Google search gives Twitter a boost

THE appearance on Tuesday of tweets in Google’s search results could mark a significant step for Twitter, which is in a constant battle to educate the masses about the value of its platform.

Google began surfacing tweets in its search results on mobile devices, the fruits of a tie-up between the two tech companies inked in February.

The deal gave Google access to Twitter’s full breadth of tweets in real-time, allowing the former to comb through the half a billion daily tweets faster and show them more prominently in the search results. For Twitter, the deal could drive more traffic back to its site and, hopefully, compel these visitors to sign up for the service.

The placement and what kinds of tweets are produced appear to vary. For example, when someone searches for “Taylor Swift” on Google.com in English or the Google app, after scrolling down past top news results, upcoming events and a catalog of her albums, users can see a carousel of the five latest tweets sent from the pop singer’s Twitter account.

In comparison, a search for “Carl Icahn” shows the most recent tweets sent about the activist investor rather than tweets sent from his own account, and appear right below a general bio of him.

Some news stories show up in the search results, too. Searching for “takata recall” brought up tweets from journalists and news organisations — sent only a few seconds earlier — about the recall of Takata airbags.

Clicking on any of the tweets takes visitors to Twitter.com where they can view the tweet, and if they login or sign up can take further actions such as retweeting or favouriting it.

Other general searches, such as for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times don’t include any kind of tweets in the search results.

“We’re testing what resonates most with our users and we’ll keep refining it going forward,” said a Google spokesman in response to a question about how often, when and where tweets would appear in search results. He added that whether or not tweets appear at all in search results “depends on a variety of complex factors and is affected by real-time changes, so it may not always appear the same way for a given query.”

The prevalence of Twitter’s content on the search engine could help non-users of the social media platform understand how it works. The bet is that as Twitter grants Google access to one of its most valuable assets — its content — the exposure will ultimately lead to more traffic back to Twitter and more users, helping the social media service grow beyond the 303-million monthly active users.

The arrangement reprises a similar deal forged between the two companies in 2009. It lapsed two years later. According to people familiar with the matter, the deal at the time didn’t drive meaningful traffic to Twitter, deliver adequate revenue or inspire new users to join the service. It is unclear how the terms might be different. A Twitter spokesman declined to comment.

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