Hearts, Polls and Shares: An Overview of Twitter’s New Changes

With its switch from stars to hearts, many are left wondering, “Why?” when it comes to Twitter’s recent changes. Does Twitter have on rose-colored glasses? Some users appreciate Twitter’s evolutionary steps, while others may see it as a way for the social media giant to grasp at relevance in a fast changing world.


The changes the company has made in recent months may not be groundbreaking, but they may affect individual and business operations more than they think. Let’s take a look at these three changes in depth:

Twitter Removes Share Counts

Share counts have served the Twitter community with a benchmark for popularity. It doesn’t necessarily affect peoples’ ability to share information and use Twitter to start trending topics, but it does prevent individuals from seeing the relative impact of their posts. They can see favorited information but not how many times a post was shared.

From a technical standpoint, the company has switched database systems from “Cassandra” to “Manhattan.” Manhattan doesn’t support tweet counts. Twitter’s explanation yields more information about why tweet counts, “…don’t represent accurate performance, only perceived performance…” Tweet counts don’t highlight the overall impact of conversation, including replies, quotes, and URL variants, making them an unhelpful way to measure success.

What This Could Mean for Users

For people and businesses that don’t rely on Twitter to deliver information to a targeted audience, the change may not matter much. For those who heavily use Twitter as a content dissemination tool, however, the change will likely have far-reaching implications. For instance, some businesses use tweet shares to note how well-received content is and prove their worth in social media. It may not offer comprehensive analytics, but it does offer a snapshot of perceived popularity – a valuable commodity in the social world.


Our own Twitter share counter. The new changes left the prior share count visible, however it no longer updates. While this isn’t, by any means, the most important metric of success for a piece of content, it certainly was useful.

Twitter Introduced “Twitter Polls”

People love quizzes, polls, and surveys. It’s a proven way to boost engagement on websites, which may hint at why Twitter has added them to its lineup of offerings. Twitter Polls allow anybody to get public input for any number of questions. Forget the magic 8 ball. Find out what the crowd thinks and prefers with a simple poll posting. Can’t decide on dinner? Make a poll. Want to see what people think right now about the 2016 election? Make a poll. With millions of users on the social media platform daily, you may never have to make a decision on your own again.

While the feature hasn’t been in the marketplace long enough to see real results on its use, Twitter Polls promise a better reception than the removal of share counts. Businesses may find that the technology provides countless new marketing opportunities, from finding out how a product launch went to supporting research and development endeavors. Competition from digitalization may be fierce, but it’s never been easier to find out what your audience wants.


A charming Twitter Poll from ex-Googler and HomeBrew.co founder – Hunter Walk

The Latest Change – Hearts Are the New “Lucky Charms” of Twitter

Instead of clicking on “stars” to favorite a tweet, users will now click on “hearts” to like them. Favorited stars often help users save content for use later, which could make it difficult when the symbol indicates a “like” for all intents and purposes.

Twitter’s Blog States:

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The hearts may take a social media moment for users to adopt, but ultimately don’t present a meaningful change to the platform. Hearts provide a more universal symbol for liking something online.

Look for the hearts on Twitter’s Vine and Periscope, as well. Some people still have mixed reactions of the shift, believing the likes and hearts too closely resemble other social media platforms *cough* Facebook *cough*. If you really want to find out what people think, you could always create a Twitter Poll and find out! Regardless, the change will likely face an easy adoption process overall.

Are You Using Direct Messaging?

The removal of direct messaging limitations is another change that isn’t as recent but has influenced the way users interact on the platform. Users who prefer private Twitter interactions may enjoy the chat-like feature of direct messaging today. Instead of a limited 140 character message, users explore the goings-on of the Twitterverse without limitation. However, if you send direct messages through SMS, the 140 character limitation still applies. So, enjoy the direct message extensions inside the application, but not through texting.

This change has been out since late summer 2015 and may make the platform more flexible for public and private interactions. Some individuals still wonder if an actual messaging extension wouldn’t be better than funneling messages into a private backchannel, but many have accepted the change with open arms. It facilitates communication in the same way as a messaging app, but the asynchronicity allows for a much more flexible dialogue.

The Ongoing Evolution of Social Media Platforms

Twitter has to keep innovating to stay on top of the social media game against its competitors. Facebook seems to continually unveil new features and extensions, slightly shifting the way users interact with the platform.


“They changed it to a heart?! There are polls now!?”

As users start to become more comfortable with the platforms, changing them slightly over time gives the interface a fresh feel while adding value to the user base. The one thing most platforms probably shouldn’t do is make a lot of significant changes at once. People need change, but they find comfort in familiarity.

Speculation on Twitter’s motivation for these changes?

Some users claim these updates come from Twitter’s need to make more money after going public in 2014 (Check this article out from Search Engine Watch). Others give credence to the notion that all companies are shifting in an effort to make their mobile experience more rewarding.

Whatever Twitter’s end goal is, something positive has come out of each of these changes: it has gotten people talking. The more people post blogs and articles and tweet about Twitter, the better off the company is. It’s all brand awareness and marketing for one of the largest social media companies in the world. What do you think about the recent changes?

Sitting At Your Desk May Be Killing You

Work stress is a problem…not news I know.  Staying healthy in the midst of constant pressure and stress can be challenging. And this sort of topic is a little outside of our usual fare but its good info for this modern office life.  This recent report is a combination of over 70 individual studies by a renowned by a renowned group of scientists and our friends at MPH Today have taken this dense and complex medical journal and broken it down into terms that even a guy like me can understand.  ts

It’s really easy to get caught up in the grind and forget to take care of the machine that takes care of you.  We found this graphic interesting and hopefully you will too. This world is tough enough and any insights into stress management are worth considering.


