big part in this, as well as the age.

Thanks for the post.

March 29, 2011 9:39 am

Mathuseo (SEO&Typo3)

Interesting point. Thanks for this article. It would make sense to depend the location of tweets to the choice which search engine will get the boost!

April 8, 2011 12:37 pm

Francis from Eurocasino

This is very useful information for me. I have been surfing the net for this kind of blog and I’m glad I found one.

I am experimenting with a website on how tweeted links can affect rankings. My experiment is moving towards a positive direction but has not been confirmed.

You should shed more light on this topic. It is absolutely interesting and worth researching for because the big ‘G’ is failing to let us how know twitter tweets affect search ranking.

Many thanks.

April 11, 2011 8:09 pm

Martin @ Cyprus web design

It would be nice for Google to use tweets to affect ranking.Twitter is too good for social media marketing and SEO.

Regards,

Martin

April 20, 2011 8:01 pm

BrandSocialism – 36 Must-Read Local SEO/Google Places Resources from 2010/2011

[...] Geolocation of Tweets Affects the Rankings in Local Google | Shark SEO [...]

April 25, 2011 6:38 pm

Local Search & Social Signals « Tweet Philadelphia

[...] SharkSEO wrote an article earlier this year about weather Google is looking at location when using tweeted URLs to influence rankings. Their blog is a dotcom, not a dotco.uk, it’s hosted in the US, and the blog is not written to appeal to a worldwide audience. However, looking at who tweeted articles, they found that tweets tended to be from twitter accounts in the UK (I would guess they have a bigger UK audience because much of their visitors learned about them off-line) Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment [...]

January 26, 2012 7:30 am

Yashar from @IMBrandMaster

I’ve been competing on social networking sites for some time, but never really thought you could actually make money with online marketing there. No longer. Your post makes me look like a dumbo who ignored perhaps the largest market ever for web professionals. I’m already making more money with my online services, and it’s helped me in my other specialties too.
Thanks…

February 12, 2012 11:46 am

Ben

Is it advisable to buy Twitter followers like those offered in Fiverr?

February 20, 2012 11:53 am

ketan raval

Tweet locations are surely playing part in ranking.. It is same like if your domain have more backlinks from co.uk domain thn it is more obvious that page will rank well in co.uk …

May 16, 2012 12:17 am

Freelance SEO Manchester

It is possible that Twitter and location based factors do affect local SEO. I have found that once a link is ‘tweeted’ the rankings are more reflected in the nation of the Twitter location. However, this could also just be a coincidence.

May 25, 2012 12:37 am

36 Must-Read Local SEO/Google Places Resources from 2010/2011 | Marketing Temptation Seo blog – Startups, Blogging – adsense and internet marketing

[...] Geolocation of Tweets Affects the Rankings in Local Google | Shark SEO [...]

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