Using Twitter To Learn SEO

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Twitter isn’t just an interactive platform where everyone and their mother can go to speak their mind in 140-character chunks—it’s a powerful, dynamic tool that can be used for a variety of functions: as a communication tool, real-time news feed, trolling, you name it! For the sake of today’s piece, I’ll give some basic tips on how to use Twitter as a vehicle to learn about SEO. This 101 is for anyone who has either never used Twitter or is simply a dabbler.


At the time this post was written, Twitter reported 284 million monthly active users with more than 500 million Tweets being sent per day (unfortunately we have no real stat on how many accounts are fake or abandoned, but I digress). There’s a staggering amount of content and information being passed through that firehose. But, like most things in life, it’s not about consuming all the content, but the best content. The bigger the “signal” the higher likelihood there is for “noise.”

Things I learned by flushing 3,000 followers

301’ing to homepage (test)


Twitter Bird

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007. I’m certifiably addicted, but I’ve never kept my main feed organized. It was too much work after I let it all pile on.  My Twitter was getting fat.

Years ago Twitter was asked, “what are you.” Twitter’s answer, “whatever you want us to be!” Some turned it into a prospecting tool, an RSS feed, a toy, a chat room, a customer service tool, a spamming tool, a stalking/trolling tool, or a brand manager. I realized I never really turned it into anything. It’s like a tornado of people, and I just spiral around in it without any real habitual use. But one thing I never did was look through my raw Twitter feed. I use TweetDeck for Chrome, and completely removed the main Twitter feed.

I was sweeping my mess under the rug. I’m usually very organized, probably due to a little OCD.  My Twitter usage did not reflect that.  Sure, I relied on lists, but I didn’t build them out nearly enough. I was missing other good things in my main feed that didn’t get automatically filed.

I decided to break off my “relationships” with 3,000 people. I did it by hand using Tweepi. It didn’t give me the sense of power I hoped. Most of the mutual followers didn’t realize I existed (just like High School), but for some reason I was still in a relationship status with them. I certainly expected to lose a ton of followers (assuming many of them were only following me as long as I was following them, but with TweetAttacks vanishing, maybe that was less likely?).  In a week I’ve lost only a few hundred.

For some tweeters, it was hard to say goodbye to the icons I’ve gotten familiar with. I’m not kidding. By removing everyone manually, I tried to remember the good times. Some were big brands that followed me back, or big Twitter-celebrities. Yes – I said goodbye to the Zappos CEO. I was impressed 5 years ago when he followed me, but we’ve never spoke (plus he’s apparently seeing 369,000 others). I dropped virtually all the brands I was following. I dropped SEMs and social specialists if we never communicated, or if they never responded – with the exception to a few who were really thought leaders or good friends.

Here was some of my criteria:

1. If we haven’t had a conversation in 2 years, and your content doesn’t really excite me, I broke up with you.
2. If you don’t respond to me, and you’re not a top provider/curator of content, I dumped you.
3. If your icon was a hot woman, but your name was George, I let you go.
4. If your shirt off was in your icon (and you’re a guy) you were severed.
5. If you have a Z in your name where you should have an S, I dumped you on principal.
6. If your icon was an egg, dumped.
7. If you haven’t tweeted in over 3 months and I didn’t know you personally, I cut you loose.
8. If your icon was an animated .gif, gone.
9.  If you were an obvious bot, I asked myself how I ever followed you, then gave you the boot.
10. If you retweet really dumb things, I buried you. 
11. If you appear to follow everyone who follows you (like I used to, which is how I got into this mess), you’re toast.
12. Abusive use of the underscore. 

What Did I Learn?
For me, I realized that I was doing Twitter wrong.   I want SEO industry content and some laughs with my friends.  I want to be on the pulse of what’s important through the lens of the people I enjoy and respect.  I meant no disrespect to the people I cut – I’m sure there are lots of great people, but the connection was never made.  I want all my mutual connections to be real connections, more like my LinkedIn.  Now I’m following much fewer users, and put my raw stream back into my grid.

It’s been a pleasure.  And it’s controllable.

Why Should You Follow Me If I Won’t Follow You Back?
Maybe you shouldn’t, especially if you haven’t stopped to figure out what Twitter should be for you. Granted, my tweets/retweets are 50% relevant to SEOs, with the other 50% being hilarious, but if you’re not into that type of thing, why follow me? I’m also very responsive on Twitter – I respond to everyone, so if you like a good conversation, strike one up with me. That’s another good reason to follow me. If I agree that we’re “hitting it off” I’ll probably follow you back.

But why does Twitter need to be a mutual connection?

