Words Matter: How to Optimize the Content of a Tweet

140 characters means you need to choose your words wisely. Many articles discuss the importance of testing the placement of links in Tweets, best time of day to Tweet, the benefits of using hashtags, etc. But how do you really know which words are best to use in a Tweet?

Optimized Tweet

 Is this Tweet optimized for better engagement? Let’s find out.

This got me thinking, how can we possibly measure a keyword or hashtag’s value? In SEO you optimize a page for a target keyword. That keyword is chosen based on research, which compares several metrics, most importantly search volume. However, there is no search volume information provided by Twitter and the supposed “Twitter keyword research tools” out there are shit.

Well I came up with a Google Docs tool that will provide a better solution to this opportunity, but first let’s talk about why word choice in your Tweet is important.

Every Word Counts

I like to relate Tweets to a more intense version of a Meta description. In either case, you have minimal space to get a message across, optimize for target keywords, and entice viewers to click your link/title. The big difference between the two is with Tweets it’s much more challenging to accomplish those goals as you have slightly less space, your link is included in the 140 character limit, and your message has a small visibility window.

So just as you would optimize your meta data, you can do the exact same for a Tweet. To put it simply, the words you use can be the catalyst to huge increases in Twitter engagement.

These practices are the consensus on what increases engagement:

  1. Using action verbs and descriptors.
  2. Tweeting @ certain users.
  3. Time of day.
  4. Using specific hashtags and keywords.

So how do we measure this?

Yes. We Can Measure Everything. Well Almost Everything.

Much of the analysis that can be performed for Twitter engagement is done through trial and error. Tweeting out the same link or message a few times with different content and tracking how your audience responds and engages is the simplest form of this. After repeating the process several times, you should have a good idea of what works best. Tools like Bit.ly or SEOmoz’s social reporting for example, can help you accomplish this by providing ways to track and analyze past Tweets.

Bit.ly Click Graph

Bit.ly click analytics

With a little bit of work you can use these tools and others to:

  1. See trends in your Tweets.
  2. Test different phrasings and see which Tweets receive higher click through rates.
  3. Track engagement dependent on the time of day, or by link placement.
  4. Check if the people are engaging and Retweeting your message.

I won’t say it’ll be easy to complete the above, but with a detailed log of your tweets it can be accomplished. It is crucial to know how your audience engages with the content you Tweet and this can only be accomplished through testing and analysis. We can only expect that the available tools out there will continue to develop and provide easier solutions to this.

The Power of Google Docs

Taking your analysis a step further, Google Docs is a powerful tool to extract large data sets from Twitter and other sites or Social APIs. I strongly suggest learning how to use the tools Tom Critchlow provides in this Moz post about Tracking Your Social Media Strategy. Not to mention, the f-ing amazing guide to Import XML on Distilled’s blog.

These tools for example, can help you compare Twitter users by number of followers and allow you to make an educated decision on whom to Tweet new content at. You could even go H.A.M and calculate the true reach of a Tweet by extracting the number of followers from every user that Retweeted your message. This will not only give you actionable metrics to report to your boss, but your coworkers will think you’re the illest motherf**ker alive.

So I touched on how we can track and analyze data for the first three practices that increase engagement, but measuring the fourth practice is still unanswered.

My Solution: Tweet Frequency

As I mentioned before, I created a tool to provide some form of measurement in gauging which hashtags or words are best to use in a Tweet. Now the reason I so badly want to measure this is because of the growing usage of Twitter Search for the latest news or updates on a specific topic.

Search queries in Twitter pull up the latest Tweets that include the words in said query. In addition, there are tons of sites out there that grab feeds of Tweets based on a certain hashtag or phrase. So the value of getting this right is high, as you can reach a wider audience and gather more followers through these outlets that are dependent on Twitter Search.

Since we can’t get accurate search volumes for search queries in Twitter, we need to find another metric that can provide a similar relative measurement. What I am doing to supplement search volume is to use Tweet Frequency. Yes this is a term I coined myself and I’m not going to brag about it and say this is some revolutionary metric, but I will say I haven’t found anyone else calculating this so I thought it would be valuable to share.

