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Three Designs for Presenting Tweets in Search Results


In a recent post, I described some ways in which tweets should be ranked in search results. A good follow-on question is

How should tweets be presented in search results?

It’s an interesting question – how exactly would you want to see tweets in your Google and Bing search results? And it’s an important question, as searches are critical bases for discovering information and huge drivers of traffic.

Tweets are different from web pages. They are more ephemeral, but also much more current. They’re short nature means we can consume them much more quickly than fuller web pages. In many ways, their brevity reduces their “burden of interestingness”. Read, move on. Read, move on. Read, move on.

Tweets are small nuggets of insight, and pointers to good content. Web pages are the foundational information components. The value of the two digital forms is different. Thus, it makes sense to consider options for presenting these different types of information to people.

Three different designs for presenting tweets in Google and Bing search results come to mind:

  • Separate tweets-only search page
  • Tweets displayed in a box on the same page with web pages
  • Tweets integrated into the overall search results

Let’s take a look at the options. For added context, I’ve included appropriate musical selections.

At the bottom of this post, I’ve set up a poll asking which approach you’d prefer.

Tweets-only search results

Musical theme: Gotta keep ‘em separated.

This is the Bing way. A separate URL for tweets. It’s an acknowledgment that tweets really are different from web pages. The graphic below conceptualizes this approach, with a search on ‘Madrid’:

The graphic above puts tweets searches more in line with overall searches. Right now Bing has no link to tweet searches on its home page. You just have to know the URL exists. Of course, the Microsoft Bing team is working on incorporating the firehose into its search experience, so that may change.

Positives

  • Dedicated page allows for much more creativity with presenting tweets, as Bing has shown
  • Visible link/tab keeps tweet searches more in-the-flow of searchers’ actions
  • Users could easily toggle between the tabs for different types of information
  • Minimizes risk of disruption to current “golden egg” of web searches

Negatives

  • Forces an extra step to see potentially relevant information – click the tweets tab
  • Somewhat diminishes the awareness of tweets’ real-time, up-to-date nature by using same tab structure applied to more static web pages

Tweets in same-page box

Musical theme: Man in the box.

The presentation of real-time tweets on the same page is something Google is experimenting with currently. The philosophy here is that you’re looking for multiple types of information in a search. Google already displays web page links, images, YouTube videos, maps, PDFs and other types of content. Tweets are just another type of content.

Something I’d like to see is a separate box of the tweets on the search results page, as shown below:

This design effectively distinguishes tweets from other types of content, while preserving the “all information on one page” philosophy. This is important for Google and Bing advertising, making the search results page even more engaging.

Open question: what’s better for ad click volumes? Multiple pages of different content (e.g. separate tabs described previously)? Or a single page with more engaging content?

Aside from the information aspect of tweets, there is also a people aspect. Tweets are as much about the person as they are the content. The separate presentation of tweets distinguishes them from web pages, PDFs, videos and the like.

Positives

  • Relevant, up-to-date content improves value of searches
  • In-the-flow of existing search behavior
  • Real-time nature is engaging
  • Find people as well as content

Negatives

  • Smaller space constrains presentation options
  • Potential for a too-crowded visual presentation

Because of the volume of searches run through Google and Bing, there will be a premium on ensuring the quality of the tweets presented. This is important regardless, but even more so here with the number of times people will see the tweets. See How Should Tweets Be Ranked in Search Engine Results? for thoughts on how to do this.

Tweets integrated with overall search results

Musical theme: Happy Together

There is a third design option. Why not put the tweets right in the mix of overall search results? Treat them less as exotic new forms of content, and more as just another type for searchers to click on. The graphic below conceptualizes this:

A tweet is just another URL that can point searchers to relevant content. The challenge is that Google and Bing need to alter their ranking algorithms to allow tweets to be served up high in search results. Something like a pagerank for the twitter account itself. If it has relevant content and a high “Twitter pagerank”, it gets served up higher in the search results.

Positives

  • Searchers get tweets in a highly familiar way
  • Minimizes risk of disruption to current “golden egg” of web searches

Negatives

  • Undermines the fresh, up-to-date nature of tweets
  • Will limit presentation of relevant tweets due to inadequate “Twitter pagerank”
  • Reduces the people aspect of the tweets
  • Lack of real-time flow diminishes engagement of the results page

Of course, tweets are served up in search results today. But that generally happens with very specific multi-word searches that match the tweet, or including the word “twitter” in the search. The design above brings tweets more fully into the pantheon of content, displaying them highly in search results for basic keywords.

I imagine smart folks can come up with other designs for displaying tweets. Leave a comment on these three or any other designs you think might be interesting.

Also, take a second and vote in the poll below. I’m curious what people think about the different possibilities for displaying tweets.

Thanks.

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

3 Responses to Three Designs for Presenting Tweets in Search Results

  1. Stuart Miniman says:

    Hutch,
    I think that there is a real question of relevance and timeliness as to when searches come up. From my standpoint, if I do a search on something that is trending or current news, then the Twitter information could be valuable. Generically putting Twitter information in for any topic (like a location) does not seem relevant and is not likely timely. I actually like the idea of “Top links shared in Tweets” more than just the raw feed.

  2. Pingback: Three Designs for Presenting Tweets in Search Results | CloudAve

  3. I love your tips on how to present tweets in search results.

    I agree that there should be a concept just like a pagerank for the twitter account itself according to relevancy of the content.

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