Tweets are an SEO ranking factor and this study proves it
In the biggest study of its kind, we have found that there is strong correlation between the amount of tweets about a URL, and its Google ranking.
- Study shows that URLs receive a significant boost in Google rankings when they are shared on Twitter
- The effects of this boost seem to level out at around 50 tweets, and the subsequent benefit of gaining additional tweets is minimal until around 5,000 tweets
- After 5,000 tweets the average ranking of URLs improves considerably
- URLs receiving over 7,500 tweets almost always rank inside the top 5 results
- Average rankings are heavily correlated to the number of tweets about each URL
Impact on brands
Brands need to be encouraging users to retweet links to commercial pages as part of their social media campaigns, in order to take advantage of the increased rankings that this strategy can deliver.
SEO benefits can help tie social media activity to revenue figures and encourage further investment in the channel.
About the study
Using our own award-winning Twitter petition site; Twitition.com we conducted a study into the effect of tweets on rankings in Google (no other search engines were used for this study). This is the biggest study of tweets conducted anywhere in the world, and we think it’s produced some really interesting results.
When someone signs a Twitition a tweet is sent from their account, thus starting the viral effect; so in this instance, we are making the assumption that the number of signatures equals the number of tweets about that specific URL.
Our study was just for the Twitition website, and similar conclusions may not be drawn for all websites, however with over 1.4 million Twitter followers and 7.6m signatures across 198,000 Twititions; Twitition is the perfect utility for this research.
With over 140 million active users, Twitter has well and truly taken the social media world by storm, and using it has become an integral function of everyday life.
For years, the SEO industry has questioned the value of tweets in rankings, and whether the number of tweets about your website has an impact on your rankings; but nobody has ever undertaken a meaningful study over a substantial amount of tweets to try and find out the answer; until now.
Our aim was simple, to find out whether the amount of tweets to a specific URL affected its ranking on Google.
What we did
We collected our data from Twitition on 28th February 2012, which included the Twitition short URL; the Twitition’s name and title; the Twitition’s start date; and the Twitition’s number of signatures (tweets).
There were a number of Twititions which were not included in the study, as some had little or no signatures, and we didn’t want the data to become overwhelmingly skewed with ‘lower end’ tweets.
Our sample size consisted of 8,528 Twititions – a large enough sample to provide statistically significant and mathematically sound results.
We divided the Twititions into the three following groups:
- 1-99 tweets (5,322 Twititions)
- 100-499 tweets (1,382 Twititions)
- 500+ tweets (1,824 Twititions)
We then checked the rankings by removing any special characters from the Twitition titles, taking the first four words from the new Twitition title, and checking the rank for Twitition.com from that one to four word phrase in Google.
For example, a Twitition with the title ‘We want Justin Bieber in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil!’ became ‘We want Justin Bieber’.
We gathered the rankings on 6th April 2012, and collated the results into graphs to reflect any correlation.
Twititions with 1-99 signatures (tweets)
Between 1-50 tweets provided a significant rankings boost, as shown in the graph below.
Twititions with 100 – 499 signatures (tweets)
The boost levels out and doesn’t seem to provide a major additional increase.
Twititions with 500+ signatures (tweets)
- This provided the most interesting results
- There is a much stronger, positive correlation
- The average ranking positions were as follows:
|Number of tweets||Average Google ranking|
The graph below shows the Google ranking positions for URLs over 1,000 tweets. This shows that from 7,500 tweets, you’re almost guaranteed first page rankings.
What our findings show, is that tweets appear to provide a rankings boost up to 50 tweets, but anything from 50 to 1,000 tweets, don’t really affect the ranking any further.
From 1,000 tweets onwards however, a URL’s ranking is significantly boosted, and URLs with over 7,500 tweets rank on the first page.
Of course, there are so many factors at play here; URLs with lots of tweets are more likely to have media coverage and have links from blogs and news sites, and also many of the Twititions with over 1,000 signatures will be specialised and so will rank higher as they’re in a small niche; but our study has conclusively found that there is a correlation between number of tweets and Google rankings.
Whilst you can never prove anything in the unpredictable world of SEO, our study is the biggest of its kind, and we have succeeded in what we set out to do.
Obviously, correlation does not imply causation and we are fully aware that sometimes URLs which receive a lot of tweets also gain attention from bloggers and other websites, and it might be these links that are influencing rankings. It would be impossible to completely isolate these factors in the study.
What this means for brands
Most brands understand the need for social engagement but relatively few have plans in place to actively encourage users to share links to their primary commercial pages. Now that the correlation between tweets and rankings has been demonstrated, we are recommending that brands develop strategies to build more social engagement using tactics such as ‘retweet to enter’ style competitions, and other innovative social media ideas designed to encourage customers and fans to share commercial pages and help improve rankings.
Feel free to download the data sample yourself to take a look at the figures, and please get in touch if you want to find out more about the study, or if you want some advice on how to alter your social or search strategy to incorporate these findings.