I got my start in SEO several years ago via affiliate marketing. Anybody familiar with affiliate marketing is aware that the tactics used in affiliate marketing are a lot different than say the tactics one would use to promote a client site. Nevertheless the principles of driving traffic to generate sales are the same in affiliate marketing as they are in the business world.
Are we making more money based on our marketing efforts?
Nine times out of ten with affiliate marketing that was not the case with social media and that’s why I focused the majority of my efforts on SEO as an affiliate marketer. Because SEO delivered: Targeted. Buying. Traffic.
The mantra in my circle with regards to social media was that it was too hard to convert and that peeps who were using social media weren’t generally looking to buy stuff or to be sold stuff. Rather they were looking for entertainment and to connect with their social network. Any way you look at it when you’re short on time and man power, social media is not something you’re going to be spending your time on if things like eating and paying the mortgage are important to you. The running joke back in the day was that white hat SEOs were starving because they couldn’t get anything to rank and social media specialists would be back looking for 9-5 work as soon as their money ran out.
So obviously things have changed a bit as the whole world seems to have gone crazy over social media. When you have congressmen and politicians talking about “You should follow me on Tweeter” you know it’s something you have to take another look at.
So where does that leave Twitter?
It’s not like Twitter is a new service anymore so I think it’s safe to say that Twitter is what it is. But what the hell is that!?!?
For the life of me I don’t understand Twitter… I mean I think it’s a great tool and all but I’ve reached a point where I need to decide where Twitter fits into my marketing efforts and I assume there are many more out there just like me??? So let’s get to the meat of the potato (sorry I heard that on Storage Wars which I’m strangely addicted to…) am I buying or selling Twitter? For those of you not familiar with my buying or selling series please read the snippet below from a previous post.
I’ve decided to start a new category called “Buying or Selling.” The concept behind “Buying or Selling” is pretty simple when you think of it in terms of buying or selling stock. When a stock is going down in price you obviously want to sell and when it’s going up obviously you want to buy. So what I want to do here is look at SEO tactics and determine whether I think they’re something that’s useable and effective, in which case I would be “Buying” that tactic, or if the tactic is dead and no longer viable than I would be “Selling” that tactic.
Are You Buying Or Selling Twitter?
I like Twitter. I think it’s great. But how good is it at delivering targeted, buying traffic? Consider the following:
As far as buying or selling Twitter, right now I would have to say I am holding Twitter. Frankly I think it can be a very useful tool for an SEO but I don’t believe it will ever be used as a ranking factor. For example I do believe it can have a reranking effect on the serp’s (provided you have legit followers who are logged in when they do a search), I do believe Google uses the Twitter firehose as a signal but not necessarily as a ranking signal (more of a discovery signal), obviously Google uses Twitter to populate news results and I think it’s an awesome tool for connecting with peeps in your niche.
But and this is a big but…
My litmus test with internet marketing, SEO and social media tools is this. I simply ask my wife, mom and friends if they’ve even heard of the thing #1 but #2 would they ever use it? And I gotta tell you not many people I know are using teh Twitter. As is the case with most of you I’m sure, most of the peeps I know use Facebook for pretty much everything social. Back to Twitter…
At this point here’s what I can say about Twitter. Twitter is great at getting new stuff indexed. As far as any conclusive evidence that Twitter has any direct impact on search engine rankings, it does seem to have a “reranking” effect and I do routinely see Tweets in news results but it ends there. Here’s a great post by David Harry on Google Social Search and SEO with illustrations on how Google is importing recommendations from people in your social network and reranking results in the process. Basically they’re taking a page or result that wouldn’t ordinarily be on the first page and they’re inserting it into the serp because there is a social connection between the searcher and the result. Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz also wrote on the topic recently: Social Annotations in Search: Now Your Social Network = Rankings.
Obviously this a huge development in SEO as the lines between SEO and Social Media have been blurred. A social media campaign can now actually have an effect on some serps.
What do Google and Bing have to say?
Here’s the latest from Google and Bing on which social signals they use and how: What Social Signals Do Google & Bing Really Count?
Some interesting tidbits from that article:
Both Google and Bing tell me (Danny Sullivan) that who you are as a person on Twitter can impact how well a page does in regular web search. Authoritative people on Twitter lend their authority to pages they tweet.
and there’s also this:
Yes, we do use [Twitter] as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article
Here’s Matt Cutts on how Google used data from social sites:
Personally I don’t believe Google is using Tweets as a ranking factor as some have suggested. I believe it’s used as a signal to find new content and it’s obviously also used to populate news results. And now we see that it can also have an effect on serps when the searcher is logged in to his social accounts or should we just call them personalized results because it seems that’s the direction the search engines are taking us.
But how much can the search engines actually use Twitter signals beyond that?
Can you rely on it and incorporate it into your organic search results (not personalized results) algorithms if only a fraction of the population is using it? Consider the following:
- FaceBook has 600 million visitors and half that visit every day.
- Twitter claims 175 million users but a closer look by Business insider shows us that:
- There were 119 million Twitter accounts following one or more other accounts.
- There were 85 million accounts with one or more followers.
- there are 56 million Twitter accounts following zero other accounts, and 90 million Twitter accounts with zero followers
- there are 56 million accounts on Twitter following 8 or more accounts
So long story short, Twitter is a lot smaller than we think and if we were to actually measure “active” users I think it would lose most, if not all, of it’s appeal to investors. And here’s a little somethin’, somethin’ about the Twitter demographic from Information Week:
Most Twitter users are between the ages of 26 and 44, college graduates or still in school, and earn between $25K and $75K a year. This means services aimed at retirees, for instance, or big-ticket buyers, may fall flat. Or, they may only reach a too-marginal segment of your prospective audience, people who don’t have much of an audience of their own and don’t serve to spread word effectively about your brand.
If you ask me, Twitter is as big as it’s going to be and it’s not going to get any bigger. And that’s why I’m only holding Twitter and not buying it. Look as a SEO I’m no where near as seasoned as a lot of the SEO veterans out there and I’ve already been into several niches where Twitter is barely used, if at all. How much are the search engines going to be able to rely on Twitter signals in those niches? And my experience with Twitter also echoes the data above. Twitter has become a spammers paradise, it is primarily used by other SEOs and social media specialists and of the real followers out there very few are actually active.
Personally I love Twitter. I think it’s a fascinating tool with many uses for an SEO. But do me a favor and take your I-do-this-for-a-living-and-love-every-aspect-of-it cap off for a second and think from the perspective of someone who doesn’t work on the internet all the day. What is the use and purpose of teh Twitter? And what kind of return-on-investment can your client expect from using Twitter?
If you’re anything like me, your brother, wife, momma and friends don’t have a Twitter account. And how many people do you know have the time to follow the “authorities” of their favorite hobbies or the interest to be updated in real time?
While Twitter is a great tool, I think the decision on whether or not to use it should be made on a niche by niche basis with an eye on ROI. It is not now nor do I believe it ever will be a ranking factor. So your decision to use it should be based on something other than organic search results.