The secrets of real-time search success

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In December, both Google and Bing announced partnerships with Twitter to include tweets in their search results, and tweets began popping up in results on both search engines by the middle of the same month. While there has not been much discussion about Bing's use of Twitter, Google has captured a lot of attention because its Twitter feed is included prominently alongside other search results.

Real-time search has been a hot topic for discussion in the search engine optimization (SEO) world since Twitter started catching fire in 2009, although I think many SEOs thought the reality of real-time search was farther off.

Defining real-time search
Let's start by taking a look at what is included in real-time search results and where these results will be shown. Real-time search results are an extension of Google's Universal Search Results, and are triggered algorithmically based on query volume. When a topic or keyword reaches a predefined frequency, then Google's algorithm automatically begins using the real-time search page. 

Real-time search results include news headlines, blog headlines, and a scrolling widget with social media comments along with Google's regular results. Time stamps are included with all of these additional pieces of data so that users can choose the timeliest results. Social media comments currently come from Twitter, FriendFeed, Jaiku, MySpace, and through API data feeds. News and blog headlines are based on fetched results found through Google's normal crawling cycles. Blogs and news sites that publish regularly are normally crawled many times per day due to the frequency of new content added. 

While Google does not publish the algorithm for how it determines the ranking of this real-time content, the company has made some broad statements on how the algorithm works. Google publicly stated that social media profiles are scored based on the quality of profile, following a similar methodology to what the search engine does with links. Basically, the more friends or followers, the more trusted the profile. Those with more trusted profiles have a better chance of having their comments included within the social media widget.

A search for "Kurt Warner" on Jan. 29, the day he announced his retirement from the National Football League, produces the real-time search results seen below.

At the top of the page are news results from one hour before the search, with a link to 1,167 additional news articles for those who would prefer to specifically read news articles. 

The next three results are typical search results, with a Wikipedia result, Warner's official site, and his page.

In the fourth position on the page is the social media widget. The widget contains a running list of social media mentions of Warner's retirement. The remainder of the page is a mixture of news, informational, and memorabilia sites relating to Warner.

These real-time results will likely stay in place for a few days, but once the online chatter dies down, the page will likely return to the regular search results. A search for "Kurt Warner" two days later showed that once the initial chatter died down, the real-time search result box was no longer being returned, and a more traditional result was in its place.

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Roxanne Alexander
Roxanne Alexander February 9, 2010 at 8:30 AM

Good article. Do you have any idea of how much "chatter" there needs to be before real-time search results from Twitter get picked up by Google?