3 Reasons Why Google Needs to Buy Twitter in Order to Survive

November 9, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  


As you know, Google is the search engine and controls an obscene amount of traffic on the web. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many users to spend at least 25% of their time online on Google properties like Gmail, Google maps, and news. With a cash cow business model (a monopoly in search advertising) and a killer brand (“google” it), Google is living large and seemingly invincible. But is this really the case? Is the Google search engine as stable as it seems?

With the rise of social media, the search game has changed dramatically. Users no longer just want a single source telling them what to look at. Instead, they want recommendations from real people with similar interests and experiences. That’s precisely the reason why social networking is so hot right now and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Social media isn’t just a fad – it’s here to stay and will revolutionize the web in the process.

Twitter, in particular, is interesting. I’ve written before that Twitter is the future of search and I still stand by that claim 100%. In fact, both Google’s and Bing’s recent partnerships with Twitter to incorporate real time status updates into the search results is a clear step towards that direction. More and more people are starting to use Twitter, and the social platform will play a pivotal role in shaping the web and the online community. And no, not even the mighty Google is immune to the coming changes.

Mark Cuban explains it well…

TWITTER AND FACEBOOK are platforms that allow the news sources, like newscorp to post breaking news and gain value from their brand. Google does not. In other words, if I trust a newspaper, tv or any brand, I can follow it on twitter and expect the news to come to me. The concept of “If the news is important, it will find me” works better by the day. If it matters to me, chances are very good its in one of the twitter feeds I follow.

Having to search for and find news in search engines is so 2008.

The solution for Google? If it wants to remain the dominant online powerhouse that it is today, it needs to adapt to the shifts in the social landscape and buy up Twitter before it’s too late. Sure, Google’s own social innovations like Wave, Social Search, and Search Wiki are nice – but they’re way too late to matter, especially during this critical stage of shifting user behavior.

Back in March 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt questioned the usefulness of Twitter and called it the “poor man’s email”. Boy, was he wrong. It’s a mistake that could cost Google $6 billion or even more, especially if they fail to swoop up Twitter any time soon.  Google as well as Facebook have tried to buy up Twitter in the past, without success. Twitter is resistant to a sell off, even at $1 billion, but anything can be bought if the price is right.

Here are the 3 main reasons why Google needs to buy Twitter in order to survive. The price tag will not be cheap, but if there’s any company that can afford it right now it’s Google.

1. Twitter gaining fast – huge amount of data

Twitter is mentioned and promoted everywhere these days – CNN news broadcasts, popular radio stations, celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Shaquille O’Neal, the majority of blogs big and small, and even the ESPN homepage.

Everyone and their grandmothers are on Twitter and the rapid growth will only accelerate as Google and Bing incorporate status updates into their search results. In fact, we’re only a few years away until Twitter receives mainstream acceptance as a communication channel – just like email addresses, phone numbers, and website URLs. People are already placing their Twitter usernames on their business cards.

So why does this matter? Twitter is essentially collecting the daily life streams of millions of people around the world – breaking news, opinions and reviews, interesting links, connections between people, interests, etc. Once a larger percentage of the population starts using the service, it’s scary what’s possible. With the right technology, Twitter could potentially mine that data to pretty much find out about anything important happening in the public world. It could also figure out which websites are the most popular and trustworthy sources.


2. Google’s ranking algorithm in danger of being outdated

Google’s current search ranking algorithm relies heavily on link analysis to determine what’s important and what’s most relevant to a given search query (e.g. a link from CNN implies that the page is important and worthy of high rankings). While this technology was revolutionary to the search industry in the mid 90’s, it’s in danger of quickly becoming outdated in the current landscape.

First of all, users now want information in real time – especially for things like breaking news. Because Google works by indexing web pages, the search engine is clunky and unable to keep up with real-time queries.

Secondly, user behavior is changing online and links are becoming less and less reliable in terms of determining the authority of a page. Webmasters represent only a tiny fraction of the overall population and some hobby bloggers are leaving their own sites for social media sites like Twitter. So why let the few in power control the rankings with their links? Link manipulation is a common tactic used by search marketers and a relatively new site with regurgitated content could potentially rank #1 for a competitive keyword simply by buying some under-the-radar links. It’s a glaring weakness in Google’s algorithm.

Once Twitter goes mainstream and is used by the masses (not just the tech savvy), imagine all of the data that Google could utilize to perfect its search rankings. Compared to links on actual web pages, links found in Twitter status updates represent a larger sample of people.

What does this mean? If Google were able to incorporate Twitter data into its current link analysis algorithm, search results would be better with less spam – something that’s integral to Google’s core business of search advertising. If that’s not a reason to buy, then I don’t know what is.

3. Play keep away from Bing – competitive advantage

Twitter has enormous potential – there’s no doubt about it. But while Google overlooks Twitter, what if it was bought up by Bing? Microsoft has already acquired Yahoo’s search business and seems a step in front of Google in the social sphere. If Google is smart, it’ll block Bing’s moves at all costs and prevent Twitter from springing up with its own search engine in the future.

