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Twitter Search

Check Out The All-New Twitter Search

In the past I’ve written many articles about the sheer magnificence that is Twitter’s search functionality, which easily allows you to:

Plus a bazillion other things. Despite this, search.twitter.com, the ‘other’ official Twitter web presence, has been all but ignored by users (except when it becomes a problem). Mostly because Twitter ignores it. And when people do use it, it’s typically via the search bar at the top of the screen on Twitter.com.

That’s fine – it’s convenient, and far more likely to be seen by users. I have long speculated if Twitter was going to phase out search.twitter.com, and now it seems that they have. Because now when you load up that URL you’ll re-routed to http://twitter.com/#!/search-home, which is the new-look Twitter search.

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Twitter Search: Now 3 Times Faster

Last week Twitter announced changes to the search functionality on Twitter.com, adding some advanced elements that expanded the results to include user profiles.

Over on the official engineering blog, Twitter’s search engineer Krishna Gade has written about how modifications to Twitter’s search engine (which began in the Spring of 2010) led to the company replacing their Ruby-on-Rails front-end with a new Java server, codenamed Blender.

End result? Twitter search is now three times faster.

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Hey @Twitter – If You Continue To Ignore Search.Twitter.Com, So Will Everybody Else

Over on the official blog, Twitter communications/PR associate Carolyn Penner (@cpen, who Twitter snatched away from Google last March) writes about improvements that have been made to Twitter’s search functionality.

We’ve made it easier to find and follow Twitter accounts based on your interests. When you search for a topic, you can now discover accounts that are relevant to that particular subject. (Previously, you would have seen accounts that have the specific term in their name or username. ) Just click on the “people” section of the search results page or search from the “Who to follow” page.

This new approach helps you find the Twitter users that will best help you follow your interests. For example, if you’re interested in hip hop, chances are that you’d like to follow hip hop artists. Searching for “hip hop” now surfaces accounts like @commonand @questlove. (Previously, we typically showed accounts that have “hip hop” in the name.)

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Twitter Yourself

Twitters mentions folder captures any use of your @username and delivers accordingly. This is obviously very convenient, but quite a basic feature.

Twitter’s powerful search feature takes this quite a few steps further and allows you to manipulate all the data across Twitter in a variety of ways.

You’ll find it at search.twitter.com, and a version of this tool comes built into nearly all Twitter clients. The advanced search is really where you want to be, but by learning some of the functionality and search operators you can quickly perform complex searches any time a Twitter search box appears.

For example, while the mentions folder kindly informs us of any reference to our username on Twitter, it doesn’t help if somebody is talking about our real name, or our brand, or even a competitor. That’s valuable information, and with a few clicks you can set up a search function that will keep track of this for you every minute of every day of the week.

How To Use Twitter Search

1. First, visit search.twitter.com, or bring up the search window in your favourite Twitter client.

2. In the input box, enter the following:

"firstname lastname" OR "company name" OR "competitor name"

For example, it could be:

"Larry Page" OR "Google" OR "Bing"

3. Click on the submit button, and away you go.

Now, it’s worth noting that the example query I used above is going to generate tens of thousands of results, and update pretty much constantly, as it’s Google. Your mileage will vary considerably. If you’re a small business or very new to the world of social media you may not see any initial results at all.

(Tip: You can test to see if the search is working by referencing the parameters in one of your own tweets, or ask a colleague to do this.)

The use of the search operator OR in this query means that Twitter will only return tweets that contain one or more of these terms, but they don’t all have to be there. If you want to see results where all of these pieces of information was contained in one tweet, simply remove all uses of OR. Search words placed in quotes mean that the exact phrase must be in the tweet and not just the words (perhaps mentioned separately). So, “Larry Page” is different to Larry Page.

You can also check on tweets that are being sent to people by searching for to:username (don’t use the @ symbol – for example, to:google), remove uses of a given word (i.e., steve -jobs) and even return positive or negative tweets by including emoticons.

Find the complete list of Twitter’s search operators here.

Bookmark this page. Play with it, memorise it, and learn from it. Most Twitter clients allow to run multiple search windows, so the opportunities are limitless. And the results will be very different to the information you find on Google, or any other search engine, as it’s far more immediate and emotive. You can reach out to disgruntled customers (your own and competitors), closely monitor the public reaction to product news and promotions, and a million other things.

It’s powerful stuff. Seize the advantage.

Perfect Tweets, The Twitter Below, Road House, TweetRank & Malcolm Gladwell (Best Of Twittercism 2010)

When I first started writing this article I had originally planned to list my ten favourite articles on Twittercism in 2010. As I started to put the post together I found that ten wasn’t enough. I know this statement has ‘monster ego’ written all over it, and to some extent that’s 100 per cent accurate, but if you’re a fellow blogger or a writer then you’ll know how it feels when you’re asked to edit or be selective about your own content, even if it’s an instruction from yourself. It’s hard.

