Technical

What triggers Twitter results in Google Search?

by on 14th April 2016

What Triggers Twitter Results in Google Search? An Analysis..

I recently wrote about what seems to influence who turns up when a Google search page carries a Twitter feature (short version, follower count and verified status). However, in that piece we avoided the question of “what makes the result trigger in the first place?”.

To address that, this post looks at what can influence a Twitter featured result, and what types we’re observing at this time.

In brief, either an account or a Twitter search result can feature. Accounts feature where the query relates to a brand, and search results where there is significant current interest around a topic.

Big Enough to be a Known Entity

The first type of result we see appearing as a Twitter feature is the account-specific feature box. These occur almost exclusively for entity-related queries – that is to say, things that are known enough to be considered a distinct, individual entity in the eyes of Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Examples of this would be universities, companies, celebrities and so on.

Builtvisible's Twitter account appearing for a branded search query.

Builtvisible’s Twitter account appearing for a branded search query.

However, these won’t always return a result.

For example, we’ve observed the query “bar stool” return the account “barstoolsports”, and “suits” triggering “Suits_USA”, although this behaviour is intermittent.

bar-stool

It appears that these false positive triggers are caused when an account is close enough to something that might be a brand query that Google tries showing it. However, what triggers it to go away again is up for debate.

My theory at this time is that Twitter accounts in results that don’t see engagement are dropped. However, this is purely conjecture.

It’s also worth noting that the keyword itself seems to have a volume requirement. As such, users on Twitter who are obviously that specific user (myself for example), won’t trigger a Twitter feature in Google search, as that noun/phrase isn’t searched for often enough or important enough as an entity in Google’s knowledge graph to warrant one.

This is particularly interesting in my own case, as the top ranked result is for my Twitter profile.

pete-wailes

As such, I’d suspect that where Google can get close to a 99% certainty that an entity is a specific person in other networks, that they may in future show data from those places more prominently. Again though, this is conjecture based on Google’s recent trends, rather than on any specific announcement or inside knowledge.

Is It Me You’re Looking For?

The other side of the Twitter featured results we’ve seen is the current results for searches feature. These seem to require different criteria to trigger. The two main features we’ve found that cause these to appear so far are:

  • News pieces around a topic
  • Temporal, spike events on an entity

Regarding the former, this would be events like an earthquake, the birth of a royal child, something to do with finance and so on. Examples of topics with phrases we’ve seen triggered in this manner include:

  • House prices
  • Samsung phone
  • Formula 1
  • Business insurance

On the other hand, these results can be triggered by entities in the knowledge graph spiking in interest.

This would be things like TV shows at the time when they’re airing (think things like Strictly Come Dancing, X Factor, major sporting events, Eurovision) and celebrities or brands in the news (which seems to cause the search result type feature to replace their normal account feature). With the latter, this appears to be a broad match on the category of “things which Google classifies as an entity in the Knowledge Graph”. As such, anything that falls into the previous “nouns” category can be subject to this.

There appears to be a third group that is being tested, which doesn’t always show at the moment, which is the broader phrase where someone may be seeking information.

Examples of types of phrases that have triggered these results have been:

  • {type} jobs
  • {manufacturer} cars
  • Jackets/jeans/clothing/fashion items
tesla-cars

These are popping in and out a lot, though, so my suspicion is that this is currently being tested for efficacy, and may become a feature (or not), based on what Google observes in the behaviour of these types of result.

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Responses

  1. I’m reminded of the entity association that Google sometimes does in returning multiple results from the same domain for some results. For instance, search for [seobythesea entities] with an incognito search and the first 18 results are from secobythesea.com. Google does seem to be doing entity recognition on queries and having those act as triggers for displaying results from Twitter. It’s a useful way for Google to optimize the results that they display in a meaningful way that echoes an informational need on behalf of a searcher. Someone searching for a known-entity is often going to be happy seeing the most recent things that they’ve tweeted.

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