How Much of YOUR PageRank Are You Wasting on Twitter?

Mar 3rd

Did you know that search.twitter.com/search?q=%23superbowl currently ranks #9 in Google for superbowl (it was #7 earlier today). Think how much PageRank & link equity is needed to rank for that keyword!!!

All that PageRank must come from somewhere. When people mention you on that silly network, you probably don't get anything of lasting value...it simply steals links that would have occurred on the real web, and replaces them with junk rel=nofollow links, surrounded by trivial bits of content.

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. rel=nofollows subvert that subversion (thanks Matt!)

Twitter is interesting and fun tool to play with for a while, and an easy story to hype, but it is just a tool.

Venture Beat says that Twitter made Dell a million dollars. That's nuts. Did the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn't mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium. Big difference.

How big will this black hole grow? How long until spammers start exploiting it?

Is a spam page ranking on Twitter somehow better than me getting credit for the work I actually did to build a following there? I would love to sit down with a search engineer and have them try to answer that questions with a straight face.

Life's not fair. Neither are search engines. Nor blog posts. ;)

The web of opportunity is phase - a brief moment in time. There is plenty of time for digital sharecropping and being someone else's user generated content after retirement. I am going to cut back on social media for the next year or two...its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)

Published: March 3, 2009

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Comments

March 3, 2009 - 5:43am

This is bang on. I love Twitter and use it constantly, but we're building a no-follow monster. It's like Del.icio.us now, links flying all over the place, but no juice.

Twitter has an incredible capability to drive traffic to your site without Google, and that's cool, but it's going to come at too high a price as it has zero residual value, or history to benefit sites, other than a short burst of traffic like Digg.

A non-technical friend of mine mentioned over the weekend that to them, Google's results lately have been incredibly stale. Twitter is going to school Google with real-time SERP capability, and if I were Goog I would see that as the biggest threat to my business out there. I would buy it now, before it grows any more.

In the end, the only way we might be able to deal with the no-follow Twitter rankings is to use them as a 'rebounder' to drive users back to our content, although once again, it's a short term burst.

March 3, 2009 - 6:17am

I saw a good idea about Twitter recently although I can't remember where. It was akin to using Feedburner to host your feed (yoursite.com/feed/ vs. feedburner.com/yoursite)

So your Twitter would be yoursite.com/twitter rather than the other way around, and your TLD gets credit for the content that you're posting.

I think it's a good idea, but I doubt they'd ever do it. The users on Twitter concerned about not hosting their content are definitely way outnumbered by those that don't care.

March 3, 2009 - 6:30am

Aaron,

Your the SEO expert so I'm not going to argue with you about the SEO value (or lack of it) from Twitter - I know I'd lose that sort of arguement! :).

I also think it's business value is completely hyped out of all existance.

However I'm persoannly getting some business value out of it purely from a networking point of view.

Through it I have made some great connections with people I may have not found let along got to connect with. It has also pointed me to me excellent resources that I may not have found so quickly.

I did blog about my early Twitter experiences and it got quite a few comments.(remove this link if you think I'm just spamming a link!)

http://www.kksmarts.com/blog/twitter-for-business/

Thanks again for an interesting post.

Cheers
Mike

March 3, 2009 - 11:05am

I agree with you partly from the SEO perspective. Yes, Twitter wastes value in terms of link juice etc.

But do read this article from SEOmoz recently: "Nofollow is Dying: The Impact of Micro-Blogging and Nofollow on SEO".

For instance Wikipedia's outbound links are nofollowed, but if the link and content is valuable to Google (or any other search engine), why wouldn't it count it or at least crawl it? And wouldn't that be the same for Twitter?

Google and other search engines must recognise the value of some content behind nofollow. But even if it is not, PageRank is just one of the many factors of the algorithm.

Besides all SEO value, I agree with mikesed that Twitter has an incredible networking power. Through this network there's definitely value built up.

And conversations starting on Twitter and moving to blogs for example can even have an indirect SEO value as well.

