In the week following the Christmas break, we were talking in the office about whether Twitter would have an impact on indexing speed. It seemed pretty obvious to us that although Twitter links are nofollow that Google must use the data in some way when indexing webpages – after all, if a link picks up a number of key retweets then it must be interesting to the users that retweet, so therefore must carry some weight?
After gathering data for the Twitter test, it became obvious that I should be adding some more variants to the test – to see which was the best way of getting content indexed by Google.
The tests I undertook involved creating a number of test pages that were:
- Linked to from Twitter only with a number of retweets from powerful accounts.
- Linked to only from the homepage of my site (PR3, DA 33)
- Linked to only from Sitemap.xml for my site, with a priority of 1 and towards the top of the file. Was also resubmitted to Webmaster Tools.
- Linked to only from one external link (followed, PR1, DA 35)
- Linked to only from one external no-followed link (PR3, DA 44)
Notes: all of the pages had a very small amount of unique content on them, and no links on the page.
I never really knew what to expect with the Twitter test – but I did expect it to be indexed – just not very quickly.
The order I was expecting the pages to be indexed was:
- Homepage link
- External link
- XML Sitemap
- Nofollow link
|1||06/01/2011 12:08||06/01/2011 12:09||06/01/2011 18:16||6 hrs||2|
|2||06/01/2011 14:33||06/01/2011 23:41||11 hrs||3|
|3||06/01/2011 13:30||06/01/2011 13:31||11/01/2011 09:23||5 days||4|
|4||12/01/2011 10:47||12/01/2011 15:22||5 hrs||1|
Whilst not completely random, the results are somewhat different from what I expected. Why? Twitter links are all nofollow, so tests 1 and 5 are essentially the same, yet these two appear at opposite ends of the table.
This, in my mind, proves that Twitter links (and maybe others, Wikipedia anyone?) are treated somewhat differently by Google in their indexing. With Google obviously applying some sort of social weighting based on number of retweets and the number of followers of the account retweeting.
The homepage link and the followed external link show very similar results – as expected as they are both very similar links in terms of power (DA 33 to DA 35).
Another surprising result (for our team anyway) was the fact that the XML sitemap link got indexed at all. The fact that no links point to this page, either internally or externally and the page can still be indexed does highlight the power of the XML sitemap for sites that have problems with indexing.
Note: very interesting is that GoogleBot visited the Twitter test post almost to the second that the tweet was retweeted.
So which method is best – and which one should you use to get your content indexed quickly?
Well the answer is obviously to give the search engines as many quality signals as possible. For example, for an e-commerce site the best advice would be a latest products section on the homepage and separate sitemaps for each category of products. And tweet about the products too – eBuyer do this very well.
Dan Taylor is a SEO Manager at Just Search. A regular blogger and prolific tweeter, he is also a regular on the Manchester SEO scene.