My Admission – I Was A Twitter Hoarder
How did I let it get this way?  In the beginning I had some bad habits.  I followed everyone who followed me using a tool (who’s name I forget).  I also did a lot of following of people in lists (instead of just following their lists).  I followed a lot of people who others I admired were following.  I did this blindly, assuming that I’d be able to find a few favorites after a few weeks of watching tweets.  #badplan

I also used to do consulting, and thought of Twitter as a real business prospecting tool.  I semi-consciously thought a high follower count could be seen as clout.  The problem was, although I had an auto-DM, I didn’t nurture any of the contacts.  I was a complete Twitter hack for 3 years.  I only got bit by the bug and really started to understand its value in the last couple years.

Twitter has introduced me to great people.  I’m excited for Mozcon in a couple weeks to meet people I speak with on Twitter.  I’ll learn something there, but suspect much of it will be through conversations and networking due to the relationships I’ve made on Twitter. That’s really pretty huge.

Google Analytics Social Sources: Is Social Engagement Helping You?

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Google Analytics is rolling in reports to help you answer this question.  Well… kind of.

Check out the Social Sources report:

Social Sources

First thing you’ll notice are two graphs to compare against each other.  The top is your social referrers (that is, traffic from all the sites that Google buckets out as a social site), which is detailed deeper in 1 – 10 detail list further down the page.

Let’s drill in one step deeper.  Click one of the listings (ie, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc).

Clicking the social platform you to compare takes you into that profile.  You can change between different pages now with a new selector that appears above, which looks like this:

Click To Change Social Platforms

So what are we comparing?

We’re comparing Visits via Social Referral (blue) with All visits (orange).  So, it’s a quick view of how much social traffic contributed to your overall traffic.  Are you doing a lot of social media work?  Did you have a bump on a Friday, and wanted to see where it came from?  Go to this report.  Set your date range and you’ll be able to see pretty quickly.

But it gets more interesting.  Click the Activity Stream tab: Activity Stream

Now the comparison changes to show Data Hub Activities (blue) vs. Visits (orange).  These are the same “visits via social referrals” that were in the first snapshot.  So what’s this Google Data Hub?  Google says, “The social data hub is a free platform that social networks and other social platforms can use to integrate their activity streams.”  Sounds like Google’s version of Facebook’s social graph.

So this makes sense.  If you notice in the Activity Stream, there are far less sites than Google was originally reporting.  Missing for me are Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook, etc. Why?  Because they’re not playing ball with Google and the data hub.  Google doesn’t have information about shares and retweets here.  In other words, they’re not behind the wall. They know Twitter is a social network, and buckets it that way, but they don’t have accurate data out of the Twitter firehose.

But what we can see from the sites participating with Google is what traffic you receive from social engagement.  For example, here’s what it looks like filtered to Google+.

Social Activity

By looking at the graph above, I can see that on Monday, May 7, a link from my site was interacted with 4 times (blue), and led to 2 Google+ referrals (orange).  For you data junkies, if you have enough data you can put together your own value of social with your own KPIs per platform.  You can determine that spending most of your time on one network, vs. another, is a wise or dumb move.  Or, you can rely on the “conversions” report right below the sources report (if you use “goals”).  Do you have to be more social for your KPIs? Or do your current circles, say Google+, just not give a damn about the latest kind of content you’ve been sharing? […]

Twitter Still Matters For SEO (Including Google)

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Twitter and SEO

Tweet for link love.  Tweet for the world.  Maybe Google isn’t into Twitter, but Twitter is still a great marketing platform that you can’t ignore.

Here are a few reasons why you should keep Twitter part of your daily iMarketing Mix:

  • Link prospecting / link negotiation
  • Content inspiration
  • Brand Exposure / Mindshare
  • Referral Traffic (remember, Twitter has a search engine)

Link Prospecting / Link Negotiation

If you’re a link builder, you probably have some tools that you use to find relevant link partners.  Maybe Blogdash or Ontolo?  Maybe it’s just Google.  But by following and watching on Twitter, you can find some other authoritative authors.  You don’t even need to dig for their email – you have their Twitter handle.  Use Twitter daily to make some friends.  Find and talk to the cool kids in your industry.  Share and CC them on the relevant information you curate through Twitter.  If you’re awesome at what you do, and they’re awesome at what you do, you two can become mutual friends through Twitter.

Expand the full conversation thread and start following anyone in the conversation who you think might be good to know.  Try FollowerWonk to search by the content in their bio – a lot of time Tweeters will add their area of expertise in their bio.  Create lists to organize them so you can listen to them without noise.