March 3, 2009 - 1:14pm

I think these two things might give you some perspective:

http://www.digeratimarketing.co.uk/gartnershypecycle.pdf

Aaron is starting the downward trend for us :)

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/03/02/evan-williams-predicts-that-normal-...

March 3, 2009 - 2:22pm

Nice links there thatafferboy. I had to save that gartner hype cycle paper. :)

March 3, 2009 - 2:46pm

I use Twitter a lot. It was through Twitter I found my current SEO position, so I am a fan of Twitter.

At Podcamp Toronto recently I presented a session on SEO 101 and one of the questions I was asked was, "How does using a TinyURL affect link juice". Most Twitter users rewrite URLs using a service like TinyURL and TweetDeck has one (name escapes me) built in.

I had not thought about that before, does anyone know?

March 3, 2009 - 3:20pm

It is easy enough to test
http://sphinn.com/story/103552

March 3, 2009 - 2:46pm

I think you are missing the "social" in social media. Twitter allows users to connect to like minded users. I am able to connect with top SEO/SEM folks and communicate with them on a one-to-one basis.

Also, there is a trend where users are dumping their RSS readers and using Twitter to keep up on the latest blog posts from their favorite authors.

March 3, 2009 - 3:22pm

I am not forgetting the social in social media. Links represent relationships. And those relationships are largely invisible to search engines if most of the interactions occur on a network blanketed with nofollow.

If you have a big company with lots of human capital to waste then developing a fake connection between customers and then brand might not be a bad idea. Go Skittles! But if you are a small business looking to grow I think the effort needed to see any real return on Twitter would be better spent building out your own site.

March 3, 2009 - 4:02pm

Sorry but...

I love any talk about SEO being more difficult because I hate SEO. Every client I have has been ripped of by so called SEO services. Theres talk all over the web about the job of seo dying for reasons like this.

So it should. I consider it as 1% of a Web Developers job but know a lot of students who left Uni just to rip of people with SEO and think its a job on its own.

2nd time around a website owner knows it won't get them sales just traffic so its worthless and last a short period. They wont touch proper priced SEO again so easy and there is a serious problem building up trust for any other services. Sure this can happen with any product or service but I hear it every week with SEO and spent a lot of time building trust where I shouldnt have to.

Its a practice that needs tightened up and regulated or stamped out. For those who don't only do SEO fair enough but if your reading this and all you do is SEO then I bet you also have a Twatter, sorry Twitter account and taking part in it.

Ryan from webtechglobal.co.uk

March 3, 2009 - 7:14pm

The laws of attraction are sorta hyped, but we do put out some sort of vibe that attracts people along a similar wavelength. If all of your clients get scammed then maybe that says something about the people you chose to attract to your services Ryan. You think SEO is unfair or a scam, and so you attract suckers that think the same and got/get scammed. It is a market for lemons effect at play.

Put another way: I think you think SEO is a scam because you scam your clients. Your site says the most popular page on your site is your SEO page. And what is up with a £4.99/month SEO service? What, besides a scam, can you actually deliver at that pricepoint?

As much as you may want legitimate SEO practices (or other forms of marketing) to die...the fields evolve, and over time they will get better at sorting the competent from the incompetent.

March 3, 2009 - 4:24pm

Using strong emotions to overshadow a link drop, seems like a nice idea, maybe I should try it to in the future ;).

Anyway, I can feel your frustration about rip-off SEOs, and dont really consider myself an SEO, anyway. However saying it's 1% of a web developer's job reminds me of a lot of sites wasting opportunity to rank and get traffic.

March 3, 2009 - 7:21pm

I get that a lot but I use a Firefox tool I made myself that drops text in using quick shortcuts like signatures etc and its just in there but it does help.

I'm an affiliate and have seobook on my site too ;)

And I agree with you

March 3, 2009 - 8:10pm

And replaces them with junk rel=nofollow links, surrounded by trivial bits of content.

Cough, cough, that just isn't so throughout the entire Twitter platform. There are still a few areas where equity is being passed and the example you provided is one of them. I'm sure everyone knows that the Search.Twitter.com is DoFollow and if not, they do now. I've seen some nifty implementations of loops that utilize the Twitter search interface to pass link equity.

