So why does Google love Wikipedia? As an SEO I am often frustrated to see Wikipedia constantly ranking number one, or at least on the first page of Google, for keywords that I am trying to help clients rank for. Although for some searches a Wikipedia page may be appropriate, what’s frustrating is those searches which clearly have commercial intent and yet Wikipedia still ranks in the top ten. It would probably be less frustrating if Wikipedia could be considered a 100% accurate and verifiable source of information but even by Wikipedia’s own admission:
you should be wary and independently verify the accuracy of Wikipedia information if possible. For many purposes, but particularly in academia, Wikipedia may not be an acceptable source
This is because pretty much anyone can edit articles in Wikipedia making it vulnerable to inaccuracies from editors who are either misinformed or have an ulterior motive. There have been several cases where biographies on Wikipedia have been edited with defamatory statements. Of course, obvious mistakes can and usually are corrected extremely quickly but there are mistakes that can go unnoticed for long periods of time. With this in mind, surely Wikipedia can at times be no more accurate than a tabloid newspaper but yet you don’t see many people declaring tabloids as a fount of reliable information. So why then, considering the reliability issues, is Wikipedia so loved by Google?
Intelligent Positioning conducted their own Wikipedia research and the results were very interesting. They searched 1,000 different nouns in Google and found that Wikipedia were on page one for 99% of searches. Furthermore, they found Wikipedia was the top result for 56% of searches, and position 1-5 for 96% of searches. This is astonishing when you consider some of the nouns that the study used. Words with commercial value such as clothing and food items still yielded top results for Wikipedia pages such as butter, milk and t-shirt. Surely Google can deduce that people searching for t-shirts online are more than likely to want to buy a t-shirt rather find out what a t-shirt is on Wikipedia? There are of course flaws with this research, not least the fact that only one word nouns were searched but I can confirm through my own work as an SEO that many key one, two and three word commercial phrases yield top results for Wikipedia pages also. Clearly there is some kind of special relationship between Google and Wikipedia.
So what do you suggest?
I for one would love to see Wikipedia results completely stripped from Google organic search results. You may think this is drastic but what I would suggest is having a separate tab at the top like they have for images, maps and news just for Wikipedia or encyclopaedic results. Or if that is too drastic then perhaps a separate area on the page (either on the left or the right) where you could showcase wikipedia results along with organic results. Either way, Wikipedia results should not be so high up the rankings for key commercial terms and they shouldn’t be so high up for results in general considering the reliability and validity issues that are inherent with a resource that can be edited by anyone.
Please feel free to share your comments and experiences with below.