Who’s Reading Twitter on Search Engines? Part One

Google’s "Latest Results" Might Not Be Obvious to Everyone

Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Search Strategist

As you may be aware, Google, Bing, and Yahoo! incorporate (or are planning to incorporate) Twitter results into some searches.  For example, when you look on Google for certain words, you may see a section called "Latest Results," with a series of scrolling links.  Some of these results are individual Twitter "tweets" that include the keyword you were searching for.  Like right now, if you search on Google for "iPad," then lower down on the results page you might see scrolling posts about the iPad:

Twitter 1 

Yahoo! and Bing may have similar items in the works.  On February 24, 2010 Yahoo! announced a new partnership with Twitter, though new tweets aren’t appearing on Yahoo!’s results page right now.  A blog post on Bing from October 2009 announced that they’d provide Twitter results too.  You can see Bing Twitter results at bing.com/twitter.

Very recently, a study by OneUpWeb.com used "eye-tracker" technology to see how users are currently interacting with the Google "Latest Results."  Were users looking at the stream of information, or did they look elsewhere on the page?  According to the study, the "Latest Results" were among the very last items on the page that visitors would look at.  On average, people would look at the feed after between 9 and 14 seconds had elapsed.  When they talked to their testers later, only 55% of testers realized that there were "Latest Results" on the Google page; presumably 45% of users didn’t even know about this section of the page.

What makes all this interesting is the amount of attention that Twitter is receiving right now from the major search engines.  Their plans to include the Twitter feed in their results indicate a belief that there is something important coming out of Twitter that can help their business.  The eyetracking study identified a definite awareness problem, that is, Google users weren’t seeing the results.

I’m certain, however, that the awareness problem identified by the OneUpWeb study can easily be solved by the search engines.  There are a lot of eye-catching ways to highlight this information and more clearly differentiate the "real time" updates from the regular results.  Getting people to look at the "Latest Results" is easy, but the bigger problem is whether search engines can successfully filter out the spam and the false positives from the Twitter feed to produce useful and relevant results for search engine users.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, where we go into more detail about Twitter and search engines!

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