Twitter Search Tool

Google Doc which pulls in a feed of Twitter search and calculates the frequency of tweets for the query

What I have been doing is using the importFeed function in Google Docs to import feeds of Twitter Search results given a specific query. You can use just keywords, hashtags, or usernames to get a feed of search results.

Right now I am pulling in the first 100 results that come up. The reason is that with how frequent people Tweet, 100 data points are enough to take a measurement of how frequent someone Tweets about a subject.

The feed provides a timestamp, which I then take and calculate the time variance between each Tweet. Once the variance is calculated, I have it calculate the average of those variances. This gives me an average of how often Tweets go out on the subject (the query or hashtag I entered).

Now we have our Tweet frequency for a given query and can collect that metric for several queries to compare! Exciting stuff right? Well in the likely case that it’s not, hopefully this Google doc tool will make up for it. Just make a copy of the doc and start testing it out.

Keep in mind that some queries will not provide a value for the Tweet Frequency metric. This is due to there being less than a 100 results for that search, so you can essentially rule that query out comparatively to ones that do provide a numeric result.

This is a pretty simple tool and metric, so don’t expect it to be a full proof way to do this. Consider it more of something to get you started with.

About Dan

Dan Peskin is a SEO Specialist at Geary LSF Group. He is passionate about digital marketing and focuses on the development of integrated SEO and PPC strategies for his clients and his company.

8 Responses for Words Matter: How to Optimize the Content of a Tweet

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Interesting post. Although I have split test tweet times and URLs. I never put this much thought into the words I’m using in Twitter. I guess that’s something I should work on.

March 13, 2012 7:02 pm

Thanks Adam, I thought it might be interesting to share, as it’s a practice that is somewhat unexplored yet. I wouldn’t suggest spending too much time on it, but with a little work here and there it can make a big difference, especially for those with small to medium amounts of followers.

March 13, 2012 9:26 pm

Thanks for the post. I agree that optimizing your Twitter investments is just as important as your return on traditional SEO practices. I use Crowdbooster and SocialBro to measure engagement, reach, and best time to tweet and BufferApp for general Twitter updates during certain time periods (depends on your geographical reach and your demographics). I analyze the content of the tweet (words, hashtags, links, shortners) with Crowdbooster and SocialBro, higher engagement (retweets, replies, mentions) usually indicate a valuable tweet. I think that especially for businesses this should be a standard approach.

March 13, 2012 10:09 pm

Thanks for sharing Geert. It’s always great to here how other people approach these things and what tools they use. I haven’t heard of Crowdbooster so I’ll have to check that one out.

March 13, 2012 10:24 pm

I do the same as Geert, but I use Sprout Social to measure total reach and engagement (clicks, responses, retweets).

Great post, Dan.

March 13, 2012 10:57 pm

Thanks Nate, I’ve checked out Sprout Social before, it looks great but a bit costly for personal use. For businesses I would agree and say it’s a great application to measure reach and engagement.

March 13, 2012 11:31 pm

Hi Dan, this is definitely an interesting way to go about determining frequency! Have you used Rowfeeder at all? It will do essentially the same thing but also pulls in the location of the user and their website. You can get up to a certain number of tweets free, you might want to check that out. We use that at SEOmoz if we’re tracking a specific hashtag or keyword (say.. “Open Site Explorer”).

March 14, 2012 4:20 am

Hello Jen, thank you for your feedback! I have used Rowfeeder before and it’s great but that limit to how many tweets are free puts me in a position to look elsewhere for something that is free. I tend to avoid paid services/apps if they only have a few features (even if they are really good), I prefer a more comprehensive tool set like SEOmoz provides or if I chose to get Simply Measured’s enterprise system. In general I like to see what can be done myself and what can’t, which is why I created this Google doc tool. I think it’s valuable to see what your capable of building as you learn a lot along the way and have the capability to provide some free resources to a client/company that might have a tight budget.

March 14, 2012 3:52 pm

Comment now!