Google Ranks Real-Time Tweets Based On Followers?

The Technology Review magazine has an article named How Google Ranks Tweets. They interviewed Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, who led development of Google’s real-time search, on the topic.

Amit explained that in the social context, the number of people following someone is similar to the number of links pointing to a page. We know Google ranks web pages on the number and quality of those links (amongst other factors). Amit explained it is not just about the number of Twitter followers, but also figuring out who the “reputed followers” are. Amit explained, “You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers,” It is equated to a popularity contest.

“One user following another in social media is analogous to one page linking to another on the Web. Both are a form of recommendation,” Singhal says. “As high-quality pages link to another page on the Web, the quality of the linked-to page goes up. Likewise, in social media, as established users follow another user, the quality of the followed user goes up as well.”

To figure out when to show the real-time results is often complex. Google uses a “signal in the noise” methodology to figure out if and when to show these results. He also explained how hashtags in Twitter might be a signal of a lower quality tweet. The Technology Review said hashtags “serve as red flags to lower tweet quality and attract spam-like content.”

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Real Time Search | Google: SEO | Google: Trends | Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • mwheeler

    Most accurate quote: “its equated to a popularity contest”. This seems to be very true, and instead of quality tweets and spending time getting to know other tweeters (that sounds weird) most just use it for selfish reasons. It seems nothing matters but how many followers you can yield. There have been more and more articles recently analyzing twitter, and not always in a good way. Just pointing that out.

    - Matt

  • Planetwebfoot

    Thanks for sharing. I found the point at the end of the article intersting, where Amit Singhal explained how hashtags can indicate a lower quality tweet. Interesting!

  • Oliver

    Interesting and really informative article. I’m always interested in anything to do with Google and Twitter and I will have to read the full article when I have some time. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michael Martinez

    Google seeks to extend its flawed citation analysis-based PageRank methodology everywhere. Despite scientific research that shows citation analysis is an unreliable method of evaluating quality (the Math Union published a study about this a couple of years ago), Google continues to cling to the nonsensical belief that it can derive legitimate value from an easily gamed concept.

    For example, it is an “open secret” that many followers on Twitter are nothing more than bot accounts that autofollow people. And quite a few people in the social media management industry open up dozens if not hundreds of Twitter accounts.

    There is even software out there that helps you populate your Twitter accounts with autogenerated content.

    I suppose as long as they continue to make a profit Google’s overall approach to quality won’t improve — but then, no one ever promised the best mouse trap would lock in the market.

  • AndreaMeyer

    Why on earth would Google think hashtags are a sign of a lower quality tweet? Most of us are using it as an intentional way of tagging tweets by topics of relevance. Hashtags also commonly used when tweeting from a conference to group all the tweets so that people can easily follow along the conference, such as #WIF09 for the World Innovation Forum 2009. To me, hashtags indicate higher quality because they’re an intentional categorization. @AndreaMeyer

  • Shari Thurow

    Hi all-

    I echo the sentiments of Michael Martinez. This whole Tweet/real-time search has gotten so out of hand.

    I know plenty “experts” in their respective fields whose social/business associations are none of anyone’s business, as they are an asset. They are not going to friend everyone in Facebook and reveal their business assets. Likewise, many of these experts don’t have the time nor the inclination to participate in Twitter or other forms of social media. They have more important things to do.

    And I’m sorry. Olga the beautiful Russian lady who wants to be my wife (and her cohorts) are not going to be my “friends” or anything I have control over. But damn! I am missing out on some pretty great links/friends, aren’t I?

    Google…you’re not getting it. PageRank was based partially on how scholars cite each other. Scholars have good reason to cite each other. The world does not consist of scholars. People link to each other, friend each other, Tweet to each other, etc. not because of quality.

    I agree with Martinez (and that study is great – highly recommend you all read it). Google doesn’t get it. I hope another search engine comes along that DOES get it.

  • Shyam Kapur

    Great article and great comments. For those wishing for something better, you need look no further than TipTop http://FeelTipTop a few generations ahead of the state of the art.

  • mferree


    I came across a great example of how Google is ranking tweets. It is clear by the example that Google likes twitter profiles with relevant content, single hastags and does not make a big deal out of the amount followers. At least in this example.

    I documented what I found here:

    Let me know what you think.

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