I definitely understand where you are coming from Aaron. Twitter is a total time suck. I've seen some who spend their entire waking hours connected to Twitter. I did it for a few months and it about wiped me out mentally. I cannot thrive in a 140 character restrictive environment. Nope, not me! I could easily fill my Twitter Timeline with 30 to 40 140 character Tweets in a short period of time.

I've actually removed all my bookmarks to Twitter. I do use the Twitter Search interface though almost daily along with TweetBeeps.

P.S. The Search.Twitter.com is a prime example of why you don't want your URIs converted via a URI Shortening Service.

March 3, 2009 - 9:08pm

That website is a prototype but you cant possible discuss such a low price as some sort of attempt to rip someone off! I'm planning on using the site and started editing it over the weekend, what do you suggest I change the prices too? Hourly or set fees.

I'm taking part in computer ethic studies that basically show SEO services push for the highest price and don't charge by the hour or resources if it be man,tools,software or stationary. Obviously just like any other service but the study I'm taking part in is showing SEO is shocking compared to other services that other students are covering. It includes talking to customers with high percentages feeling very disapointed and ripped off but happy with everything else they have received in terms of internet web design etc

Thats where my anger comes from previously.SEO is ruined. Twitter is yet another network allowing people with similiarity to connect. Including those who have been stung by SEO services. Unlike before the web no longer buries old content especially the negative stuff.

March 3, 2009 - 10:10pm

With design you either get a design or you don't. It is not a competitive marketplace where you get $0 if you are 12th best in your market. But with SEO you could rank on page 2 and still get almost nothing...it can require spending thousands of dollars building links if that is what the competition is spending.

SEO is not ruined (and for the people who really get it, the thinning of the heard will probably only increase profit margins). I am not going to give you pricing advice unless you pay me to do so.

And yes super-low SEO prices can be seen as damaging to the market because they lend the false idea that SEO is available cheap and easy. It is a common scam, but it is still a scam.

March 4, 2009 - 12:00am

IMO, Twitter doesn't necessarily have to help you with direct follow links. Using Twitter helps promote yourself and your brand which can indirectly attract backlinks. Also, just because the links from Twitter are no-follow doesn't mean that Google doesn't follow them and that eventually they might not be part of their algorithm in some sort of a social connection capacity.

March 4, 2009 - 12:45am

If Matt Cutts would have wanted the Twitter links to count he probably would not have sent Ev a tweet alerting him to the SEO that blogged about a Twitter link counting.

March 4, 2009 - 12:20am

Btw, my favorite SEO-rip-off would have to be "we'll submit your site to 500 search engines", when 3-4 deliver basically all of the traffic hehe

March 4, 2009 - 1:33am

I find it dubious that anyone other than a big brand, celebrity or news network would find Twitter worthwhile for marketing purposes. I thought I'd give it a shot and managed to collect about 1600 targeted followers in 3 days, but interaction was minimal. Why shout into a black hole when you can top post in a busy forum???

The only reason it became so popular was because it appealed to news media & marketers who plugged their Twitter accounts every chance they could.

If you've got a new marketing tool or medium, Twitter might be one place to sell it considering the fact that their primary demographic consists of spammers.

Hey. Follow me at http://twitter.com/sem_seo_ppc

March 4, 2009 - 5:49am

I rarely click on tinyurls unless I totally trust the person who published the link. Certainly I would never click on one in search.twitter.com - not just because the link could take me to a site with malware, but why should I give a site another visitor (and ad views) just because I mistakenly thought the link was going to take me to somewhere else (i.e. the tinyurl was falsely described)?

IMO, I don't understand why twitter don't allow URLs to be "outside" of the 140 char limit. It wouldn't take much programming. You just make a rule like : we allow one URL per tweet, and that URL doesn't count to the character count, so then people aren't relying on having to use tinyurl to save character count, and we can all see where the links go to.

