The date was July 1st, 2009… Facebook at the time was still months away from acquiring its 300 millionth user and Twitter had just recorded 44.5 million unique visits worldwide during the previous month.
Facebook now has more than 500 million users and Twitter is currently attracting 190 million visitors per month and generating over 65 million tweets daily.
The Bing team made a blog post announcing that they were going to start showing tweets (twitter messages) of “some of the more prominent and prolific Twitterers from a variety of spheres” alongside Bing’s search results. The post named Danny Sullivan, Kara Swisher, Al Gore, and Ryan Seacrest as examples of those “prolific Twitterers”.
The following things have been identified that the search giants are looking at in determining a page’s ranking:
- Diversity of Sources – having 50 tweets of a link from one account is not nearly as valuable as 50 tweets from 50 unique accounts.
- Timing – links that are shared shortly after an RSS feed first publishes a story may be indicative of Query Deserves Freshness (QDF), but tweets/shares of older pieces could be seen as more indicative of lasting value and interest (rather than just sharing what’s new).
- Surrounding Content – the message(s) accompanying the link may give the engines substantive information about their potential relevance and topic; it could also take the place of anchor texts, particularly on Twitter.
- Engagement Level – the quantity of clicks, retweets, likes, etc. could impact how much weight is given to the link.
As for the possible factors for determining Author/Social Authority:
- Quantity of Friends/Followers – Like links, according to Sullivan, it’s likely the case that having more friends/followers is better. However, he warns that low quality bots and inauthentic accounts are likely to be filtered. And Sullivan thinks that due to the challenges that bots and inauthentic accounts will be facing in acquiring followers/friends, the search engines will probably have an easier time spotting them than they do in weeding out spammy links.
- Importance of Friends/Followers – Again, just like links. If you are hounded by high "authority" followers, it can send a very good signal about yourself.
- Analysis of Friends/Followers Ratios – Much like the engines’ analysis of the editorial nature of links, consideration of whether a social user is engaging in following/follower behavior purely out of reciprocity versus true interest and engagement may be part of authority scoring. For example, if you have 100,000 followers and you follow 99,000 of them, and the engagement between you and your followers is slim, you’re likely not going to be recognized as authoritative as the owner of an account with 1,000 followers who are constantly engaged, retweeting, liking, sharing, etc.
- Topic Focus (Theme) / Relevance – The consistency or patterns between a person’s sharing behaviors could also be a consideration (using topic analysis and patterns in the sources of shared/tweeted links, etc.). Being an "authority" could even be subject-specific. For example, if a prominent SEO tweets links to celebrity news, it will have less of an impact as compared to when that person tweets links to a web marketing resource.
- Association Bias – Google and Bing probably has the ability to associate social authors with the sites/domains they’re part of and those that they’re independent from (Google Profiles comes to mind here).
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