People who follow search are aware that for years now Google has given huge preference to Wikipedia for a large number of knowledge-seeking queries. This has actually been called into question as of late.
A report published in July showed that Wikipedia had experienced a significant drop in organic search traffic sent by Google. Eric and Mark are here to tell you why Google Still Loves Wikipedia!
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Eric: Hi, I’m Google.
Mark: Hi, I’m Wikipedia. Google, why don’t you love me anymore?
Eric: What do you mean, Wikipedia? Why would you say such a thing?
Mark: You don’t send me flowers anymore. But even worse, you don’t send me as much traffic as you used to. I feel like it’s all about you now.
Eric: Wiki, my friend, it’s not what you think! And my friend Eric Enge is about to tell you why!
Mark: Eric, most people who follow search are aware that for years now Google has given huge preference to Wikipedia for a large number of knowledge-seeking queries. So what has called that into question recently?
Eric: A report by SimilarWeb in July showed that Wikipedia had experienced a significant drop in organic search traffic sent by Google. That led some to speculate that Google might be reducing the ranking of Wikipedia for certain queries, perhaps to favor its own properties. In other words, Google might have wanted to put some of its own sources out there as better answers to the query than Wikipedia’s answers.
Mark: Does that charge have any merit?
Eric: I’m glad you asked, because we decided to find out.
Mark: And how did you propose to do that?
Eric: Fortunately we had access to the massive query data MOZ used for their 2015 ranking factors study, as well as snapshots of a huge amount of query data we took at three different points over the past year. We went back through that data to see how both Wikipedia and Google properties ranked. We found that in all those data sets, Wikipedia showed up in the top ten results quite often. And a surprising finding there was that Wikipedia was slightly more likely to show for commercial than for informational queries.
Next, I charted the ranking positions for Wikipedia in each of the query sets. And here’s where we see the reason for the loss of search traffic experienced by Wikipedia. Notice the gap between the percentage of Wikipedia results in the number one position in April 2015 (the green line) and August 2015 (the purple line). This confirms that Wikipedia dropped from its number one ranking in that time period in enough queries to make a noticeable difference in their traffic.
Mark: Ok, so we know that Wikipedia did lose some of its number one rankings. What about the charge that Google intentionally dropped those rankings in order to favor its own properties.
Eric: Let’s go back to that chart showing Wikipedia in the top 10 Google results. Notice, depending on the query set that Wikipedia shows up between about 52 to 62 percent of the time. Now in this chart we see how often Google properties show up in the top ten of that same query set. The group at the far right represents any Google property. Notice that these fall between about 33 and 36 percent. So in typical top ten results on Google, Wikipedia shows up almost twice as often as Google properties.
Mark: Interesting. So summarize what your study found, and tell us where we can see it for more details.
Eric: Sure thing. Here are the main takeaways:
- Wikipedia did indeed slide a bit from the top rankings over the past several months.
- Wikipedia still shows up significantly more than Google properties do in search results.
- Surprisingly, Wikipedia shows up slightly more for commercial queries than they do for informational queries.
Google is the opposite, showing up more for informational queries. You can see all the results and our full methodology at the URL on your screen.
Mark: Thanks again Eric.