When you spend most of your day using, looking at, or thinking about Google, it's easy to come down with the dreaded disease of tunnel vision.

Google dominates the search space, they have the most complicated algorithm, they can make or break your rankings in a single update. So naturally we spend a lot of time obsessing about them

.Obsession - Now would be a good time for a moment of clarity

But every now and then I like to take a step back and watch "normal" people (read as: people not obsessed with Google) use the internet. It helps me keep some semblance of perspective and has more than once alerted me to emerging trends. You see, when people like my mom start forwarding around one of Oatmeal's comics you know he's pretty much made it.

During one of these recent observation periods, I noticed an interesting trend that I think Google should be worried about.

Among my somewhat internet savvy friends (which basically means they use FireFox & know it's cool to make fun of IE) Google suddenly has a challenger as the first place to turn… Twitter

.question on twitter

On several occasions, when faced with a question their first instinct was to tweet it, not search for an answer in Google.

When I asked one of my friends about it, he responded simply, "Why sort through the results when Twitter already knows the answer?"

Now sure, this means my friend probably deserves to be pointed to this site, but it also means that Google could have a bit of a problem on it's hands. As I began to consider the issue a bit more, I realized that I've made the switch in my own behavior as well.

When I have a question about PHP, I tweet it. When I want to know whether the latest blockbuster movie was worth watching, I tweet it.

If you think about it, that sort of makes sense. Why trust an algorithm, or the random people who's sites the algorithm points you to, when you already have a gathering of people you trust selected on Twitter?

And when you realize that the alternative to Twitter is a SERP full of Yahoo Answer clones that may or may not actually have a useful answer for you, the burgeoning habit of turning to Twitter is only reinforced.

We're social creatures. We like to interact with each other. Almost everyone I know would rather ask the person next to them how to spell a word rather than looking it up in the dictionary. And unfortunately for Google, that social dynamic is lacking in their search engine results.

Examining Google's recent changes and releases suggest they're aware of this limitation. They're personalizing their search results to try and show more sites you're familiar with. They're integrating your social circle into their result pages. Google's even incorporated real-time Twitter results for popular topics! Unfortunately for Google my (admittedly anecdotal) evidence doesn't seem to suggest many people are using these new social features.

Twitter on the other hand is busy making it easier for us to connect to more and more people. They're making it easier to track conversation topics, not just the people you're following.

Don't get me wrong, this post isn't a proclamation of Google's imminent death or Twitters ascension to the throne of the internet. But as long as people prefer to interact with people they know rather than an automated math equation, Google should fear Twitter and what it could become.

Ben Cook

Ben Cook is the SEO Manager for Network Solutions, the original domain name registrar. In his down time you can find him blogging about WordPress over at WPblogger.com.

Network Solutions

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12 Responses to “Why Google Should Fear Twitter: Twitter The Answer Machine”

  1. Vee Sweeney says:

    I agree, but I don't just think its Twitter that Google has to worry about. Facebook has a ton more users and I see the same thing on there all of the time. Friends asking friends questions, people sharing important information. I get pretty much what I need every day from Facebook posts. Now with the speculation that they are implementing their own search…this could get interesting.

    • Ben Cook says:

      Vee, you know you're probably right, however, I'm not nearly as active on Facebook as I am on Twitter so I don't see that kind of interaction as much.

      Also, Twitter is more wide open so even if I don't follow you (or friend you), you can still answer my question.

      In fact, more often than not by simply including the correct hash tag, you can get in front of topic experts on Twitter.

      That sort of interaction is not possible on Facebook.

  2. Loved the post Ben, I think you have a really good point here. I also think it goes the other way around sometime. (people asking things they really should be searching for)

    But this sentence really hit the nail on the head.

    "Why trust an algorithm, or the random people who's sites the algorithm points you to, when you already have a gathering of people you trust selected on Twitter?"

  3. Bryan King says:

    No way… we live in a "I want it now" society… Twitter just would take to long to get the right answer or take to much time to sort through all the wrong answers or overly opinionated answers… What would the difference be? Nothing! Keep dreaming…it is all about time and convienence. Like it or not (I have no opinion, just want my answers… right now!) Google is a Juggernaut!

    • Ben Cook says:

      Bryan, we do live in a "I want it now" society but have you ever tried to wade your way through the Q&A sites that dominate Google's SERPs for many questions?

      Not to mention the fact that once you DO find an answer, you have no idea how authoritative it is.

  4. Kelly says:

    LOVE the post! To your point (sort of), I found it on Twitter, and I just tweeted it out. My only comment is… often one's questions get lost in twitter, so you get precisely zero responses to your queries. On google, you ALWAYS have responses.

    I have a pretty engaged following, which I estimate at approximately 10% (300 engaged out of 3,000 followers). If Twitter is truly to be a competitor to Google, they need to figure out the engagement piece.

    Kelly

  5. I agree. I was not a "Twitter" person for the longest time. In fact, I thought it was a waste of time. I would say now that I am a full on tweople. I use it everyday and have gathered a nice responsive following.

    I do think FaceBook as well as mentioned by Vee Sweeney is a very formidable opponent. Even my wife who has been extremely resistant to everything FaceBook is now a closet user now that she's discovered our daughter uploads all the baby photos of our new grand daughter.

    James
    .-= James Martell@ Affiliate Marketing Podcast recently posted: Is PageRank Calculated Differently for Domains Registered Before 2004 =-.

  6. Ytzen Lont says:

    In stead of one person, just me, searching for an answer at Google now ten persons are searching for the same answer at Google, to report it back to me through Twitter. What has Google to worry about?

  7. That makes sense. In the land where we rely on machineries, computers and robots, we tend to forget that the touch of a human being sometimes works best at solving your answers/problems. Unless it's one of those annoying auto-generated replies, Twitter has that human influence. At the end of the day, the human brain is better than a computer (well I hope so, otherwise we would be living in a scene from iRobots).

  8. Bryan King says:

    The real threat to Google and it's source of revenue is what happened here… (not searching for answers to an immediate question) but Twitter posts (from blogs and interests people have) with direct links to websites. In the past I would have searched Google to find websites and blogs about my interests. In this case, I buypassed the "search" (and the advertisers) via Twitter. I wonder if it will only be a matter of time before Twitter realizes the mass amount of "advertising" income they are leaving on the table.

  9. SEO Services says:

    That's an interesting article. But I personally think that twitter and Google are completely diffident thing and I don't think there is any comparison or competition between two of them. I mean people use twitter as a social media place where they can share their views, feelings, sites and can make new friends and contacts for their business. On the other hand Google is most popular search engine which is useful for searching anything – anytime. There may be many people who are using Google from many years and still not using twitter at all.

  10. The thing with using Google is that you can get your answer immediately, provided you can sort through all the text related nonsense first. It means if you have an immediate query, Google is there and you can access a wider range of resources.
    But if you want to get a specific answer to your question and you have time, twitter may work for you. It won't kill Google and Google don't need to be wary because you can ask questions that you'd ask on twitter absolutely anywhere online but Google can do search results like no other.