Twitter is the World’s Fastest Growing Search Engine? Highly Unlikely.

Twitter LogoWell, as reported by Fast Company today, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone stated they have now reached ~800 million search queries per day. That supposedly puts them above the combined query volume of Yahoo plus Bing. This story has spread like wildfire across the web, with everyone jumping on and claiming that Twitter is now “the World’s Fastest Growing Search Engine”. Really? Only if you don’t dig deeper into how those searches are counted. Only if you don’t really understand Search and the difference between a query a human being enters into a search box and an automated query that updates tweet results on a topic every few seconds.

Some facts shared at Twitter’s Chirp developer conference in April this year (as reported on TechCrunch) help set the stage for how this volume is happening:

  • 75% of all traffic to Twitter comes from third party clients
  • 60% of tweets come from third party clients
  • Over 100,000 registered apps on Twitter

This data is key to a “reality check” on Twitter’s search numbers, as Nicholas Carlson reported on Business Insider today. The majority of Twitter’s activity is being driven from these 3rd party apps and the majority of these “searches” are most likely coming from these apps as well. These are not “pure”, intent-driven searches in the Twitter.com search box.

As Carlson states:

Twitter’s search query numbers include “searches” from Twitter apps such as TweetDeck and Seesmic that are actually just automated calls those apps send out every few minutes to populate columns users have set up to see tweets on certain topics.”

I also use TweetDeck and have it configured to update on different topics every few seconds. Are these real searches? No. Most of the time I am not even looking at the TweetDeck window. It is up and running even when I’m away from the computer. That is a large number of so-called “searches” taking place with no eyeballs involved. If an automated query updates “search results” and no one is around to see it, does it count? I’m not saying that Twitter isn’t driving a huge amount of engagement and activity. It certainly is and I love using it. But, let’s not kid ourselves that these searches are the same as a real search query entered by a human being, who then looks at the results AND can be presented with relevant advertising mapped to that intent.

At the end of the day, the search volume that matters is the volume that can convert into traffic and conversion for publishers and advertisers, which drives revenue for the Search engine. Advertisers want those active eyeballs and intent. It would be much more interesting for Twitter to share their “real” search volume, which is probably still significant, but nowhere near 800 million search queries per day.

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4 Responses to “Twitter is the World’s Fastest Growing Search Engine? Highly Unlikely.”

  1. admin July 8, 2010 at 10:49 PM #

    Back in April of this year, Danny Sullivan shared some relevant Twitter info regarding the “pure” Twitter searches on Search Engine Land:

    “How about Twitter Search itself? How much does it contribute to the overall queries that Twitter handles? Williams told me its in the low double-digits.”

  2. admin July 8, 2010 at 3:49 PM #

    Back in April of this year, Danny Sullivan shared some relevant Twitter info regarding the “pure” Twitter searches on Search Engine Land:

    “How about Twitter Search itself? How much does it contribute to the overall queries that Twitter handles? Williams told me its in the low double-digits.”

  3. Jeff Bowman July 15, 2010 at 4:05 PM #

    Good call, Mr. Cornett. Twitter seems to be often overhyped, and it’s good to keep in perspective what’s really happening. Thanks for this insightful article.

    Jeff Bowman

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffbowmancreative

  4. Jeff Bowman July 15, 2010 at 9:05 AM #

    Good call, Mr. Cornett. Twitter seems to be often overhyped, and it’s good to keep in perspective what’s really happening. Thanks for this insightful article.

    Jeff Bowman

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffbowmancreative