Google rolled out their real-time search last month that includes results from Twitter, blogs and other web pages generating real-time content. Even though everybody appreciated the feature, nobody exactly understood how Google works when it comes to ranking tweets.
Technology Review is breaking the silence on this after talking to Amit Singhal, a Google employee, who led the development of real-time search at Google. Amit mentions 3 major things that the Google algorithm considers while ranking a tweet higher than others:
1. Number of followers matter:
Just like a web page with 1,000 incoming links ranks higher than a web page with 5 incoming links, a tweet by a person with 1 Million followers would rank higher than a tweet by a person with 1,000 followers. To Google, number of followers is one of the key methods to calculate the reputation of a user.
Interestingly, if I only have 5 followers but those 5 followers are very reputable (have large number of followers), my reputation would also automatically be higher.
2. Hashtags are not always good:
A lot of people insert hashtags in their tweets to identify them with a certain topic. Similarly, a lot of spammers also use popular topics as hashtags to get people to read their tweets. For this exact reason, Google treats hashtags with skepticism. It doesn’t necessarily mean that using hashtags will decrease your search engine ranking, but it does mean Google will analyze tweets with hashtags more carefully than regular tweets to see if they are spam.
3. Displaying timely and topical results:
Since the search is real-time, Google has a job to pick out and display the freshest tweets and filter out the older ones. This is done by analyzing the words next to the keyword and evaluating which tweets pertain to a more recent topic.
Even though these points don’t completely explain how Google ranks tweets, they are a good starting point to understand the algorithm behind it. However, it does open up a few more questions like :
- How does Google algorithm factors in the ReTweets?
- Would a ReTweet by a more reputable person rank higher than the original tweet?
- If a hashtag included in a tweet becomes a trending topic, does it affect the ranking?
Unfortunately, we might have to wait for sometime before Google answer these and other dozens of questions about ranking real-time information.