Is Twitter the Google killer?

Remember how Google came form nowhere to pretty-much own online search and Internet advertising?  Well, it seems Twitter is planning a similar move; according to comments made this week by Twitter’s Santosh Jayaram (a Google Search Quality Manager until recently.)

Twitter search?

Twitter users generate a huge amount of data. They are also a helpful bunch; answering questions and suggesting links to people.  This week, Twitter stopped using TinyUrl as its URL shortening service and now uses not only shortens URL’s, it ALSO indexes the content of the links it shortens AND gathers additional data.  This makes it a perfect partner for Twitter, now that Twitter is planning to take on Google and Co.

Twitter, Google & SEO

There’s no doubt that there is some REAL potential here, for Twitter to eat into Google’s search dominance.  Twitter will be able to claim that its search engine is human powered.  Advertisers like the idea of human powered search, which is why it was attempted by Jason Calacanis and his team at Mahalo.  Sadly, Twitter search (currently anyway) is way, way to easy to game – more on that in a moment!

Twitter search a “game changer?”

Although we refer to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the reality is that most SEO is based on Google Optimisation. Websites and blogs are designed and optimised to be found by Google.  For example,  this blog gets over 96% of its search traffic from Google alone.

My concern is that Twitter Optimisation (TO), will see a massive increase in spammy Tweets, as people flood Twitter with links and keywords / phrases.  This could, paradoxically, see a drop in Twitter users – as the nature of the service and the user experience deteriorates.

Surely it couldn’t happen?

It is already happening, with spammers including words from Twitter’s ‘trending topics’ list in their Tweets, with links to whatever they want to sell you.  For example – as I write this post, if you search for #startrek, you also get links to various porn sites.

Twitter claim that they will use a user reputation, ranking system, to make search terms more relevant. The obvious issue here is; “who is to say that one user is likely to be a trustworthy source of links?”  What happens when these ‘trusted’ link providers start getting paid by SEO providers to link to their clients sites?

Whatever happens, it’s going to be hard work for Twitter. I hope it works, just so we can finally have a competitive search engine / online advertising market.

I also think that Twitter’s team might want to look at how StumbleUpon are currently working with human powered links and the challenges they present.

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