5 Reasons Why Google Should Fear (or Buy) Twitter

Mar 11, 2009   //   by Gerald Weber   //   SEO Blog, Social Media  //  30 Comments

Twitter and Google

Ever since Google began to gain momentum in the early years of the 21st century (and then went public in 2004), people have assumed that Google is unstoppable.  Although other search engines have fought and clawed in an attempt to take back share of the search market from Google, they have all failed (yes Yahoo and Microsoft, I’m talking about you).

Because of Google’s dominance over these other large corporations, it’s easy to see why most people would assume that no company could come up with enough money to come close to competing with Google.

However, over the last couple of months, one company has emerged that could present a real threat to Google.  While many people could not grasp why they had been able to raise over fifty-five million dollars in funding, people within the tech industry were still obsessed with the concept of Twitter for over a year.  However, it was only recently when everyone started to realize that Twitter could actually pose a direct threat to Google (hence their ability to raise so much venture capital).

Without further ado, here’s the list of five reasons why Google should fear (or more likely, buy) Twitter:

It’s Personalized: If Google is a vast library with only one librarian to guide you around (who can be hard of hearing depending on how complicated the information is that you are looking for), then Twitter is the same library but with all of your friends (and other individuals who you trust) standing around different areas of the library to point out the information that you should actually care about.

It’s Flexible: While it’s true that you can use Google on different platforms (such as your desktop or your mobile phone), Google can’t come close to offering the wide variety of flexible experiences that Twitter can.  Whether you are using IceRocket Twitter Search to search and reply in real-time, Twitpic to share pictures with your followers, Tweetdeck to keep up with your stream of Twitter activity, Tweetie to use Twitter on the iPhone or BackTweets to monitor who is tweeting about your blog or web site, it’s easy to see that the ways to adapt Twitter to your own preferences are almost endless.

It Can Be Customized: Although it’s true that Google allows you to create a personalized homepage, Google simply can’t offer the same level of customization as Twitter.  For example, Twitter has mentioned the possibility of serving local news to individuals who are interested in this topic.  While this may not seem that significant, the reason that it’s a big deal is because Twitter is able to inject this topic (or any other topic for that matter) directly into your Twitter stream (which means that you don’t have to worry about anything except for absorbing the information).

It’s User Generated: This obviously ties in with the first point, but it’s an important point to note in itself.  While Google is dependant upon it’s crawlers to go out and find the material for its index (which then must be organized by its algorithm), Twitter doesn’t have to worry about collecting a single drop of information.  Instead, it let’s its extremely active participants collect and share all of this information on their own.

It’s Fresh: Although the first four reasons on this list are all important and should be enough to make Google pay close attention to Twitter (which they already are), the most direct threat to Google is because of Twitter’s ability to deliver fresh and relevant information the minute it becomes available.

In fact, it’s this exact reason why Twitter began to gain so much attention back in October of 2007.  When wildfires broke out in California, many people turned to Twitter to get up to the date information about the progress of the wildfires.  While a search of Google yielded a couple of news results and a bunch of information that was not relevant at the time (since people didn’t want to know about the history of wildfires, but what was happening at the moment), Twitter was giving people the exact, fresh information that they needed.

While Google has been doing their best to deliver relevant content that is fresh (by taking steps such as creating their Query Deserves Freshness model), so far Twitter has proved that once again, human contributions simply cannot be matched by an algorithm.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below

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Gerald Weber

I founded Search Engine Marketing Group in December 2005. More recently I co-founded viralcontentbuzz.com. which is the free platform that helps bloggers generate REAL "social buzz" on their best content. Feel free to follow me on Google+

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  • daniel says:

    google really should incorporate twitter more. its becoming such a powerful medium it has to be taken seriously more.

    <abbr>daniel’s last blog post..Arnold Schwarzenegger talks upcoming Terminator and Expendables roles</abbr>

  • Ann Smarty

    The only problem with Twitter I've been seeing recently is that it is heavily manipulated. Google is mature, it has been through spamming and is clean now while Twitter is still to learn to keep its users free of spam.

    <abbr>Ann Smarty’s last blog post..Take Daily SEO Dose at DailySEOTip.com</abbr>

    • Gerald Weber


      Great point. I agree Twitter is still in it's infancy which is part of what makes it exciting. Also it is more difficult to define spam on Twitter since it is acceptable to self promote to a point. It will be interesting to see how everything unfolds with Twitter in the future.

  • Not surprising. Twitter is so fresh and aren't we all about instant gratification?

    <abbr>Absolutely True’s last blog post..absolutelytrue: @atomicpoet But, what if I really AM a superstar?</abbr>

  • DomFosNZ says:

    Twitter appears to have risen above all other "micro-blogging" platforms. So why shouldn't google buy them?

  • El Di Pablo says:

    Twitter is a very popular site to be sure, but they have yet to find a way to be profitable.

    <abbr>El Di Pablo’s last blog post..Introducing the Bauer-Power Book Club</abbr>

  • Craig Klein says:

    Great article Gerald! Great timing too!