The Effects of Work Stress on Your Body

From Visually.

Is Ghost Referral Spam Haunting Your Analytics (And Confusing Your Clients)?

Many webmasters and SEOs are currently working through a new online spam game that’s affecting Google Analytics data. Since late last year many web marketers started to notice anomalies in Google Analytics data. The problem became obvious when there was large increase in referral traffic across many Google Analytics accounts. However, this new spike in traffic also skewed data in other metrics such as the time spent on websites and bounce rates.

Referral Spike on April 2o

Referral Traffic Spike on April 20, 2015

When we dug deeper we were able to see that the spikes in referral traffic weren’t from legitimate sources, but instead, from what is now called “Ghost” referral traffic or ghost referral spam.

These types of spam referrals are affecting almost everyone that uses Google Analytics to monitor website traffic and statistics, and is becoming an increasingly common problem.

What is Ghost Referral Traffic?

“Ghost” referrals or referral spam is exactly what it sounds like. This traffic shows up in Google Analytics as a referral visitor from a website. However, when you look closer you notice that the hit isn’t from a real visitor, but simply a digital mark left in Google Analytics by these domains.

What Ghost referrals look like in real life, probably.

What Ghost referrals look like in real life, probably.

As of right now there are two main types of spam affecting Google Analytics data. The first type are spam bots or crawlers. These bots crawl each page of your site, often ignoring your robots.txt. The most common bot known is “Semalt”, however there are others. Many identified and tackled this issue late last year by blocking these crawlers from accessing websites in the first place. You can read more about blocking this type of spam bot with .htaccess at StackOverflow.

The issue that has currently presented itself are simply spam referrals from various domains. Most of these domain names have adult themes, and for us began hitting our sites around April 20th, 2015. Research by other search marketers has shown that everyone with a tracking code “UA-XXXXXXX-1” has been affected, if not more.

The difference in spam bots and these new spam referrals is that the “traffic” from the new domains never actually hit your website, instead just leave a digital trail affecting only Google Analytics data, by using your Google Analytics tracking code to do so. Therefore you can’t use the .htaccess method to block this type of traffic, but instead must create filters in Google Analytics to stop the referrals from ruining your data.

Will Ghost Referral Traffic Affect my Website or SEO?

Absolutely not. This problem is exclusive to Google Analytics data. I mentioned before, these current spam referrals don’t even hit your site – just show up in your top referrers in Analytics.

What is affected, however, is reporting and data. These spam referrals hit all in one day, showing upwards of 650 hits in a day in some cases. They bring with them a 100% bounce rate and a 0 ‘time on site’ metric.

What does this mean?

  • This greatly increases your overall bounce rate.
  • It decreases the overall time on your website.
  • It falsely increases visitors to your website.

  • It skews referral data, making it difficult to see what referral avenues are actually working.
  • It also hinders our Goal Conversion and location data, as most of this traffic is from Russia.



You can see here that this client had a moderate amount of good referral traffic, with a bounce rate of 45.90% and an average “session duration” of 3 minutes and 40 seconds.



After the referral “attack” we now have a bounce rate of 91.54% and an average session duration of a measly 51 seconds. All of the domains shown in this data are spam referrals, all coming from April 20th.

 Location data, After

Prior to the Analytics attack this client's traffic was 95.4% US/Local - This is how the location data looks for this month.

Prior to the Analytics attack this client’s traffic was predominantly US/Local – This is how the location data looks for this month.

Why are sites targeting Google Analytics data, what’s the point of spamming in this way?

The most common conclusion by many search marketing professionals is that these sites are cleverly using a black-hat affiliate marketing technique to drive traffic back to their sites.

They present themselves in data, and webmasters and SEOs will check out the site to ensure that there is no actual backlink on these spammy websites. The investigation shows up as direct traffic and time on site for these domains, especially when marketers visit multiple pages to ensure that there is no backlink to their website. Now these sites have a steady base of “traffic” to show prospective advertising clients. DO NOT CLICK THE LINKS as advised in this article.

dont click spam links


How do you stop Ghost referral spam in Google Analytics?

There are a few techniques to block this type of traffic from hindering Google Analytics data. As I mentioned before, many were able to block spam bots earlier this year by implementing a block in .htaccess to stop these crawlers from accessing websites.

filter view google analytics

Applying filters in Google Analytics

However with the newest type of “Ghost” spam, we must manually filter each domain out of analytics. At this time Google hasn’t addressed this particular issue. The only problem with implementing filters is that Google Analytics does not allow us to apply them retroactively. Therefore this spam traffic will continue to show in past metrics and data unless you apply views with advanced segments.

Many web marketers are diligently working to block these traffic sources. Here are some great resources for the various methods of blocking “Ghost” referral traffic from your Google Analytics account, as well as a list of domains that are currently affecting our client’s traffic.

We will continue to update our list of domains found, as well as provide more information in this post as we learn more about spam referrals and how to address them.

A great guide for blocking crawlers via .htaccess…

How to Block Spam Crawlers from Ruining Your Google Analytics Data – by Moz.com

More about filtering current referral spam from your Analytics data…

Removing Referral Spam from Google Analytics – by Vidget.com

Known Spam Referral Domains



















Pretty classy list. And you have been warned…don’t click the links for “reasearch”.