Google: Tweets & Customer Experience Are Ranking Signals

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  • December 1, 2010
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Google has made a couple of interesting announcements today about how social media signals and “customer experience” affect rankings in the main organic search results.

The social media signals information was revealed in an interview with Danny Sullivan.

To paraphrase, Google looks at the number of people tweeting a link as well as the authority of the people doing the tweeting. Links that get lots of tweets from authoritative people are given a boost. This has long been speculated and we’ve seen the effects pretty dramatically on our (award winning) site which has around 10,000 links per day being tweeted and gets a load of Google organic traffic.

The links on twitter are nofollow but because Google is pulling tweet information from the feed rather than the main site this doesn’t matter.

Q: 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?

A: Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings.

Q: 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?

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

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

A: 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.

Customer Experience

The second interesting revelation is that Google has this week rushed out a new algorithm designed to penalise people like the retailer who appeared in the New York Times this week talking about how they purposefully created a bad business so that people would complain and link to the site causing their rankings to rise.

in the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience. The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result.

Google has not revealed how they do this but according to the post it’s not based on sentiment analysis and I doubt it’s based on user reviews on review sites either.

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