March 5, 2009 - 12:25pm

Whilst I certainly agree with the general sentiment that it's replacing a lot of follow'd links sites would otherwise get, it's not quite a fully grown black hole yet: http://m.twitter.com/aaronwall

Google has no choice imo but to ignore nofollow on Twitter going forward (when that mobile hole gets plugged). Otherwise, how can they claim relevance if they aren't watching the sentiment towards sites portrayed by links on the service. Google is a big beast and possibly slow at changing their minds and certainly about admitting it in public. But I don't believe for a second they are going to be stupid enough to let their relevance and bottom line be affected by a tag that's blown up in their face.

March 12, 2009 - 12:29pm

Well so, the solution would be to only link to Twitter with nofollow links... As much as I hate it for being a time waster, I have finally caved in and started an acct seeing how much benefit I got from a half-abandoned acct I created back when it all just started and just let it sit there for a while - it now has over 1,000 followers and brings me signups (not telling where ;-) ) - all without me moving a finger for the most time.

March 13, 2009 - 11:06am

What are you complaining about Aaron?

Look at all the external links beneath this blog post. They are all flagged with a nofollow tag. Youtube, Wikipedia and just about everyone is flagging links with a nofollow attribute.

Wasn't it the SEO 'experts' who came out with this 'brilliant' idea in the first place?

If you were concerned about giving juice, you would start with seobook.com

March 14, 2009 - 1:38am

No it wasn't SEO experts that pushed the use of nofollow. That was done by search engineers that lied saying the tag was to reduce comment spam, and then after it got mild adoption they said that everyone who sells links is a spammer if they do not use the tag on paid links.

March 16, 2009 - 8:33pm

I'm taking a class right now on digital marketing and PR, and our instructor is really pushing Twitter. I think the obsession here is its ability to produce quick news feeds. At least, that's what we're using it for.

If it's the case that Twitter results in empty juice and wasted page rank, I feel slighted. However, with the vast amounts of users and followers, Twitter would appear valuable in promoting web content. Though I have to say that when I follow someone on Twitter it's after I've visited their site - so in my case Twitter is just an empty time waster, because it doesn't help me expand to more viewers.

March 17, 2009 - 12:09am

If you are not well known already then Twitter is just another opportunity at distribution and another opportunity to make connections, but it is hard for it to become a lasting competitive advantage because you are building up someone else's website. The basic function of delivering news can be done on your own site (via a blog) if you want to use it as a marketing strategy (and your content is remarkable).

On our site we recently decided to add a slide up and pop up to try to push a few more visitors along the path toward conversion. You can't really make those sort of changes on someone else's network + any links you build into external networks is not building up your core site's audience or link authority. Plus your most passionate users (and in marketing you will want some) should hopefully want to register with your site and participate on your site.

March 17, 2009 - 5:19pm

Others have said it in the comments, but I just don't see Twitter as an SEO tool, which is why I chuckle at the idea of this. Although nofollows DO pass some value, Twitter is a social networking tool, not an SEO tool. With this social networking tool you are able to reach audiences with your content and links that you normally would never be able to. The same is true with Delicious, digg etc, there's different people on each of these platforms that just don't go to the other ones.

Regardless of the semantics, I think your approach to SEO is dead on Aaron because I foresee Google completely devaluing all social bookmark/network links in the next year or so (the way they have done with directories and Digg). So if you're using these tools for backlinks only, you are wasting your time. I'm using them for traffic and to build popularity so they will continue to work for my purposes, even if/when Google completely devalues the links themselves.

April 28, 2009 - 8:37am

Not in the top 100 anymore. Google rankings are all over teh place lately--all jacked up.

SEO's need to start thinking how to make the world's largest content sites in their niche, that can be pushed by their own users (e.g. wikipedia). Then spam and rank the crap out of google for competitive phrases like i see many of these sites doing already.

December 2, 2009 - 5:31pm

Don't think in the present.

Twitter is the best example of the real time web and it's the place where the most relevant link discussion and distribution is going on.

Any search engine that doesn't use that data soon for ranking (nofollow or not) will lose relevancy.

December 2, 2009 - 6:34pm

Most of the Twitter mentions are not longterm earned references though...just passing mentions. Sure they might help for indexing, but are not that important for ranking. And even for indexing, the stuff that has lasting real value will get citations from other sites as well.

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