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Twitter’s appearance in Google: sort it out …

April 27, 2009 4 Comments

Someone at Twitter needs to read Google's guidelines to improve how the search engine shows individual tweets.

But even if Twitter itself doesn't care how it looks, clever people like Barack Obama and Russell Brand have worked out how to get individual descriptions for their Twitter page in Google. I'll explain how below ...

The problem

Every tweet has its own URL that Google indexes as a separate page. Here's the problem with how individual tweets look in Google, using Google search guru Matt Cutts's tweets.

Titles meaningless, meta descriptions identical

Titles meaningless, meta descriptions identical

As you can see, the page titles all begin 'Twitter / username:" - which uses up about 20 (depending on your user name) of the 60ish characters that Google shows.

The rest of the title is the start of the tweet. But because only about 30ish characters are shown, it's meaningless: "Some great info about the ..." and "A friend and I are on a sc...".

And the meta description of every page is set to the same message: "Twitter is a free social messaging utility for staying connected in real-time."

The result? You can't tell what each tweet is about when you see it in Google.

The solution

Google will show upto about 150 characters of a meta description. And tweets are limited to 140 characters.

So, Twitter, if you're listening, the answer is obvious - use the full text of the tweet as the meta description as well as showing (the start of) it in the title.

How come Barack Obama gets his own description?

If you type someone's name into Google, and their Twitter page comes up, you usually see this:

Ashton Kutcher's Twitter homepage in Google

Ashton Kutcher's Twitter homepage in Google

The same message again. Occasionally, you see this, which isn't much better:

Philip Schofield's Twitter page in Google

Philip Schofield's Twitter page in Google

However, some people have got individual descriptions - the likes of Barack Obama and Russell Brand.

They look like this:

Russell Brand's Twitter page in Google

Russell Brand's Twitter page in Google

Barack Obama's Twitter page in Google

Barack Obama's Twitter page in Google

So how come they get individual messages?

The answer is that they have got their Twitter pages into DMOZ (here and here) - and Google is using the description from there.

So if you can get your Twitter page into DMOZ (good luck with that), you can have an individual description too.

The answer, however, is again a bit more obvious. There's a Bio field that you can fill out when you join Twitter. So why doesn't Twitter use that as the meta description on everyone's Twitter homepage?

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