Study: Why, When & How Often Google Indexes Individual Tweets

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Figuring out when and why Google indexes a specific Tweet has long been a conundrum and point of angst for many SEOs. Of course Google does index Tweets, but the methodology has seemed like a total crapshoot — until now.

The good folks over at Stone Temple Consulting have attempted to crack the Twitter indexation case with a detailed report chronicling more than 19,000 Tweets and from selection of various sized accounts.

The study used the site search operator (site:) combined with the inurl operator (inurl:) to identify the number of status that were in fact indexed by Google. It should first be noted that while this is the only way to find indexation data without breaking Google TOS, it isn’t completely accurate. With that said, this is still a significant metric and it does power all these results. The study analyzed 963 Twitter accounts with various sizes of followers for each with the following breakdown in size:

  • More than 5M followers – 26 accounts
  • 3M to 5M followers – 9 accounts
  • 1M to 5M followers – 23 accounts
  • 500K to 1M followers – 20 accounts
  • 100K to 500K followers – 71 accounts
  • 10K to 100K followers – 199 accounts
  • Under 10k followers – 615 accounts

Again, this data is a bit skewed, with the main majority falling in the 0-10,000k followers category (which in and of itself is quite a chasm).

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With that said, what exactly does the data show? Well, first off according to the site: searches, there are less than 1% of Tweets in the Google index. These numbers display a declining linear regression the longer they last with 1.82% of Tweets from Jun indexed and just 0.10% of Tweets from January 2012 indexed. Furthermore, the survey shows that 3.12% of Tweets are indexed within a week. There was a slight uptick to 3.62% indexation for Tweets more than a week old, but this number is still quite low. The overall indexation of Tweets peaked a hair above 6.0% on week four, then began to plummet significantly dropping below 3% on week 5.

Follower-Count

The more interesting fact however was the data on indexation and follower count. The survey shows a strong correlation with indexation and a following of 1 million+. If you fell within the 10,000 & under follower group, there was a minuscule chance (0.22%) that your Tweets would be indexed. However those with more than one million followers saw anywhere from a 30% to a 50% indexation rate. The study shows more than a 3x indexation jump between those with more than 1 million followers (more than 30% indexation rate) and those from a half million to a million followers (under a 10% indexation rate). So having 1 million plus followers correlates with enhanced indexation.

So is Twitter the rapid source of news distribution? Well, not when it comes to Google Search. With less than 2% of Tweets indexed within a day, you’re still best to write up those articles for Google News if looking to capture the real-time market on Google Search. Of course, if you are looking to gain more attention to your Tweets through the medium of Google Search you may want to get working on audience development so you can get to at least 1 million followers.

Stone Temple Consulting dives in much further including Tweets by Category, Authority indexation over time and a look at inbound links and Tweets. For the full report please see the official Twitter indexation study.