An SEOmoz member reports on a few studies that seem to confirm what I suspected: search engines are using Tweeted links to find and index content, so Tweeting is essentially the modern equivalent of submitting a URL to a search engine. I have noticed this myself: lately when I Tweet a URL, it’s indexed pretty much instantaneously on Google. (Case in point: I Tweeted my last post, and it was on Google by the time I switched to Google and searched for its title.) In fact I’m NOT going to Tweet this post, and see how long it takes to be indexed, so please don’t spoil the experiment by Tweeting it. I’ll update later today what the result is.
Note that Bing isn’t that quick. That post has not yet been picked up by Bing. (Also, disturbingly, I see Bing is ranking scraped content from my Hubpages vs. Squidoo Panda Update lens on page one, whereas the actual article is nowhere to be found. Not impressed, Bing.)
According to the article I linked to above, there’s some evidence that Tweets from Twitter members with established, respected reputations may be a minor Google ranking factor. That is, in addition to helping Google find new posts and content, Tweets from respected figures may actually boost the links Tweeted in Google’s search engine results. I haven’t seen enough data on this to call this confirmed, but it makes sense.
Of course, most of us don’t have that kind of authority, so we should be using Twitter for social promotion— engaging with people in a way that makes them interested and gives them something in return — not backlink building, where we may be sharing links to get search engines to notice them.
Update: Drat, this test is a failure. Google indexed the post within one minute of my posting it, even WITHOUT my Tweeting it. Behold the power of blogs. Google really, really loves frequently-updated blogs. Bing has indexed the front page of Squidbits.com again to show the text of this post, but has not indexed the page under its own URL.
I presume, however, that the SEOmoz post I shared above shows that the initial premise is correct: Tweeting helps Google find pages faster, although unless your name is, oh, Danny Sullivan, it may not help the page rank any better.
Test one: Google indexed this blog post immediately because it likes blogs. As of June 9, 6 days later, Bing still hasn’t indexed this entry under its own URL; it just updates what it shows in its cache for the front page of Squidbits, which includes this post. I forgot to check Ask in my original test, but Ask is now showing both Squidbits and this post under its own URL. In other words, Google and Ask are indexing individual blog post pages; Bing is just indexing the top level of a (not incredibly popular) site.
Test two: Using a Twitter account that nobody knows and which has only 2 followers, I tweeted a page hidden on a server I haven’t used since 2003, with no links to that page from anywhere. Google indexed it within half an hour. Six days later, Bing does not list the page by its title or selected phrases, nor does Ask.
So that looks like Tweeting works to submit a URL to Google, but not to Ask and Bing.