Twitter: Incredibly Valuable Or Utterly Useless As A Link Building Tool?

I’ve read so many articles lately about Twitter, from mainstream press to the sports world to the SEO world, that all seem to focus on the “phenomena” aspect of it.  After the Twittles (Twitter+Skittles) thing happened,  it was like a dam bursting.  Everyone wanted to know who was doing what with Twitter, how to use it for this or for that, from buzz building to reputation management to link building.  I use Twitter, but not for telling people what I’m about to have for lunch.  I use it to keep up with news, events, announcements, links etc.  In my demographic I really don’t think anyone cares what song I’m listening to at the moment (Melt With You, Modern English).  On the other hand, for the 21 year old using it on a college campus, twittering where you’re headed for beers or what CD you just bought seems logical, natural, obvious.

What’s a bit troubling is when I read people taking positions as to the link building merits of Twitter.  Some say Twitter is about traffic, not links, and I agree.  Other say Twitter is a link building bonanza, and I don’t agree.  Then I stare at the wall pondering it for an hour, and I’m not so sure what I think.

So, I look for evidence. Then I see the actual effect Twitter can have on natural, credible link building, and I get that same warm feeling I had back when I first discovered ICQ.  The link builder always, and I mean always is looking at any tool with one eye on how to use it for link building.  Sometimes this results in cool new techniques, sometimes it doesn’t.

Back to Twitter.  As much as I know you would love to have someone with 870,000 followers mention your URL, even if it happens, that’s not link building.  In fact, if the only metric you care about is number of followers, you are missing the point entirely as to Twitter’s potential for link building.  Argue with me all day about how some of those 870,000 followers will then link to the site as well, but that’s the same logic that says if you get to the Digg homepage the trickle down links will improve rankings.  Well, if your site is about celebs in thongs, maybe.  But what if your site is about tree removal?  Or copper pipes?

Where I see the real value in Twitter as a link building tool is in recognizing that many people who use Twitter have influence in very specific subject areas.  If I’m announcing a niche health related web site, I can do a bit of research and quickly find which Twitter users are regularly tweeting similar health related URLs, and reach out to them, outside of Twitter.  I don’t want to draw attention to a specific Twitter user here, so bear with me as I explain.  A few weeks ago I announced a new site via URLwire, and whenever I do this I set up several alerts/trackers to see where mentions/links show up.  I also set up a Twitter search for that new URL.

I never tweeted the site myself.

As of this article, the new site I announced has been tweeted or re-tweeted by seven people.  That’s not many, is it?  But look deeper.  Looking at the profiles of the those seven people, I discovered all of them were health experts in one form or another.  Also, all of them had several hundred followers (one had 780), and a quick check of a few dozen of those showed some overlap (expected) as well as frequent health URL tweets.  In other words, I’d found a loose community of several thousand collective Twitterer’s who had shared news about a new web site URL.

One of those re-tweets came from a librarian at a med school web site, who did one more thing with that URL. She added a link to it from the med school web site she’s in charge of editing.  What started to her as a tweet ended as a permanent link from her high trust web page.

I wonder how many med school librarians linked to that now-infamous Skittles site?

Twitter’s surface allure is about fame and followers, everything shiny and bright. Twitter’s deeper value, for those of us laboring away to constantly improve our search marketing campaigns, is about resource discovery and new links via a handful of experts behind the scenes, in the corners of the web most people ignore, but engines often love. So, ultimately—which is more important? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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  • ju2ltd

    Eric – thanks for your articles have read a couple of them over the last couple of days – really useful. I also use Twitter to keep up with news, events, announcements, links and find it an incredibly powerful way of getting the thoughts of influential people – sort of gives me head start keeping up with developments. These people are very well networked (obviously) so tapping inito this network is already a powerful marketing channel in itself. If any content or services interest these people then valauble links will develop almost automatically. I guess what I am saying is that twitter can be a very valauble link building tool but not for links on twitter itself. Its a kind of second order effect. Cheers keep up the articles.

  • William Alvarez

    Eric, some people have run some experiments to find the SEO value of links in Twitter., you can read Fabio Ricotta in YOUMoz on his article “Twitter Dupe Content and Link Building Strategy” (

    Yes, I’m so tired of the Twitter thing everywhere. Don’t SEOs have anything else to write about anymore?

  • Eric Ward

    Hi William – I’d read the SEOMOZ article as well as the one that preceeded it, but frankly they are more about Twitter manipulation for self generated links rather than merit based links coming from other sites as a result of a tweeted URL.


  • Eric Ward

    FYI can help you identify people who are tweeting with regularity about specific subjects. Example? Search bowling. Bingo.

  • rodaniel

    I’ve found Twitter to be another means of tracking down and getting in touch with other bloggers in my geographic area. And I have seen a small uptick in traffic from Twitter. One of the nice ways you can use it is to “deep link” back to older blog posts that’re especially relevant to a conversation you’re having. It can be a slightly effective way to shed a little new light on an older, overlooked post that you feel never quite got its due share of attention.

    However, I’ve gotta say that to a large extent, Twitter is, by design, kind of a spam engine. There are lots of Tweets (and ReTweets) featuring lots of links, but how many of them are truly useful? Some, but not always very many. And there’s a pretty high degree of metaTweeting – similar to all of the annoying metablogging that was so prevalent a couple of years ago.

  • jeremy_martin

    Great info Eric. I think that a lot of people find that it’s I important to have their hundreds of followers and that is what social networking is about but only the real marketers will see the true value in twitter and you have definately changed my point of view!

  • elchenuk

    Eric, great article.
    I’ve kind of had a love hate relationship with Twitter for a while and actually only decided recently to come back to it after a 9 month lay off! I’m not sure whether the service has matured or not but I certainly have in terms of using it. Like the first poster, I use it for networking, news, advice and generally just to keep up to date with my constantly changing industry. I still get the odd ‘just had x for lunch’ tweet but in the main the people I follow tweet about useful stuff.
    Incidentally I like the way you promote a new site, but in your post, ‘…whenever I do this I set up several alerts/trackers to see where mentions/links show up…’ do you have any resources/advice sites you can point me to, to read up on how I can do this?

  • DaveAllen

    As a company, Nemo has been using Twitter for a while now but none more effectively than this week when we used Twitter to announce that we had to lay off 9 extremely skilled people. Via Twitter we got about 6 of them job interviews the next day.
    Story here –


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