Let me say it again in case you missed it – Google needs to buy Twitter.

What do you think about a Google acquisition of Twitter? Bound to happen? How would the deal affect the search industry? Leave a comment.

Also, just to clarify, I’m not necessarily for Google buying Twitter and taking over the Internet. In fact, I think it’d be a nice change of scenery and good for the Internet if Google lost some of its dominance and met some fierce competition from Bing and/or Twitter. Time will tell.

If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.
Posted in Articles, SEO, Social Media
Winners Circle - Internet Marketing Case Studies
Related Posts:


32 Responses to “3 Reasons Why Google Needs to Buy Twitter in Order to Survive”

kaveo on November 9th, 2009

Once Twitter goes mainstream and is used by the masses (not just the tech savvy), imagine all of the data that Google could utilize to perfect its search rankings.

Twitter is very easy to manipulate. I can get 1000s of free links from Twitter in no time. It’s nothing more than a huge splog in terms of link buiding. These links are (almost) worthless now and it should be this way as long as possible.

Typhoon on November 10th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

As you said Twitter helps in Link Building. I wanted to know, How? Because the links are nofollow everywhere. So how did you found it helping in link building?

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

The links in Twitter don’t count for SEO, but they’re still very valuable because of the direct traffic (shares and retweets). Also, what I’m saying in the article is that in the future search engines like Google may factor in links from social sites directly to impact rankings.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Gyutae Park on November 10th, 2009

Yes, Twitter is easy to spam – it’s a growing problem over there. But it has less of an impact because people can just unfollow spammers and tune them out.

max on November 10th, 2009

Great post, I have to agree, Google will have to come up with a real-time search option soon. or buy Twitter, one of the 2. I am sure they will buy Twitter though, perhaps 2 billion?

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Google has partnered with Twitter (same with Bing) to incorporate status updates into the search results. But why not just go to the source and buy the thing? I think Google will realize the importance of Twitter pretty soon.

Kevin Spence on November 10th, 2009

Ok, the problem with twitter is that there are very few tweets of any value. For google, the value of the site would come from links, and to properly assign the value of the links they would have to establish some kind of convoluted trust rank based on retweets and followers.

How are these not the easiest things in the history of the internet to build up artificially?

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Those things by themselves are pretty easy to build up artificially, but the way I look at it, the more data points the better. If Google had access to Twitter data (and more people started using the service) and incorporated it into the search algorithm, I think it could make a huge difference in the quality and decrease spam overall.

Seamus Anthony on November 11th, 2009

To me Twitter still reeks of the Emperor’s new clothes, big time. I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the great Twit fad-balloon deflates pretty fast. BUT then there is a huge chance that I just don’t get it. I’d put a bet each way, one for my opinion, one to acknowledge that fact that hey, it is kinda popular 😉

I do think that real time twitter/Facebook status section on the SERPS makes sense.

Jacob on November 11th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Agreed. Twitter could still be the real deal, or it could be MySpace 2.0. Too early to tell.

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

I agree that it’s a bit early to tell for sure 100%, but I do like Twitter’s chances. All trends online point to social media and if this is the case, Twitter is going to be a huge player. Once Twitter goes mainstream, all of the data that they have would be worth a lot to search engines like Google.

MySpace was a fad – not surprising. But Twitter is a bit different because it changes the game of online communication as we know it.

MathieuB on November 11th, 2009

Twitter has a few things to resolve before it has a shot of being mainstream:

1- All the spam

2- A lot of people believe that it is a lot of hype.

Personally, I always saw Twitter as the successor as IM (Instant Messenger, such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, etc.) on a bigger scale online.

Yes, they will keep growing, but they are bound to get hit by competition one day or another.

Although, I agree, Google needs to improve when it comes to real-time search.

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Spam is a problem on Twitter for sure, but as long as you’re not using one of those autofollow scripts, you should be fine. Why would anyone continue to follow a spammer unless they’re spammers themselves?

Twitter has a lot of hype, I agree – but at the same time, I see a lot of value underneath it all as well.

As for competition, Twitter should see smooth sailing in the near term. Competitors like Pownce and Plurk have folded and are now out of the picture.

jan geronimo on November 11th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

If you don’t like Twitter or you’re uncomfortable or perhaps don’t get it, now is the time to figure out how it help your brand or business. It’s not yet too late. If indeed Twitter remains such a force of nature to contend with way into the future isn’t it wise to establish a presence now? Ignore at your own risk.

If this turns out to be a product of its believers overheated imagination what is there to lose? Making smart of use of Twitter is not a waste of time and resources. You’re establishing your brand right?

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Great points, Jan. If you’re an online marketer, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using Twitter. Future predictions and outcomes aside, Twitter can help your business now by building exposure and relationships.

Daily Affiliate Tips on November 11th, 2009

I am really interested in how Twitter will be monetized. Will it have ads on it like facebook or any kind of paid membership? We will see that in time, but I am sure it will be more profitable than Youtube for Google, if they manage to buy Twitter.

