Twitter’s brand value: 17 years and 12 million keywords


On July 24, Elon Musk surprisingly announced that Twitter would be rebranded as “X,” introducing a new logo and brand identity shortly after that announcement. Shortly thereafter, X.com began redirecting (302) to Twitter.com.

Any seasoned SEO knows how dangerous a major website migration can be, and Twitter.com has been building its authority for 17 years. Here are some stats from Moz’s domain overview tool:

Screenshot of statistics from Moz's domain overview tool

Those are numbers that most websites would be jealous of because there are nearly 12 million ranking keywords on Google.com alone. Over time, X.com could regain many or most of the non-branded rankings, but what about the Twitter brand search rate?

Brand search: It’s complicated

According to our data, there are 8.4 million searches for the word “Twitter” alone each month in the United States (and that’s probably a conservative estimate), but brand searches go well beyond that. Consider the Google result for just the letters “tw”:

Image shows Google result only for the letters

Not only does Twitter take first place for “tw,” but Google also sends strong branding signals, including expanded sitelinks and a Knowledge Graph entry. While many possible websites and search queries start with “tw”, Google has determined that Twitter.com – in their own jargon – is the predominant interpretation. That’s impressive even by big brand standards.

The special thing about social networks is that people also associate other search terms with the name of the network. As a result, we see a lot of searches for celebrities and brands, such as:

We’re also seeing branded signals for topics paired with the word “Twitter,” celebrity Twitter personalities (even without the brand name), queries like “Twitter search” and “Twitter login,” and official spinoffs like “Tweetdeck “. Even popular memes can send out brand-like signals.

Additionally, Twitter qualifies for a unique carousel-style format like the following:

Image showing Twitter's unique carousel format

This type of premium placement in Google results can be carried over to brand X, but that is entirely at Google’s discretion and may depend on the strength of the new brand.

Quantifying Twitter brand strength

Of the roughly 12 million searches that Twitter ranks for in Moz’s data, we only examined those that received more than 150 searches per month and where Twitter ranked on page one, giving us roughly 600,000 unique searches.

We analyzed these 600,000 searches for brand signals and ended up with 10,149 searches. While that doesn’t seem like a lot compared to 12 million, it represents a massive impact of the Twitter brand 18 million searches per month.

The problem for “X” is that the vast majority of these brand-like searches point directly to Twitter or related branded terms (like “tweet” and “tweetdeck”). To win back that search volume and traffic over the long term, “X” needs to achieve a level of brand awareness where searchers are actively searching for terms like “Taylor Swift X” and “Fortnite X.”

The confusing history of X.com

Due to a series of long-term issues, X.com is not currently ranking for any keywords in our databases. It doesn’t take much math to say that this doesn’t result in any branded searches. This situation will no doubt change, but X.com faces another challenge: it has been used to house multiple (multi-owned) sites and has also been redirected to Musk’s broader portfolio of brands. To understand X.com’s 25+ year history, you really have to see it.

The early years (1995–2000)

With the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, we’re able to capture part of this confusing story. The domain

Image shows the original domain from X.com

Unfortunately, the list of things Rob Walker would want has been lost over time.

In 1999, Elon Musk bought the domain for the first time (he later bought it again on eBay). Here is a screenshot of X.com’s original online banking website from 2000:

April 1999 screenshot of X.com's original online banking website

Until Twitter’s recent renaming to “X,” this 2000 site was the only one to ever host the originally planned X.com brand.

The PayPal Years (2000–2011)

Due to a difficult time at PayPal following the merger of X.com and Confinity, the X.com brand gave way to various PayPal brands. In spring 2000 the website was briefly renamed “X-Finance” and then “X-PayPal” (see below):

Screenshot of the X-Paypal interface from 2000

In the fall of 2000, Musk was removed as PayPal’s CEO, and the site was rebranded to “PayPal” in early 2001. This persisted for a while until X.com finally redirected to the PayPal website. The “X” mark was nowhere to be seen at this point.

In late 2007, X.com was revived as PayPal Labs (captured here in 2008):

Screenshot of PayPal Labs

PayPal Labs lasted for a while, followed by a handful of PayPal experiments, including this “X.com blog,” which appears to have nothing to do with the “X” brand (July 2009 screenshot):

Screenshot of X.com blog posts from June and July 2009

These appear to be the only two posts the X.com Blog ever had until it was replaced by the PayPal-X Developer Network (not to be confused with X-PayPal) in Spring 2010:

Screenshot of the PayPal-X Developer Network

In the summer of 2011, this site was replaced by a new joint venture between eBay (which had acquired PayPal in 2002), PayPal and Magento called “X-Commerce”.

X.com(merce) (2011-2014)

X.commerce, a nod to the X.com domain, housed “a new commerce company” that wanted to integrate the eBay, PayPal, and Magento developer communities:

Screenshot of X.commerce

X.commerce went through a number of iterations and lasted until February 2014. At this point, eBay appears to have abandoned the X.commerce project and redirected X.com directly to eBay’s corporate page (ebayinc.com).

The Boring Hat (2017–2023)

In July 2017, Elon Musk bought back X.com, replacing the homepage with just the letter “x”. Soon after, X.com redirected to The Boring Company, but not to the home page, but to a page where you could buy a hat:

Image shows The Boring Company website

About a year later this was replaced by a page under construction reminiscent of the late 1990s while ironically living in 2018:

Screenshot of the page showing it is

The letter “x” on a white background soon reappeared on this page. Note that the base page “x” contained no HTML source code or any indication of the type of brand or website “X”. It was literally just a character. This lasted until July 2023, when X.com was redirected to Twitter.com with a 302, which is the current status at the time of this writing.

The long, uncertain road lies ahead of us

The strange story of X.com is – regardless of my personal feelings – an SEO and branding nightmare. Used and abused by various owners, X.com was just the letter “x” on a white page for years, with no indication whatsoever of the purpose of the mark.

During this time, X.com has built almost no online brand equity and ranks in the void. The temporary redirect to Twitter.com is a short-term fix, and Twitter.com itself will probably eventually redirect to X.com permanently. I have no knowledge of Musk’s plans – this is the only sensible way for X.com to become the permanent home of the “X” brand.

At this point, X.com is in danger of losing a significant chunk of the 10,149 Twitter-branded searches and 18 million searches per month discussed earlier. Reclaiming these searches and the resulting traffic is not just an SEO task, it requires building the “X” brand in consumers’ minds to the point where they routinely search for celebrities, brands, and topics in combination with Search “X” or X. related terms.

The long-term success of 3-6 months. Given the power of the current Twitter brand and X.com’s long, strange history, the losses could easily last well over a year.





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