Is Twitter The Next SEO Haven?

Filed as Editorial on May 21, 2007 7:16 am

Blogs have come to be very SEO-friendly, because of their nature of being frequently-updated, and link-rich. This is the very reason behind the rise of such monetization programs like Text Link Ads and ReviewMe. It’s not really the potential inbound traffic that advertisers are looking for, but the potential SEO benefits from link-building.

Sadly, spammers and black-hat SEOs have also exploited this characteristic of blogs to mass produce splogs (or “spam blogs”) for purposes of link-building. Sure, Google and the other search engines have learned to flag and de-index spammy sites. But sploggers still go on, with many using scripts that automate scraping of content. Sadly, the prevalence of splogs has also prompted the search engines to consider lessening the “link juice” of sites that sell text links (but this is worth another blog post altogether).

With the newfound popularity of microblogging/presence networks like Twitter and Jaiku (and a host of others), these may well be the next haven for people looking into optimizing their sites for search engines. For instance, Neil Patel at Search Engine Land recently wrote that Twitter can be used not just for messaging, but also to generate traffic, particularly since Twitter allows for embedding links in tweets. Plugins like Alex King’s Twitter Tools even automate things for WordPress bloggers. You can set it to post a tweet automatically every time you publish a blog post.

Secondly, Twitter status pages themselves are starting to get indexed by the search engines, and I would think many of these have been getting good Google PageRanks on their own. To illustrate, the twitter.com home page has a PageRank of 8/10, which is considerably high. Robert Scoble’s Twitter page has a pagerank of 5/10, while my own Twitter page has a PR of 4/10.

I think in this aspect, Twitter has an advantage over Jaiku, because Twitter statuses and user pages are set as subdirectories (i.e., twitter.com/username), while Jaiku uses subdomains (i.e., username.jaiku.com). SEO-wise, subfolders are treated as part of the original domain, while subdomains are treated as separate sites altogether. Therefore, whatever SEO benefits twitter.com is getting will trickle down to its subfolders, including user status pages and tweets.

There are even times when Twitter or Jaiku status updates have been topping search engine results, like this one example by Chris Pirillo, in which Jaiku and Twitter updates that linked to a blog posting of his ranked even higher than his original blog posting itself. The same thing happened in another experiment involving Twitter and a blog post.

And then there are the alternative uses of Twitter. For instance, Robert Scoble now uses Twitter for link blogging. And I think this is better than link blogging using a full blogging platform or even social bookmarking services like del.icio.us because of the push aspect of Twitter. Instead of having to check a site or a feed manually every now and then, I get Scoble’s links on my Twitter client (i.e., Twitterrific for the Mac, or even via IM/mobile if I choose so) whenever he posts links.

And it’s not only the push aspect. Each time I post a link on my Twitter status page, all of my followers’ friends pages get to display that link, too. If I have thousands of followers, not only does Twitter push the link to their clients (IM, desktop client, mobile phone, or even web), I also get thousands of new inbound links toward that link I just posted.

These, among other reasons, make me think Twitter, Jaiku and other microblogging/presence services may be ripe for the picking for SEOs. Unfortunately, spammers might also start to mass-produce tweets with links to their own sites. At least they won’t be disturbing anyone, unless they have friends/subscribers in their networks (which can be done with some social engineering).

Of course, sometimes this may not work as intended. For instance, Twitter is limited to 140 characters per post, and so most Twitter clients (including Twitter’s own web interface itself) use URL shortening services like urltea.com and tinyurl.com. I discussed the disadvantages of short URL services a while back on my blog, and my concern is basically about the URL shortening services getting the link love instead of your own domain.

Another problem might be Twitter’s infamous downtimes (albeit with cute downtime messages). There’s not much SEO benefit if a site can hardly be indexed because of downtimes.

Still, this is a new phenomenon worth looking into. Where there are web apps, there will always be people looking for ways to explore–and possibly exploit–these for their own purposes. Will Twitter–and other microblogging services–be the next SEO haven?

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  1. engineering » Blog Archive » How Internet Criminals Will Evade Vista's SafeguardsMay 21, 2007 at 1:27 pm
  2. By kelvin newman posted on May 22, 2007 at 12:35 pm
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    I doubt it will get used much for link building because it embeds the shortened url so wouldn’t pass any link juice.

  3.   Twitter for Search Engine Power by Blogging ProMay 22, 2007 at 3:19 pm
  4. By franky posted on May 22, 2007 at 6:30 pm
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    Angelo, I think you underestimate the danger. It has always been a quite interesting option to create profile on platforms such as Flickr, last.fm, Facebook aso for mere SEO purposes (and not only the PR inheritance from the mainpage PR, because that’s not the easiest thing).

    But open APIs such as twitters can be a paradise for spammers. Sorry for throwing a link, but I have written how the API could possibly be exploited in the future here.

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