Yes, I wrote all of these pieces. But they feel like my babies.

So, I compromised, and kept in everything I thought was pretty good, and separated all the posts into categories.

  • Get Better At Twitter
  • The Business Of Twitter
  • Twitter Etiquette
  • Your Twitter Identity
  • Followers & Following
  • Twitter Improvements (aka, Whinging & Moaning)
  • Twitter Security
  • Twitter Clients
  • Opinion (And Everything Else)

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Official: Links Shared And Retweeted On Twitter Positively Impact SEO Rankings On Google And Bing

Thanks to some excellent research by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan), this is now official – links shared on both Twitter and Facebook have an effect on the SEO rankings of that site. Retweets, too.

Sullivan pitched six questions to Google and Bing. I’ve picked out the highlights for you below:

If an article is retweeted or referenced much in Twitter, do you count that as a signal outside of finding any non-nofollowed links that may naturally result from it?

Bing: We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.

Google: Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article [NOTE: see the end of this article for more about that].

Do you try to calculate the authority of someone who tweets that might be assigned to their Twitter page. Do you try to “know,” if you will, who they are?

Bing: Yes. We do calculate the authority of someone who tweets. For known public figures or publishers, we do associate them with who they are. (For example, query for Danny Sullivan)

Google: Yes we do compute and use author quality. We don’t know who anyone is in real life.

Do you calculate whether a link should carry more weight depending on the person who tweets it?

Bing: Yes.

Google: Yes we do use this as a signal, especially in the “Top links” section [of Google Realtime Search]. Author authority is independent of PageRank, but it is currently only used in limited situations in ordinary web search.

Sullivan concludes that:

In the end, it’s clear that Twitter data especially plays a role in web search, these days. Who you are is being understood. Are you a trusted authority or not? If there’s PageRank for pages, both search engines have a form of TwitterRank for people.

Meanwhile, retweets server as a new form a link building. Get your page mentioned in tweets by authoritative people, and that can help your ranking in regular search results, to a degree.

The article is worth a few minutes of your time, as is the follow-up piece on SEOmoz.

(Source: Search Engine Land, SEOmoz.)

Twitter Adds 'Recent Retweets' Feature To Search – Is This The Start Of Reputation Ranking?

I’m not sure if this feature is available to everybody yet, or whether I’m just very late to the party, but earlier this morning when using Twitter search I noticed something new at the top of the results – Recent Retweets.

It doesn’t seem to work for all keywords, but on certain occasions Twitter has started ranking certain high-profile users above the normal reverse-chronological results that are normally generated.

For example, here is a search for Twitter:

Twitter Adds 'Recent Retweets' Feature To Search - Is This The Start Of Reputation Ranking?

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Most Popular Tweets To Rank First In Twitter Search

Over at the Twitter API announcements Google group, Twitter developer advocate Taylor Singletary has written about a beta project that their search team is working on that will rank results by popularity (as opposed to reverse-chronologically as they are now).

The Search team is working on a beta project that returns the most popular tweets for a query, rather than only the most recent tweets. This is a beta project, but an important first step to surface the most popular tweets for users searching Twitter.

You can expect many improvements as we tune and tweak our algorithms, but we want to give everyone a heads up so we can go over the implications for those consuming the search API.

It’s unclear how exactly they are going to define what it is that classes a tweet as popular. People rarely click on individual tweets, so that metric isn’t going to work at all. My guess is it’s likely to be based heavily on retweets, perhaps held up against network size, which means that Justin Bieber is going to be your authority on everything.

Most Popular Tweets Soon To Rank First In Twitter Search

For everybody’s sake, let’s hope they’re also working on an algorithm to counter that, too.

(Hat tip to Mashable.)

Twitter Plans To Monetize Search, Google Adwords-Style

Twitter plans a Google Adwords-style advertising model, according to All Things Digital.

(Read more at 140char.com.)

Ads will be delivered via searches on Twitter, and come packaged in 140 characters or less, which might present a dilemma for businesses to get their message across. That said, we’ve all had a lot of practice at selling tweets, so advertisers should be at least semi-prepared.

(Imagine how much better this would all be if Twitter searches came with TweetRank? Perhaps the users with the most clout could be linked up to the advertising model and rewarded accordingly.)

This is a bit of a no-brainer for Twitter. I’ve often speculated on the plausibility of an Adwords-style system on the network (using Spotify as a case study) and the most surprising part is that it’s taken this long to implement (and still won’t hit the platform for a few months yet).