In SEO, I have a lot of virtual friends through Twitter, some of which are pretty authoritative authors.  I’ve interacted with them so many times that we feel like we know each other at conventions when we finally meet face to face.  At any time I believe I could reach out to a few of them and ask for some links, some public support on an SEO project, or even a recommendation.  If Google starts to really value authorship markup the way I believe they will, having these brilliant authors as friends may come in handy.  You should use Twitter to start building a portfolio of your own, in your industry.

Content Inspiration

Got writer’s block?  Ask the Twitterverse.  Get their feelings on a topic, and write a solution or summary of the issues.  Ask them what they’d be interested in (but provide the relevant parameters).  Polling has been a great way for marketers to learn about their products and the needs of the public.  There’s no difference here – in content marketing you’re looking to create an article that satisfies a need.  In this case, your product is text.

Twitter is a great way to learn about a niche that you may not be an expert in.  Example time – by using Twitter I learned about Jorts (a nickname for jean shorts).  Not only did I learn they are completely out of style and I look like an ass wearing them, but it was language my apparel client wasn’t even familiar with.  This term has 18,000 estimated US searches, and low competition – a pretty damn good section for a website.

Brand Exposure / Mindshare

Brand exposure is a big deal. If you’re an authority on Twitter, and you’re pulling your brand with you through all your updates, you’re bringing awareness to your company.  No – this is not always measurable for ROI  Welcome to the fluffy side of digital marketing, where not all things are measurable.  Yeah, I said it.

But by putting your brand out there and tying a human face to it, you can have discussions.  You can answer people’s questions (whether you were directly asked or not), or maybe even start a controversy.  You can inspire people to write content where you will hopefully get a link or shout-out.  Google will see these links.

You can ask your new Twitter friends and followers to help push out your brand and content.  Hell, I’m going to do it myself as soon as I hit publish.  Asking people to RT – especially if they respect what you do – can have a big reach.  Just don’t be a menace. Remember folks – there’s nothing wrong with asking for shares not only in Twitter, but Facebook, G+, <<< Hint Hint.

(Bonus, non-Google item) Referral Traffic

SEO doesn’t have to just mean Google and Bing.  Twitter has a search engine, and a lot of third-party apps use it as well.  The terms people use to search in Google are often the terms they used to search through Twitter.  By using these keywords in your tweets you have the likelihood of being served.  Will you probably get huge referring traffic by SEO’ing Twitter?  Probably not, but if you distill it down to a niche, you might get a decent amount of qualified referral traffic.

Now, off to trademark “iMarketing Mix” if it’s still available.

How You Can Help Keep Healthy

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If you haven’t visited, try it. It’s a nice aggregator of digital marketing and design news.  User submitted, and user promoted.  Sound like Sphinn?  Yup.

I bailed on Sphinn pretty early.  Back then the SEO rockstar thing wasn’t as big as it is today, but it was still in play.  I’ve been blogging since 2008, and never got anything “sphunn” up to a visible level, even though I had a few really good articles.  I received thousands of visits off Google for a post I did about SEO friendly link shorteners (before SEL came and did the same article… bastards!)  It was a highly searched topic, and I was first to market, but on Sphinn, I was shit.  I pretty much determined it was because I wasn’t endorsed by a regular Sphinner.

This happened a few more times.  I couldn’t break in to get any traffic.  I couldn’t get any endorsements.  Now I don’t have heaps of empirical data, but I have come to the conclusion that it became a popularity contest.  That reminds me of High School, and I hated High School.  More bastards.
SEO popularity contest

Let’s not let this happen again.  Here’s what you – the community – can do to prevent it.

1. Click the “Incoming” button.  Don’t just troll the “What’s Hot” – I promise you that plenty of awesome content lives there.  I promise you find so many more posts that are relevant to your interest.  Give them a vote.  Unlike the SERPs, there is life on the second pages.  In my opinion, the “Incoming” page should be the homepage.  How’s that for a twist?  Give all the people the same power!

2. Don’t submit low quality.  If it’s not something that’s new, or a fresh perspective, pass on it.  Even if it’s written by your favorite repeat SMX speaker.  Is it actionable?  Is it something that’s going to get people thinking?  Is it something that will garner a lot of comments?  A lot of the rock star SEOs post the same generic stuff over and over because they’re flushed for ideas.  This is a great way to build your real-life authority as a curator.

3. On the same tip… don’t vote something because the person who submitted it is a rock star.  It doesn’t make you a rock star by default.  It makes you a sheep.

