A few months ago, both Google & Bing launched deals with Twitter that would allow tweets to appear in real-time search results. And while many of us try to compete to get our websites ranked higher for the search engines, now we must also fight to get our tweets ranked higher too.
Luckily Google is no longer keeping that a secret. In a recent article, journalist David Talbot scored an interview with Google’s Amit Singhal. Singhal admitted that like Bing, ranks are based on the number of followers you have, however, it’s not necessarily how many actually followers you have, it’s how reputable those followers actually are.
“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 said. “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.”
There are more factors when it comes to ranking tweets as well. Many Twitter users like to hashtags to link their tweet to a certain topic. Tablot explains:
One problem with tweets is that people often lard them up with so-called ‘hashtags.’ These are symbols that start with a pound sign (#) followed by a word that represents a very popular current topic, such as ‘Nexus One’ or ‘Earthquake’ or whatever else might be a trendy topic at the moment. When a hashtag is included in a tweet, the resulting tweet will show up when other Twitterers click the hashtag’s topic word elsewhere on the site.
While such tags can usefully maximize exposure of a tweet, they can also serve as red flags to lower tweet quality and attract spam-like content, Singhal says. While he wouldn’t get into details, he said Google modeled this hashtagging behavior in ways that tend to reduce the exposure of low-quality tweets. ‘We needed to model that [hashtagging] behavior. That is the technical challenge which we went after with our modeling approaches,’ Singhal says.
Another problem: how, if someone is searching for ‘Obama,’ to sift through White House press tweets and thousands of others to find the most timely and topical information. Google scans tweets to find the ‘signal in the noise,’ he says. Such a ‘signal’ might include a new onslaught of tweets and other blogs that mention ‘Cambridge police’ or ‘Harry Reid’ near mentions of ‘Obama.’ By looking out for such signals, Google is able to furnish real-time hits that contain the freshest subject matter even for very common search terms.
Unfortunately, that’s all Singhal would share. Google does hope to eventually using geo-location data to rank tweets as well. Google says they hope to factor in geo-location data sometime in the future, but that will still be awhile.