Over-Inflated Twitter Search Volumes

For some time now, it has been believed that the number of search queries that Twitter receives is growing in leaps and bounds. This might not be completely true.

During a developer conference last April, the figure had been estimated at 600 million search queries per day.

A few days ago, at the Aspen Ideas festival, Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter announced that the number of search queries had gone up to 800 million per day.

That is a growth of 33% in a very short span of time, making it the fastest growing search engine at present.

Last year, Nielsen reported that Bing was the fastest growing search engine, with a growth rate of 22%. Twitter’s figures obviously appear to be much bigger than those of Bing.

However there is a catch here: Search queries on Twitter are counted quite differently from those on other search engines such as Google and Bing.

On the traditional search engines, a user actually goes to the search bar and then types in a query.

On the other hand, on Twitter, the ‘search’ mostly takes place on apps such as TweetDeck and Seesmic, where users create columns, on a topic which they need information about.

As the Twitter API receives more and more tweets containing the search query under consideration, the column gets automatically updated, every few seconds and each update is counted as a search query at Twitter. Thus the actual number of search queries is grossly over-inflated.

While CEO Evan Williams has clarified that the search queries on Twitter do vary from those on other search engines, the figures being mentioned can by themselves be quite misleading to those who do not know of the way the search queries at Twitter are counted.

One Comment

  • Replyz Team says:

    Agree, the Twitter search numbers incorporate automatic API calls from Twitter apps, which may increase numbers by as much as a magnitude, and it’s good to make people aware of this. At the same time, we think you’d agree that Twitter search is quickly growing into a genuine force and alternative in the search space. At the very least, the steadily growing volume of Tweets is making their results more accurate every day. As a niche search service ourselves (we essentially display a real-time searchable stream of the questions people are asking on Twitter) we’re finding that as the volume of Tweets has grown, our index has improved sharply and our searches have grown that much more accurate.