Hashtags are symbols that start with a pound sign, followed by a keyword that attempts to organize the topic into a thread or category (#SEO, #worldcup, #ladygaga). From the time the first hashtag appeared on Twitter in 2007, they have helped organize seemingly disparate posts into cohesive themes, aided followers in finding like-minded souls when using Twitter search, and become useful in promoting events.
In short, they’re great for social search because they make your tweets much more visible in social search than they might be otherwise, and may draw quality followers who are interested in the broad topics you tweet about.
But there’s also a downside. As Google revealed in early 2010, the search giant has deemed hashtags a red flag for spam, and consider it a negative ranking factor. This means that if you use hashtags, your tweets are much less likely to show up in Google’s real-time search results. Until now, I’ve clung to hashtags because (a) I believed Google’s assertion that hashtags were spammy was ludicrous, and might soon be overturned, and (b) I also believed that the benefits of being more visible in Twitter outweighed search visibility. Now with Google’s real-time search in full swing, however, traditional search’s reach can no longer be ignored. I’m going cold turkey.
Here’s how to compensate for a hashtag-free existence:
•Keyword-Centric Profile – Take care to make your profile keyword-rich, including broad topics that you hope to be found for within social search. In other words, if you tweet about the housing market, include “real estate” in the description of yourself.
•Keyword-Centric Headlines – Like any good SEO copywriter, utilize broad keywords within your headline. This may mean that certain keywords get utilized over and over again in your headlines, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff to not being found.
•Consider Custom-Shortened URLs – If you have high-value keywords in your domain name that you feel may help people find your tweets in traditional search, consider utilizing a custom URL shortener from a service like Awe.sm that allows your primary URL to be recognizable.