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Experts have warned Google and Microsoft to ensure integrating real-time Twitter results doesn’t detract from the user experience.
Both companies have agreed deals with Twitter to offer real-time search results from the micro-blogging site, with Microsoft launching a sub-section on Bing immediately (nma.co.uk 22 October 2009).
No financial arrangements for either deal have been revealed.
The deals are the culmination of months of speculation about how the dominant search engines would treat real-time search and, in particular, how they could work with Twitter. Previous speculation has suggested the micro-blogging service would be bought by either Google or Microsoft.
UK search experts have said both companies shouldn’t rush into providing real-time results and must be careful how results are displayed to maintain a good user experience.
Ben Wood, MD of media agency Diffiniti, said while real-time search is a hot topic, more consideration is needed of how much value users will get from the integration of Twitter feeds in their search results.
“Users interested in current affairs, for example, could find it beneficial. But the engines need to be intelligent enough to bring truly relevant results to the surface, otherwise it could have a negative impact on user experience,” he said.
“The engines will also need to ensure that relevance and user experience are still their main focus, rather than getting involved in a tit-for-tat squabble over service offerings in order to influence market share and potential ad revenues,” Wood added.
Mark Mitchell, head of search at OMD Group, said it was also important to ensure results are geo-targeted.
“By incorporating Twitter results in the search landscape there is a danger you could have a flurry of irrelevant US tweets within the UK search results,” he said. “The search engines have to be ruthless with their filtering of this information and provide truly worthwhile and relevant results for the user. I think this will be a major challenge for them to overcome.”
Mitchell added, “If you look at the quality of results you get in Twitter search on brands like McDonald’s, most of tweets are of no major note and wouldn’t really add much to the searcher’s experience.”
The deals are likely to be a catalyst for brands not already using Twitter, according to Latitude CEO Alex Hoye. “As search engines integrate real-time results into the ranking algorithms, brands will have opportunities such as the potential for last-minute promotion,” he said.
It’s unsure whether Yahoo is seeking a similar deal, but Twitter founder Biz Stone, on announcing the Microsoft deal, hinted others might be in the pipeline.
“While Twitter currently presents tweets based simply on timeliness, Bing is experimenting with new solutions such as ‘best match’,” he said. “We hope more working relationships with organisations in the search business will mean even more variety for users.”