Google Search Engine started to show real-time results side by side to the regular search result pages. These real-time results are meant to show web searchers access to new and instant news items as fast as it happens.
The main components of Google's real-time results are Twitter tweets. These are the real-time micro-blog messages that Twitter users use to post news and activities. Google's Amit Singhal, who led the development of Google's real-time search, recently showed how Google ranks these tweets in the new real-time results on Google search pages.
There is some kind of Page Rank only for these Twitter tweets.
Google's Page Rank algorithm for standard pages is to look at the link structure of a webpage. The more links to a website and the more links to the linking websites show more relevant the linked website is.
But tweets from Twitter are not about links but it's about followers. People “follow” the comments or tweets of other Twitter users. The more followers a Twitter user has, again the more reputable the tweets are for that user. If Twitter users who have many followers follow another Twitter user then these users can have a bigger impact on the reputation of that user.
“It is more than a popularity contest”, said Google's Amit Singhal. “One user following another in social media is analogous to one page linking to another on the Web. Both are a form of recommendation.
As high-quality pages link to another page on the Web, the quality of the linked-to page goes up. Likewise, in social media, as established users follow another user, the quality of the followed user goes up as well.”
There are other filters and algorithms that rule this as the follower reputation rank is only one factor of Google's methods to rank these tweets, other factors like hashtags, spam and the signal in the noise are some others.
- Hashtags: Twitter users use “hashtags” in Twitter comments. Hashtags are symbols (like keywords) that start with a # followed by a popular topic, as an example of hashtag #earthquake. If this hashtag is included in a tweet. This tweet will start to show up in the real-time results when other Twitter users click that hashtag topic word elsewhere on the site.
- Spam: Hashtags can be very useful to maximize the exposure of a tweet. But sometimes they are abused for spamming. The wrong hashtags can become a red flag that triggers Google's search spam filters. Amit Singhal didn't go into the details in this but he said that Google modelled the hashtagging behaviour in ways to reduce the exposure of spam or low-quality tweets.
- The signal in the noise: There can be thousands of tweets that has a very well known word like “Obama”. To find the best relevant tweets, Google searches for “signals in the noise”. Such a signal can be a huge number of tweets that mention other words relative to “Obama”, for example, “Cambridge police”. This kind of tweet with these kinds of signals will be chosen for the real-time results.