Online Poker Searches Not Driving Wikipedia Popularity

Recent news from competitive intelligence and analytics firm Hitwise that the community-created Wikipedia encyclopedia saw a rise in popularity over the past month got me thinking. Did this have more to do with a link bombing campaign by some bloggers to push Wikipedia into the top results for “online poker” at Google? After some checking, Hitwise says that’s not the case.

Wikipedia? Online poker? What’s that all about?

Threadwatch’s Poker Sites under Blogger Attack turned me on to the connection earlier this year. A number of bloggers are annoyed by comment and trackback spam created by sites trying to rank well for the term, “online poker.” Heck, I’ve had to deal with this myself!

To fight back, an idea put out in mid-February (apparently originating on this page) was that if bloggers all linked to a page at Wikipedia using the term “online poker,” spam sites would have no chance of ranking well.

In reality, that’s not the case. Linking to Wikipedia may help one page from that site get top ranked in Google, but there still remain nine other spots up for grabs.

Why favor Wikipedia? Among its many subjects is a page all about online poker. So if you wanted to favor a non-profit source, it’s a good choice. Looking today, that page is ranked number 2 at Google and number 10 at MSN. Yahoo and Ask Jeeves appear to be resistant to the link bombing campaign.

Back to my earlier thought. Could the rise in popularity be due just to the online poker campaign? Could that one term be so popular as to generate the spike? Nope, says Hitwise, after looking at it further.

Hitwise tells me that search-related traffic has stayed steady at 67.7 percent throughout the year. If online poker queries were sending a ton of new traffic, you’d expect that to have risen.

Checking further, Hitwise found that online poker isn’t in the top 100 terms driving traffic to Wikipedia. Finally, the company says that Wikipedia isn’t in the top 10 sites receiving traffic for the term “online poker.” Who is? Here’s the breakdown from Hitwise:

  1., 21.9%
  2., 11.4%
  3., 8.7%
  4., 5.4%
  5., 3.4%
  6., 3.4%
  7., 2.7%
  8., 2.7%
  9., 2.0%
  10., 2.0%

In other words, of all sites getting traffic for “online poker,” gets 21.9 percent of the traffic.

Finally, back to Wikipedia. Hitwise — a fantastic source for these type of facts — notes that the site was ranked 33rd among all web sites in terms of getting traffic from search engines. So what searches are sending people to the site? According to Hitwise, here are the top 20 terms for Wikipedia for the last four weeks (ending May 9):

  1. wikipedia, 2.79%
  2. sex positions, 0.28%
  3. encyclopedia, 0.24%
  4. cinco de mayo, 0.19%
  5. wikipedia encyclopedia, 0.16%
  6., 0.15%
  7. may day, 0.10%
  8., 0.09%
  9. bill clinton, 0.08%
  10. free encyclopedia, 0.08%
  11. christopher columbus, 0.07%
  12. communism, 0.07%
  13. hitler, 0.07%
  14. mao zedong, 0.07%
  15. socialism, 0.07%
  16. vietnam war, 0.07%
  17. cold war, 0.06%
  18. fidel castro, 0.06%
  19. iambic pentameter, 0.06%
  20. intelligent design, 0.06%

So of all search traffic Wikipedia receives, 2.79 percent of it is from people searching for it by name. You can also see there’s plenty of other “name” or “navigationally” oriented traffic, as well — people who have learned or heard about Wikipedia and want to navigate to it.

It’s also interesting to see how having content for popular news items can help the site. Holidays like May Day or Cinco de Mayo, anniversary coverage about the Vietnam War — these type of things helped send Wikipedia traffic because it seems to have good, quality content on the topics. That’s a lesson for all search marketers. If it’s relevant, having timely news may help bring you traffic, as well.

Meanwhile, there’s always the old fallback — sex sells. As you can see, the most popular non-navigational term sending Wikipedia traffic is “sex positions.” The site’s page on the topic is number one at Yahoo and number eight at MSN Search. But Google and Ask Jeeves don’t list it within the top three pages of results.

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