How to Use Twitter for SEO

It is inevitable. Any social media application that gets big enough will eventually become the target of eager marketing executives, convinced that there must be a way to “leverage” it (read: use it to make money). The poster children for this phenomenon are Facebook and Twitter, both of which present unique challenges to the social media-minded marketer.

It’s Twitter that I want to discuss today. Judging by the queries I have received recently, the burning question in the marketing world is…

How can I use Twitter to boost my website’s SEO?

If you think about it, this question presupposes that there IS some way to use Twitter to boost SEO. That in itself is quite the leap of faith and, for that reason, I would like to rephrase the question as:

Can I use Twitter to boost my website’s SEO?

As in seemingly all things related to SEO, this question generates both a short answer and a long answer. If you find yourself thinking that these answers are frustratingly contradictory…well, then, you are really starting to get the hang of this SEO business!

The Short Answer: No

Directly speaking, you cannot use Twitter to boost your website’s SEO. This is a product of the fact that Twitter “no follows” all outgoing links. Allow me to explain.

Let’s say you run a business selling tennis balls, and you start a Twitter page as a marketing tool for your business. Not only are you diligent about tweeting every day, but you tweet really compelling stuff. For example, tidbits about the latest technological developments in tennis ball manufacturing. In a very short time, you have hundreds (or thousands!) of followers and your Twitter page builds an exponentially growing network of incoming links. In fact, your Twitter page’s PageRank climbs to 5, meaning it has major authenticity in the eyes of Google.

Because you are a savvy marketer, you made sure to put a link back to your main company website right there on your Twitter page. Being on the receiving end of a link from such a high PR page as your Twitter page, your main company website should be getting a big-time SEO boost…right?

Sadly, no. Twitter automatically places the “no follow” tag inside the html of all outgoing links, which effectively tells all search engine spiders: “You see this link here? Totally ignore it.”

As a result, no matter how authoritative or illustrious your Twitter page grows to be, it’s not going to pass on any of its credibility to your company website. The value of your incoming links is the most important factor in your SEO success. Because Twitter is designed to prevent you from receiving any value from its links, I am here to say that you cannot use Twitter to boost your website’s SEO. Directly speaking.

The Long Answer: Maybe

The value of your incoming links is the most important factor in your SEO success. That said, every search engine algorithm comprises many additional factors. Placement of keywords on your pages, ease of site navigation, quality of your code, internal linking structure, domain age…the list goes on and on. While we don’t know the precise makeup of any search engine algorithm, we do have a good handle on most of the things that matter. Some of these components concern your site’s traffic.

How many visitors your site receives, how many pages your average visitor views, how long your average visitor spends on your site…these are all metrics that likely play a part in your site’s SEO success (and by the way, if you aren’t doing so already, you can track these metrics and more quite easily via Google Analytics). So, while Twitter can not directly boost your SEO, if your Twitter content were compelling enough to send visitors to your company website, and these visitors liked your site enough to spend time there (or even buy something!) then you would be very likely to experience an SEO boost as a result.

For SEO purposes, are any of these traffic-related metrics as individually important as the value of your incoming links? No. But taken together, they are a good indicator of how satisfying your visitors find your site’s content, and if these metrics are strong, the search engines will take notice. Of course, there are many variables here. Is your company site actually good? Do you have more reliable means of attracting high-quality visitors (those that stick around and/or convert) than Twitter? Are the visitors you could possibly receive from Twitter high-quality or not?

All of these things must be viewed in perspective but, under the right circumstances, it is possible that Twitter could indirectly boost your company website’s SEO if it sent high-quality visitors to your main page who would not have found your site otherwise.

Something else to keep in mind (and perhaps this is the more likely success scenario for you) is this: If you were able to use Twitter to make industry contacts, who then passed potential customers in your direction, you would at least be successfully “leveraging” Twitter to generate revenue. If those industry contacts could be convinced to link to you from their websites, you would even get your SEO boost as well.

In conclusion, short anwer: no. Long answer: maybe. Welcome to the wacky, wonderful world of SEO!

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