4. Please don’t try to game it.  It’s not a sophisticated system.  History shows that all these “gamed” voting sites end up blowing up after they’re manipulated to hard.

5. Please don’t spam it.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say this, but my OCD wanted me to make this a Top 5 list.  So there you go.

Fortune 100 And Social Media – How Engaged Are They?

I’m a firm believer that social media has very few – if any – actual rules (and minimal “best practices”).  Somehow many companies are still sitting and waiting for other companies to try something first. They spend so much time watching and not doing. Reading recipes and not cooking.  Worrying so much about the returns that they don’t dip their toe.

This not a good plan.  What works for others may not work for you, even if it seems like an obvious match. That’s about the only thing I’ve ever picked up watching others engage in social media.

If you are one of those companies who think what others do will determine your appropriate steps, Flowtown released this infographic that might help you realize just how behind you are.  Granted, this doesn’t really speak to strategy, just platform usage, but it’s indicates that after the last 3-5 years, social has pretty much validated itself as worth continuing.

SEJ: Can’t Get Those Rankings? Maybe Your Social Circle Can Help!

Check out my latest article for Search Engine Journal:

Can’t Get Those Rankings?  Maybe Your Social Circle Can Help!

SEJ: Thinning Line Between SEO and Social Media

Search Engine Journal posted an article I wrote.  Check it out:

The Thinning Line Between SEO and Social Media

The Second Largest Search Engine Is Twitter (and you still don’t get it?)

Twitter Search Queries Up 33%, 24 Billion Searches Per Month (SearchEngineLand) – that’s pretty huge!  Just a few months ago they were up to 11 billion.  What a leap.  Why?  Well because Twitter isn’t going away; Google’s bringing it a lot more visibility, and it’s so easy when you give it a chance.  It’s a human run search engine.  Whether you go to, or search through any one of Twitter API powered apps or sites, you’re going to quickly find fresh results.

Last week at a friend’s party, a drunkard mumbled, “Twitter is for idiots.  Nobody cares what you’re doing!”  Well, I don’t get offended that easily.  But I wasn’t about to bother explaining – he clearly enjoyed his obstinance.  But what I could have told him is Twitter is only what you make of it.  It’s a connecting tool between friends (like a status update on Facebook), or a news aggregator (follow those who post nothing but up to the minute news).  Maybe it’s an entertainment tool?  I know I like to follow people that make me laugh every day.  Maybe it’s a customer service tool (@ComcastCares).  I practically IM my coworkers with DMs using ChromeBird.

Granted, the 24 billion searches are probably from Twitter power users, of which I am one.   I routinely search for content and links via Twitter.  I think Twitter is one of the most useful social properties on the web, hands down.  You get used to the 120 (oops – 140… thanks Jack… I was asleep at the wheel there) characters, I promise.  Besides, we all have short attention spans anyway.

Are you a power user too?  Follow me @bill_sebald

So the word now is that these searches are inflated.  Apparently sporadic API calls from all the apps (like my ChromeBird) that ping the search command are included in this announced total.  Well, yeah… technically that’s a search, but really Twitter?  A little deceptive to put the number out there without that caveat.  You still have an incredible achievement to be proud of.

Related: Small Business SEO Services

Social Media Marketing Is Like Dating

After my divorce, I got lots of advice from single friends on dating.  I was pretty clueless.  I learned that waitresses weren’t really that into me (they were just being nice), and not all women are into video games.  They also didn’t seem to care about SEO.  Hmm…

But one friendly lesson stuck with me.  “When in a club, don’t look too eager.  Women notice that!”  This hit me – not because I was necessarily being one of those Night At The Roxbury guys, but I realized I did notice it when I was out; single guys craning their necks to target every woman.  Like throwing a flurry of darts with reckless abandon.

Many businesses who get into social media remind me of this.  It’s a sea of people, and instead of learning to speak the language, make friends, and nurture relationships, they start aggressively firing shots at potential closers.  When they don’t convert, they blame the night club (platform), or the girls (customers).  It’s too frantic.  In online social marketing, your customers expect you to engage with them.  They know when you’re desperate.  They see businesses do it all the time – the only rookies in the social media space are the businesses still going for instant gratification.

Unfortunately, bad pick up lines with your customers are just as bad, if not worse.  They destroy your chances and put you in a much worse light.  Cheap engagement tactics and sloppy execution without sizzle and value make businesses look even more desperate, and turn a flat “no” on the dance floor to blatant giggling and pointing.  Put some thought into what you should really do when taking your chances.

I had to learn to shape my conversations to my new audience (and not talk about video games).  Businesses need to do the same.  Forget a conversion rate if you can’t do this.

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