A recent study shows that URLs can benefit from improved Google SERP positions when they are shared via a sufficient volume of tweets.
In April 2012, Branded3, a digital marketing agency based in the UK conducted an in-depth study (claimed to be the largest of its kind) to test whether the amount of tweets that include a specific URL affected the page’s ranking on Google SERPs. The agency’s research showed that URLs did, indeed, receive a significant boost when shared on Twitter, but the results were more detailed than that.
It was concluded that improvements in ranking leveled off after roughly 50 tweets and were then virtually nonexistent until around 1,000 tweets. From the 1,000-tweet mark, incremental gains were minimal until approximately 5,000 tweets when the average ranking of URLs increased substantially. Perhaps most promising is that an SEO benchmark was seemingly identified when researchers noticed that URLs receiving over 7,500 mentions on Twitter almost always rank within the first 5 Google results.
For context, the search terms that were considered for this study were the first four words included along with the URL in the tweets. The example given by Branded3 was a tweet “We want Justin Bieber in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil!” was shortened to a four-word phrase (“We want Justin Bieber”) when conducting the experiment in Google searches.
Correlation vs. Causation
While these figures may seem groundbreaking, Branded3 acknowledges explicitly that other variables may have played a role in the findings of this study:
- URLs receiving many tweets are more likely to have an already respectable inbound link profile as they have a better chance of being featured on reputable news sites and blogs.
- The way in which Branded3 created enough tweets to measure was by monitoring a Twitter petition site (Twitition.com), and many of these high-volume Twititions may have been specialized or niche enough to have limited competition, thus rising through Google’s rankings more easily.
As is often the case in SEO, however, the direct impact of implementing a single tactic or best practice is seldom measurable to an exact degree, but a study of this magnitude (8,528 Twititions analyzed), proves that a correlation does exist between a URL’s Google ranking and the number of tweets that URL is included in. And at the very least, the results of this study fall in line with a best practice that we have been preaching for years—establishing an active social media presence for link building purposes and integrating social media sharing buttons into your site for UX purposes.
Implications for Brands
All brands understand the importance social media plays in their marketing mix, but few have plans to actively encourage social sharing of links to the pages they generally promote passively. While nothing is guaranteed in SEO, social engagement tactics like “retweet to enter” contests, or partnerships with major influencers on Twitter could prove to be a serious boon to a page’s organic search rankings.