    <abbr>Craig Klein’s last blog post..Free eBook – Double Your Sales in 2009 – available now</abbr>

  • Alysson says:

    I think one of the most important aspects of Twitter is the wisdom of crowds concept it brings to gaining information. While Google's rankings and search results are based on a seemingly endless number of variables measured by a mathematical algorithm – an algorithm that can be manipulated, no less – there is no substitute for the human element that Twitter brings to the mix.

    I often pose questions to my Twitterverse and receive answers in real-time from people I've come to trust and respect through my previous interactions with them. Trying to get an answer to the same question via Google could take several different keyword searches and weeding through a thousand results. The best answer could be buried on page 42 of the any one of a dozen keyword searches.

    <abbr>Alysson’s last blog post..SEOAly Makes the TopRank “BigList”</abbr>

    • Gerald Weber


      I agree with you 110%. I often use Twitter as a resource when I am seeking a solution to a problem. Also you are so correct about the human element. One of the great things about Twitter and SM in general for me is the "human element" I have so many great friends from all around the world as a result of my involvement in social media and they are all the most valuable resource in my opinion.

      Thanks for commenting and for your continued support.

  • Eric says:

    As one of the above commenters said, the biggest problem Twitter faces is quality control. If they can get a better wrap around that, then they might pose a serious threat to the big G.

  • Matt says:

    Being able to search/follow the real time conversation is Twitter's competitive search advantage. By the time Google indexes a page, that's old news on Twitter.

    Good stuff here,


    <abbr>Matt | Small Biz Bee’s last blog post..To Twitter or not to Twitter, that is the Question!</abbr>

  • John Enns says:

    Great post! You’re absolutely right twitter is definitely something goggle is going to have to watch out for. I don’t think google will have a hope in keeping up with twitter when it comes to fresh content. Nothing beats good old human interaction!

  • Phaoloo says:

    It seems Google buys Jaiku instead of Twitter!

    Phaoloo’s last blog post..4 Ways To Be The First To Gain Traffic

  • Ikki says:

    While I do agree that Twitter has attracted everyone's attention and that it has a huge potential yet to be developed, I'm not sure that it poses a threat to the Big G. Time will tell, I guess.

    Nice post!

  • Matt says:

    I don't see why Google would have to buy Twitter to get the benefits of its power and freshness. Most of the Twitter tools you mention are produced by another company. Other than Not Invented Here Syndrome (which Google seems to avoid pretty well) why couldn't Google just index Twitter, and intelligently build those results into search and other products? If it's not OK with Twitter's TOS, I'm sure paying Twitter a special license for that ability would be a lot cheaper than buying them.

    • Gerald Weber

      Interesting suggestions. There are definitely many possibilities. It will be interesting to see how everything unfolds with Twitter in the future.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  • Jones says:

    Google can't be happy with just indexing Twitter. I don't have a gmail account because it's linked to a cell phone number and I don't want my cell cross referenced with my IP address which is associated with my physical address. Google is like the IRS except more efficient at collecting data and if they owned Twitter your "profile" would take on a whole new meaning. Hopefully, Twitter will stay out of the clutches of the Googly evil control freak.

  • Brandon says:

    All very valid points, but didn’t Facebook already do all of this?

    Considering that Facebook is compliant across multiple platforms, allows for sharing of not only text, but video, sound, and photos, AND it allows for complete organization of everything you upload.

    If anyone should be worried about Twitter, it isn’t Google.

    • Gerald Weber

      well I think facebook is great for connecting with old classmates and what have you but if I get superpoked one more time….

  • Dennis Edell says:

    Google buying Twitter – oh yea, that's a superb idea. The following is one of two or both things I see happening.

    Charging "per tweet" and setting up daily, weekly, or monthly "packages".

    No self promotions whatsoever – news only.

    Viva Google! Yea whatever…

  • Kashif says:

    Interesting thoughts but what I feel that twitter has still got a long way to go before it becomes a significant threat or even a buying option for Google.

  • Roger Sikes says:

    If Twitter can't come up with a way to proactively keep spammers from gaming the system, it'll fall by the wayside when the next big thing happens. Google will keep moving along, because they've established themselves and have done a good job of keeping search results relevant.

    I like Twitter, but there's a long ways to go until it's truly something that Google should fear.

    Besides, Twitter is like a slightly modded version of old school chatrooms (remember when you posted your chat to a page, and it refreshed to show you the most recent chats? Same thing, just hashtags and following replaces chatrooms.).

    Great post, by the way! It's always interesting to view the different perspectives on this.

    <abbr>Roger Sikes’s last blog post..Southwest Airlines Rapping Attendant</abbr>

  • This is an excellent post, and I just excerpted the "librarian" metaphor to my Posterous, and thereby on to all my Twitter peeps.

    BTW @Roger, Twitter having the IM/chat aspect mashed up with email/blog-like/commenting asynchronous features is exactly the reason for Twitters success.

    As the post mentions, the crowd-sourced aggregator/guide function that Twitter users are naturally/effortlessly fulfilling is exactly what other crowd-sourced "search" tools like Mahalo have failed to resoundingly deliver.

    Twitter is like a hive-mind with interesting social connection wormholes (TM).

    <abbr>Alex Schleber’s last blog post..Is Advertising Failing On The Internet?</abbr>