Wikipedia is highly visible in Google search results, though not nearly as much as Intelligent Positioning reported in February. Even in the case of one-word search queries, Wikipedia results appear on the first page 8 out of 10 times, not 99 percent of the time as IP suggested, according to a new study by Conductor.
In Wikipedia in the SERPs, Conductor offered another look at the Wikipedia/Google bias issue. Their findings are similar to those of our recent Search Engine Watch study, though the scope of Conductor’s report is slightly different; where we examined Wikipedia results on Google vs. Bing, they broke queries out into transactional vs. informational. This segmentation allows for a better look into Wikipedia distribution according to how people actually search.
Slingshot SEO and SpyFu also threw their hats in the ring; Slingshot in an examination of a slightly larger keyword sample size and SpyFu with a historical look at Wikipedia rankings over the last five years.
Wikipedia Results in Google Top 10 for 60 Percent of Informational Queries
Conductor found that Wikipedia results are more prevalent for informational queries, ranking on the first page 60 percent of the time. For searchers seeking information, this is indeed a logical result.
For transactional queries, ie.: “boots on sale” or “where can I buy a black ereader,” Wikipedia still appears on the front page 34 percent of the time.
"I think this study highlights the importance of looking at Wikipedia results based on the intent of the query," Nathan Safran, Director of Research at Conductor, told SEW. "The same holds true for the length of the query."
Wikipedia Dominates for 1-Word Searches, Often Takes Top Spots
Intelligent Positioning had found that Wikipedia results appeared on Google’s first search engine results page 99 percent of the time. Not so, says Conductor.
We did see questions and criticisms after that first study, based on their keyword generation method; they used a random noun generator. Conductor used Google Suggest, keyword research website Soovle, and the Google AdWords keyword tool to populate their lists of search terms. In their report, they note that, “Care was taken to mix high volume searches with lower-volume, self-generated queries to produce a balanced keyword list that is reflective of what actual searcher activity might look like.”
In this study, Conductor found that Wikipedia ranked in the top 10, on the first page, for 85 percent of informational and 73 percent of transactional one-word queries. They do note that it is more difficult to determine searcher intent with a one-word query; at two words, there was a significant drop in Wikipedia’s dominance of Google.
Where Wikipedia did appear on the first page on Google, it often took one of the top three positions, where most clicks occur. Even in transactional searches, Wikipedia was one of the top three results 63 percent of the time. Similarly, 66 percent of informational queries brought back Wikipedia results in the top three.
In our SEW study, our findings were similar, with Google showing Wikipedia results in one of the top three positions 70 percent of the time. Bing, however, did so even more often; 79 percent of searches showed Wikipedia in the top three on that engine.
Conductor analyzed 2,000 informational and transactional queries: 1,000 keywords each for informational and transactional queries. In the report, they note that “an analysis of a subset of navigational keywords showed Wikipedia was largely not visible for these kinds of queries, so we did not complete a full analysis of these terms.”
Slingshot SEO Finds Wikipedia in Top 10 for 28 Percent of Terms
SlingshotSEO also took a crack at examining Wikipedia distribution in Google search results, though their methodology differed again from the others. They used a larger sample than Intelligent Positioning had (2955 keywords), had terms ranging from one to nine words in length, and compiled the keyword list using in-house client data.
They found that Wikipedia results appear in the top ten for 28.2 percent of terms, as illustrated above.
As an aside, SlingshotSEO also put out an impressive multi-touch attribution study last week and offered great insight into the valuation of marketing channels... check it out.
SpyFu Brings the Drama... Also Looks at Wikipedia Placement
If you get past the hyperbole and overzealous pot-stirring in the first few paragraphs, SpyFu had an interesting look at how Wikipedia has moved in the SERPs over the last five years. They compared its performance against other big players eBay, Amazon, and YouTube. SpyFu’s terms were more likely to be transactional and to have higher search volume and competition.
Among their findings:
- 60 percent of U.S. Google SERPs return a Wikipedia result on Page 1.
- Amazon shows up on on Page 1 more often than Wikipedia, and has for longer than a year.
- Yahoo has lost about 50 percent of its Page 1 and overall (Top 50) Google results in the past 3 years.
How Can Marketers Use This Information?
Thanks to Sam Silverwood-Cope for kicking off this conversation earlier with his original study for Intelligent Positioning. Both the Search Engine Watch and Conductor studies show that Wikipedia certainly does appear often in Google’s search results, often near the top. The question, then, becomes: so what?
Some argue that Wikipedia is an excellent source of information, others that their SEO and sheer size make it a logical first stop for many searchers. Some people would like to see it come down a notch.
Others still, like Katerina Gasset (who commented on our previous article) see it as a challenge; she said, “It is easy to beat Wikipedia for real estate terms that are local. When I see them show up I know that I can take at least their spot over.”
“If you’re a marketer, you want to understand what’s happening specifically with your set of keywords," Safran said. "There are terms that are softer and easier to beat: local is one, and very highly specific terms are another. Longer-tail and hyper-specific terms are opportunities for marketers, if they see Wikipedia ranking for those terms. The more general terms are going to be more difficult.”
What do you think?
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