Home Twitter Search Now Parses Shortened Links for Keywords

Twitter Search Now Parses Shortened Links for Keywords

Twitter just made a small, but important change to its search service available at search.twitter.com. It’s now parsing shortened URLs in order to discover additional keywords to aid in searches. In other words, Twitter isn’t only returning tweets where your search term is found in the 140 characters of text contained in the tweet itself, but also when your search term appears in the URL behind the pre-shortened link, like those from Twitter’s default URL-shortening service, bit.ly, for example. (For more on this story see our additional coverage, Twitter Now Parses Hashtags, URLS & More.)

This change was initially discovered by Chris Pirillo, founder of the Lockergnome network and former TechTV personality, who noted that after running a routine vanity search for his name:

“Over three-quarters of the results didn’t have my name anywhere in the tweet. Instead, there were shortened links in the tweets… such as those from bit.ly and ping.fm. Those links went straight to one or another of my sites, such as geeks.pirillo.com or lockergnome.com.”

We’ve now done some tests of our own and have found that it doesn’t appear to be a fluke – it’s happening across the board no matter what search term we enter.

Good News for Publishers

For publishers, this change is welcome news. Most writers who produce content for the Internet take care to make sure their URLs include important keywords that allow the links to be easily indexed by major search engines. But when those same links are sent to Twitter, the carefully crafted, keyword-packed URL is obscured behind a shortened link, a necessary evil due to Twitter’s 140-character limit on tweets.

Now the time writers spend making SEO-friendly URLs will pay off in Twitter, too.

This makes it easier for publishers’ content to be found, of course, but it also makes it easier for publishers to find who’s retweeting their content. Often, people tweet a link without including the “RT” or @ symbol that allows the original Twitter poster (the publisher) to know that someone found their content worthy of sending to Twitter. This is done either because the re-tweeter wants to claim credit for discovering the link themselves or because they honestly did just that – they found an interesting link on the Web and posted it to Twitter, without realizing the publisher had tweeted it first.

In any event, the change seems like a win-win situation for all involved. Publishers can better track their content and have it appear in more searches and Twitter users can more easily find relevant links.

Update: Twitter has confirmed the new feature, saying: “We are constantly evolving and improving Search, and this is a small improvement. More will be coming.”

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