UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

From Search Engine to Twitter Optimisation

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 29 June 2009

Workshops on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

As described on the JISC Digitisation blog the Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) are running a series of free workshops entitled “Improve your online presence“. The workshop series, which will be held in June and July in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, is being coordinated by Netskills. The workshops will “introduce simple and inexpensive search engine optimisation techniques to improve your online presence, web visibility and website traffic“. I will be contributing to the workshop content by running a session on the role of the Social Web in enhancing access to scholarly and cultural content.

The Potential of Twitter

The potential of Twitter was recently discussed in a post entitled How much is it worth to be one of Twitter’s suggested users? which was published in the Guardian’s Technology blog. As described in this post, being included in Twitter’s Suggested Users List can boost one’s numbers of followers, and thus traffic to links included in the tweets being published.

Coincidentally on Friday 5th June 2009, whilst accessing this blog’s administrators interface in order to delete one or two spam comments which had failed to be detected by the Akisimet spam filter, I noticed that the top three referrers for the day were from the Twitter Web site (from Twitter.com, twitter.com/home and twitter.com/Twitter_tops). On further investigation I discovered that a page on the Twitter Web site which provides links to resources about use of Twitter had included the following link to a post on this blog:

What is Twitter? It’s An Interactive Business Card: http://cli.gs/YL6R4D –Share this article: http://bit.ly/180g9w

Now although this link resulted in driving the most traffic to the blog in over 3 weeks, this was disappointing to me. I had been after evidence that Twitter can provide successful in driving traffic to arbitrary resources, rather than just traffic to an article about the Twitter service.

Referrer statistics for UKOLN's Cultural Heritage blog, May 2009However a better example was provided by the blog statistics for UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage blog. As illustrated the statistics for May 2009 showed that, after Google, the second most popular Web site for driving traffic to the blog was Twitter.

In this particular example the most popular post in the month was one on Explaining the Risks and Opportunities Framework- a blog post which was announced on Twitter at 08.55 on 21st May:

Blog post explaining the Risks & Opportunities Framework published at http://tinyurl.com/p72kld

Evidence, it would seem, that Twitter can enhance the visibility of one’s Web content and therefore provide an example I can use in the workshop. But what of the dangers of using Twitter in this way? Might not Twitter followers resent being used as fodder for marking materials? Isn’t there a danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs?

Twitter Optimisation

Although some people regard Twitter as being essentially an informal communications channel and a tool for community building we can now observe that it is being used for a much wider variety of purposes. But what are the emerging best practices which one should adopt in order to optimise Twitter’s potential to maximise access to ‘stuff’ out there, as opposed to engaging with one’s Twitter community?

Keep it short: Perhaps the best advice is to keep your tweets short to allow other to retweet (RT) the message, perhaps including their own comments.

Acknowledge the limitations: If you do intend to use Twitter as a one -way publishing mechanism (as, for example, the MLA does) then you need to recognise that you should not expect to gain the benefits which fans of Twitter, as described in a post entitled “The person is the point” by Mike Ellis, feel they gain from its use as an individual.

Consider publishing a policy: You may also wish to consider having a policy covering your use of Twitter, as described in a recent post on “Emerging Best Practices For Institutional Use of Twitter“.

Think about your followers: If you are using Twitter as an individual but also wish to promote areas of your work you will need to consider the balance between engagement (chatting with your mates), support (helping your mates), requests (asking your mates for held) and dissemination (telling your mates what you’ve being doing and what you’re proud of). This was an area I addressed in a post on “Twitter Can Pimp Up Your Stuff – But Should It?“.

And if you’re still sceptical that Twitter has any significant role in delivering traffic to a Web site I’d suggest you read the TechCrunch article “For TechCrunch, Twitter = Traffic (A Statistical Breakdown)“.

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4 Responses to “From Search Engine to Twitter Optimisation”

  1. sophia said

    The post is an eye-opener on the potential of twitter in genereating traffic.

  2. [...] noticed recently that Twitter was frequently appearing in the list of referrers to this and to UKOLN’s [...]

  3. Since I discovered Twitter I have doubled my website visitors, so I think you should take your time to setup an account :).

  4. [...] to Maximise Access to your Resources” – it would seem that the experiments (including gathering evidence of the influence of Twitter in generating traffic) were successful.  However there has been a significant decrease in traffic [...]

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