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An Unexpected Side Effect of Tweeting

Submitted on 6/27/2011 by Mike Fogarty

While compiling reports at the beginning of this month, I came across a few interesting jumps in numbers for one of my clients, an e-commerce site. Looking at Webmaster Tools’ keyword occurrence breakdown, I saw an almost unbelievable jump: the top 20 keywords saw an average increase of 263% in the number of times they appeared within the site. This was quite curious, as there had been no real change in the site architecture or addition of pages to account for such a huge increase in numbers.

I discovered the reason for the huge increase in keyword occurrences after a quick examination of the number of pages indexed by Google, which showed they had more than doubled. Interestingly enough, internal catalog search result pages were being indexed. Unfortunately I had not taken screen shots of the indexed pages in past reports, so it uncertain which pages were the newly indexed pages.

Thinking that maybe someone had linked to one of the search results pages, which triggered the new indexing effort from Google’s bots, I found one of the top landing pages is in fact an internal search result page, from a forum that has consistently sent traffic to our site, but this post was written in November so it wasn’t a new factor.

Diving further back into analytics, I found handfuls of “/catalogsearch/result/” landing pages that have been bringing a fair amount of visitors since October, meaning it’d be fairly safe to assume these catalog search result pages have probably been indexed for some time. If not, something triggered the proverbial indexing floodgates to open, finally allowing the entirety of the site to be indexed, including catalog search result pages. Now, to find what pulled the trigger.

Since this all happened between the first week of May and the first week of June, it’d be safe to say that an action or activity during that time period could have caused the tipping point. The only new activity to the campaign during that time was the start of a Twitter sweepstakes that was launched near the end of May. This was also the first sweepstakes they’ve done and the first real presence they’ve had in social media, leading me to believe it could have had quite the impact on their site and its rankings.

webmaster tools crawl stats

Webmaster Tools reinforced this idea, as a quick increase in pages crawled and several spikes in kilobytes downloaded per day occurred in the days following the launch of the Twitter sweepstakes.

This all leads me to believe that these things have gradually built up to a tipping point, and that the surge in social activity via Twitter is what finally pushed it over the edge; An unexpected, but pleasant side effect of the sweepstakes.

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