For a few years now, there have been murmurs of Twitter censorship, algorithmic filtrations of user content, and subtle squashing of free speech. If you're looking for an exposé on those claims, this blog post is not it (but feel free to debate it in the comments!). I don't have any evidence that points toward such controversial behavior, but what I do have evidence of is Twitter's public practices (smart ones, though at times faulty) for filtering certain tweeters out of its search results.
Turns out, there are some things that can get the little blue bird angry enough to shun you. When Twitter evaluates whether you should be removed from search results, what it's really asking is whether you're a spammer or a bot. Or, a human that acts like one. You may be a well intentioned but novice user of Twitter, or a marketer hell bent on getting visibility in quick and sneaky ways, but if you're doing any of these things, you can bet you'll soon find yourself removed from Twitter's search results. Unless you've unknowingly been removed already.
6 Ways to Get Removed From Twitter's Search Results
1.) Repeatedly posting the same link or tweet. Just like Google's algorithm penalizes websites with duplicate content in search results, Twitter also penalizes tweeters who continue to post the same links or tweets in a misguided attempt to gain visibility.
2.) Aggressively following and unfollowing people. When you first sign up for Twitter, you probably (hopefully) find a bunch of people you want to follow. But you probably don't find as many as a bot could. A best practice to avoid being blacklisted from Twitter's search results for this offense is to maintain a logical follower:following ratio, or to simply amass your following accounts organically over time.
3.) Abusing trending topics or hashtags. These are words or phrases with a # sign in front on them that essentially allow you to tag your tweets. The growing popularity of Twitter chats with associated hashtags implies your overuse of a hashtag must be egregious to get you banned from search results, and it is likely also tied to the distribution of that hashtag's usage across accounts.
4.) Sending automated tweets and replies. This behavior reeks of spam bots, but it's still shocking to be on the receiving end of this behavior from time to time from marketers and business owners. If you're using automated tweets and replies on Twitter, ditch it ASAP for a more personal response that won't get you banned from Twitter search results and will likely garner you more social media success than this shoddy automation, anyway.
5.) Using bots or applications to post similar messages based on keywords. If you're trying to get visibility in Twitter search around a specific keyword -- and using bots or applications to do it -- Twitter will interpret this as an attempt to game search results and dominate them with low quality content. The same rules apply on Twitter as on the rest of the web: content quality matters.
6.) Posting similar messages over multiple accounts. If you're using a third party application to post tweets to multiple accounts, you may find this happening to you by accident. While some automation is great, make sure you're putting in the time up front to ensure the content you select is unique to each account to prevent duplicate content and deliver more relevancy.
What to Do If You're Removed From Twitter Search Results
If you find yourself an accidental offender and are removed from Twitter search, Twitter recommends you visit its help center to do some initial troubleshooting before contacting its support team. Some of the other reasons you might have no or low visibility in Twitter's search results include:
1.) Your account hasn't been indexed yet. If you just set up your account, it may take a few days to get indexed.
2.) Your profile is incomplete. Twitter gives search results preference to users with a complete name, username, and bio in their profile.
3.) You're not interacting enough. Twitter considers those with the best reputations the most important ones to include in search results. And reputation, in Twitter's eyes, is related to you tweeting with other users, mentioning their content, and getting mentioned in return. This can only happen with consistent and conscientious usage.
Until your visibility issue is resolved, your @replies to specific users will still be delivered to that user; they just won't be visible in search results.
Like any online business, Twitter is trying to ensure a pleasant user experience for its tweeters. In the "Search problems" section of its Help Center, Twitter addresses relevancy, saying, "In order to keep your search results relevant, Twitter filters search results for quality. Material that jeopardizes search quality or creates a bad search experience for other users may be automatically removed from Twitter search."
While the items listed above undoubtedly do jeopardize the quality of search and are concrete enough to algorithmically filter out, there are plenty of other things that can jeopardize user experience, too; namely, just being a jerk. There are been instances of vulgar content and harassment being filtered out of search results and some anecdotal accounts of people just being unsavory and getting nixed from search results, too.
If you've found instances of users being filtered out of Twitter search results who are not offenders of one of the items above, share it in the comments.