It’s really too early to speculate about the consequences of all of this without more information, but I do have one question: will the option to advertise be open to everybody, like it is with Google’s Adsense program, or is Twitter going to continue the form it has shown with the suggested user list and verified users, and only offer this service to their personal favourites?

TweetRank – Does Twitter Need To Start Penalising Users Who Consistently Break The Rules?

When calculating rankings, Google often penalises websites for doing various things, including cloaking, automated queries, irrelevant keyword use, paid links, sneaky URL redirection, malicious behaviour and linking to known spammers.

I wonder if Twitter needs to embrace a variation of Google’s PageRank system – let’s call it TweetRank – and begin to score and rate individual accounts according to the ways in which they behave, handing out penalties to users who show a blatant and repeated disregard for the rules.

Cloaking

Cloaking is the practice of deception by displaying different content to search engines than that which is displayed to users. There is a frighteningly large number of Twitter users who act very above board and ‘normal’ in the public side of the network, while functioning as little more than mass-marketers and spammers in the private world of direct messaging. Direct messages are private, and none of us like the idea of ‘the man’ reading our inbox, but a warning system could work well here, where users flag accounts for duplicitous behaviour.

Automated Queries

Google doesn’t like it when websites bombard them with automated queries, as it wastes resources and bogs down server time. Automated messages on Twitter – which includes direct messaging and updates from external services (including things like Foursquare) – are equally undesirable. Often many users are unaware that they’re sending out automated messages, or that their accounts have been exploited in some way, because they don’t regularly check their connections settings.

Irrelevant Keyword Use

Some users include words in their bios that are clearly there simply to generate results from searches. Common examples are SEO, make money at home and profit. In many cases these accounts are nothing more than spam feeds that heavily-promote affiliate schemes and the like.

Paid Links

Advertising on Twitter is a hot potato. From Twitter’s perspective, it’s an inevitability. But what about users that get paid to link to external sites? Advertising for publishers is very much part of the internet’s business model, but if these paid links go out to scams or make claims that are unproven or entirely false, then the user should take responsibility and be marked down accordingly.

URL Redirection

It’s a common scam to hide bad links within good ones. I’ve seen some users hide an affiliate or malicious link between several layers of bitlys and TinyURLs. It is my personal opinion that any user that links to a malicious website or known scam should be heavily punished by Twitter, perhaps adopting a ‘three strikes’ rule to avoid accidental retweeting or exploits.

Linking To Known Spammers

This is perhaps the most important item on the list. Despite their best efforts, Twitter continues to have major problems with spam. This issue is made significantly worse by people who blindly auto-follow anybody who follows them, because it legitimises the spam account, both in terms of improving their ratio and showing an ‘A-list name’ in their network. Twitter needs to take greater responsibility in ridding the network of obvious spam accounts, but the users need to step up, too, and I propose that any user who follows too many spammers should be punished.

(This would also allow the implementation of a reward system that hands out TweetRank bonuses to users who are followed by other highly-ranked individuals, providing a greater indication of clout.)

What Kind Of Punishment?

Users who breach some or all of the rules above are penalised, with a lowering overall score reflecting how highly you place on Twitter search. Score a ten, and you show up for all relevant queries, right at the top of the list.

Score a zero, and you don’t show up at all. Ever.

This could make Twitter search an incredibly powerful and reliable system, as results could then be measured by clout and reputation, as well as ridding the mechanism of the bulk of spam and scammy or malicious links. Twitter could add a little relevance option to the search results that re-ranked the output according to status, or you could view the data reverse-chronologically, as we do now.

Perhaps – and this is controversial – all new users to Twitter should have to ‘earn’ their place on the search results, much like all new websites have to earn their spot at the top of Google. Your TweetRank rises and falls with your behaviour. Some people won’t care too much about where they place in Twitter’s search results, but for businesses, brands and influencers it’s incredibly important. And as the network expands, the value of ranking well on Twitter search will rise exponentially.

Moreover, accounts that start spamming right out of the gates will be hidden from everybody else, and likely will never earn a spot within search.

Once users are ranked, they can easily be tagged and categorised, and finding the top 100 experts on any given subject would be available to you at the click of a button or two.

Rewarding and penalising users is potentially a risky endeavour and, much like Google, Twitter would need to keep revising and revamping the algorithm that they would use for any TweetRank system. An independent ombudsman could be created to ensure fairness, and perhaps the opinion of the Twitter collective could be a factor in a user’s score. There would inevitability be a teething period, and a strong likelihood of cries of foul play and favouritism from some quarters, but the benefits to the network as a whole should not be underestimated.

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