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

If you remember, when Google bought YouTube, the video site was not profitable. In fact, it was losing money. It’s pretty much the same situation here. The full value of Twitter comes from its future prospects – it represents a new way of communication and publishing online (much like video was revolutionary in the early 2000’s).

Steve on November 11th, 2009

Anybody who partners with Microsoft, I will abandon. I’m sick of Bing and its bullshit pop-ups already.

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Haha, where do you see the pop ups? A lot of people are actually rooting for Bing so that Google at least has some competition in search.

Tamahome Jenkins on November 11th, 2009

I agree. I think it makes more sense to but Twitter than it was to buy Youtube or Grand Central (what we now know as Google Voice).

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Looking back, YouTube was a great purchase for Google. Video was just starting out – and as we know now, it really has the power to take off.

I think Twitter makes sense for Google because they can directly use the data for their cash cow search business.

Mike Huang on November 11th, 2009

I wonder when the Twitter mayhem will end, lol.

Gyutae Park on November 11th, 2009

Never! 🙂 Honestly, I don’t think this one will go away as fast as something like MySpace.

Mark Terry on November 13th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

While optional inclusion of real-time Twitter feeds might be helpful to some searches, I doubt the overall beneficial impact. I’d rather get a handful of reputable sources than thousands of dubious, and possibly malicious, sources. Factual data is not always democratic, and in this sense, mob rule doesn’t always help.

If I’m trying to decide what kind of cupcakes to make for a special occasion, Twitter-based search might be fine. If I want statistics for October X-Box sales, vehicle prices, stock trends, etc… I don’t need everyone’s opinion.

Social media is very interesting (and extremely useful), but there has been a tremendous amount of variation in the trending of such outlets. Myspace was huge and people predicted it to be a juggernaut, but it failed to achieve that status due to spam, children, and dubious third-party inclusions. Facebook looks to be suffering from similar bloat by the addition of advertising, applications and issues with privacy and safety. Twitter is popular because of the ease-of-entry, but the density of relevant and accurate data is low. I think Google is smart to let it be, but utilize the results in a partnership. Other tan ad-based revenue, Twitter seems an unlikely source of income.

Google’s relevance is as strong as ever, because their search algorithms have evolved to take advantage of changes to the way people search and the types of data available. With Google’s recent purchase of AdMob they’ll have the ability to earn revenue on third-party mobile applications on every mobile platform, which is a huge coup. The Android platform, Chrome OS, Google Voice and Google Wave all show tremendous momentum, and all are built on the concept that people can build and share their data, media, and social streams in ways that are immediately relevant to themselves and those they trust. There is room for Twitter, certainly, but Google is in no danger without Twitter in its pocket.

Gyutae Park on November 13th, 2009

Mark, thanks for the comment. That could have been a blog post in itself! Google is dipping its hands into every important trend online – videos, advertising, operating systems, documents, voice, mobile, etc. The Internet is playing an increasingly large role in the lives of many, and Google is buying up the Internet…

To me, social media is a huge trend – one that I think will continue forward and change the way people communicate. It’s surprising to me that Google isn’t doing anything about it – and not buying Twitter could come back to haunt them later on.

Golden Blogger on November 13th, 2009

To me, Twitter search and Google search are 2 controversial options.

First one (Twitter), is for “breaking news”, for stuff that happen at the moment and it goes virally quite quickly whereas on the other side, Google search is for different type of searches.

An example to illustrate my point of view

I was informed about Michael Jackson’s death on Twitter

If i want to find a site about Bahamas, i should use Google

So thats why I believe they are 2 different “types” of searches if i can say so

Gyutae Park on November 13th, 2009

I agree that Twitter and Google cater to different types of searches. But based on the fact that Google is THE search engine and wants to capture everything possible, it’s surprising that they’re not doing anything about Twitter. It could come back to haunt Google if social media really becomes mainstream and Twitter uses the data to somehow start its own engine.

Chris Peterson on November 20th, 2009 Subscribed to comments via email

Mark, thanks for great posting, According to me Twitter is major second search engine after Google why I am saying because Twitter gathers lots information like people’s experiences with products and services as they interact with them. I’ve been using Twitter for roughly six months now and I’m finding more and more positive response.

Out of 3 reasons, I like first and last reason that Google want to buy Twitter. Mark, I have one question which is better Facebook or my space.

Gyutae Park on November 21st, 2009

Who’s Mark? I’ve written before that “Twitter is the future of search”, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s the second major search engine after Google. Still a long way to go – we’ll have to wait and see how the story unfolds.

L2Ouro on January 13th, 2010

Google has partnered with Twitter (same with Bing) to incorporate status updates into the search results. But why not just go to the source and buy the thing? I think Google will realize the importance of Twitter pretty soon.

Mohsin on February 23rd, 2010

If Twitter is bought by bing, that will be the day it goes downhill.

Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)

Trackback responses to this post

Gyutae's Top Picks

Recent Readers


Connect with me