When Will Wikipedia Rank for Everything?

Nov 20th

The Wikipedia ranks for a lot of competitive keywords because they are cited everywhere while acquiring the back links to be envious of. They also keep most of their link juice by linking to their internal pages and placing no-follows on external links.

I found out recently that they rank for competitive key phrases on Google such as:

  • Loan - #1 and 2
  • Mortgage - #3
  • Insurance - #4 and #5

The chart below is from the RankPulse list of top websites ranking in the top ten results for their 1,000 keywords sample database.

But when I added high traffic classifiers to the phrases above, Wikipedia’s rankings dropped significantly.

  • Insurance Quotes – Not found in top 1000 Google results
  • Mortgage Rates – Not found in top 1000 Google results
  • Loan Consolidation - #36
My explanations for the results are:
  1. Although Wikipedia ranks well for competitive phrases, they don’t belong to the associated topical communities. They rank primarily on site authority.
  2. While they have enough content to rank for said terms, they don't have pages targeting those terms. In many cases the relevant content for the phrase is compressed as part of a broader related page.
  3. Their title tags target core keywords and lacks modifiers needed to rank well for popular terms that Wikipedia did not dedicate unique pages to.

By fixing the above issues, they may very well rank for the remaining 11 keywords.

Published: November 20, 2007

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Comments

November 20, 2007 - 5:53am

I'm glad to know that there is room on top for someone besides wikipedia.

November 20, 2007 - 6:01am

Congrats on your first post Giovanna :)

November 20, 2007 - 6:02am

Really great first post. :) I think next 5 years wiki will have over 5k of its terms in the top 10 search results.

November 20, 2007 - 6:28am

Good post. Wikipedia is a monster in Google SERPs. It's hard being the little guy in SEO now :)

Look forward to reading your future posts.

November 21, 2007 - 7:06am

Hi Brent,

While the future of the Internet is still unpredictable and Google is having the most control, it's hard to say where the Wikipedia will be a few years from now.

It's a challenge being the little SEO guy right now but if you promote something robust and useful, you have a great chance to do well :)

November 20, 2007 - 7:28am

That does only confirm "What Wikipedia is NOT". It's an encyclopedia and not a directory, How-To guide, product review site or anything else that is ecommerce or "business" related. It's not a site with commercial intend. The content reflect that. It would be a poor job by the search engines to rank Wikipedia high for keyword searches that indicate a high commercial intend by the user. It only ranks high for generic terms where it is not clear what the user intend is (search engines assume in that case that the intend is probably more research and information) or if the intend is clearly a non-commercial one, excluding product comparison related searches (which are only semi-commercial).

November 20, 2007 - 7:38am

dear god! Don't encourage them! :(

and welcome :)

November 20, 2007 - 8:46am

When will Wikipedia change its link's attribute from nofollow to follow ?

November 20, 2007 - 8:51am

Welcome to the front stage at SEObook Giovanna.

I think it's quite interesting just how big the gap between first and second place is, I would have thought (from seeing the SERPs myself daily) that amazon and answers would be doing better but I suppose it is based completely on the keywords in the sample.

November 20, 2007 - 9:50am

I want a wife like that too :D

Good post Giovanna !

November 20, 2007 - 10:23am

giovanna welcome on board.
I am silent listener here and i dont speak much but this post made me say few words about you. I have seen your pics it is nice to get married with someone who are like minded and i hope you both will set new bench marks and help us learn more. From Aaron I learned alot he one of the teacher that i am chasing silently since 2004. Wish to meet him one day as i live on the other side of the globe :)

November 21, 2007 - 7:09am

Hi Soul-header,

thanks for the kind words. Aaron is a real nice guy and hopes to meet you too someday.

November 21, 2007 - 11:59am

thanks giovanna for your kind words.
Can i have private chat session or email address where i can send me my success story the things i learned from Aaron and the results i produced :)

November 20, 2007 - 1:27pm

Great post Giovanna. Looking forward to reading more from you.

I think a lot of people are starting to understand that wikipedia is just an information resource. I have seen and I do skip over wikipedia entries when my search query is NOT informational. Many people online for more than a few months are starting to understand that too.

November 20, 2007 - 1:49pm

Hi Giovana:

Good thoughts - another hi quality SEOBook post as I've grown fond of. :)

The rankings with Wikipedia seem really unfair. When nofollow was originally pushed by Google - my understanding was to use nofollow on external links with which you have little trust. It would follow that those external nofollow links on Wikipedia would have very little trust. Looking at it this way - Wikipedia isn't citing trustworthy sources of information - so why are they given a reward of increased relevancy in the SERPs - rather than the opposite? That really does bug me....

November 21, 2007 - 6:57am

Hi pyle_mountain,

I share your frustrations. Wikipedia is quite stingy with their links but rank well because they are giving google what they want.

November 20, 2007 - 2:06pm

Excellent observations, I think that if/when Wikipedia starts obviously trying to rank for very commercial keywords then you'll start to hear some outcry because they're supposed to be above that money making stuff, right? :)

November 20, 2007 - 3:36pm

Google ranks Wikipedia when either there is low authority in the SERPs or the top-ranking sites have similar links to them. For instance, if you have 1000 inlinks to your target page and XYZ.com/target has the same, Google can't decide which to rank and says f*** it, I'll just rank a high authority domain.

November 20, 2007 - 2:44pm

This is an example authority is not the same as reliability. Wikipedia is a great tool but much of its information is inexact yet. So, the "powerful" google alg is showing inexact information to users sometimes while these pages are cataloged as authority.

November 20, 2007 - 4:37pm

I used to worry a lot more about Wiki's dominance, but ever since the announcement of a competiting Wiki search engine I've been breathing a sigh of relief. Yes, right now they are practically dominant for most generic, non-specific queries, but once encroaching on G's turf, they'll be toasted for something...my guess is the spin will be a combination of dupe content, thematic issues, and an improper hub setup [it is an improper hub setup btw, just look at their outbounds...rarely to the right authority].

Another point is to use Answers.com / Dictionary.com as a possible case study in determining the future of Wikipedia. Though far from a finished story, I do think their upside is reaching a logical limit.

November 21, 2007 - 7:21am

Oh yeah, Aaron and I tracked how Answer's stock price tanked.

November 20, 2007 - 5:46pm

Good first Post Giovanna :)

To bad for Google that Wiki is not putting some Adsense on there pages :)

November 21, 2007 - 7:11am

Hi Falkol,

I think Wiki is amassing as much authority as possible and probably has a monetization strategy up their sleeve.

November 20, 2007 - 5:55pm

Wiki is a pain in everyone's side. When will Google to to Wikipedia what they did to Squidoo? Yeah, not as spammable, but still.

November 21, 2007 - 6:52am

Hi danperry,

As of now, in Google's eyes, Wikipedia is a clean, free and non-spammy source of information. But once Wikipedia starts monetizing from their traffic, we may see a slight change in their rankings.

November 20, 2007 - 6:41pm

Hey Giovanni,
Great first post. Ironically, Wikipedia ranks #3 for 'anything'.

November 21, 2007 - 7:17am

That's so funny. See what I mean?

November 20, 2007 - 7:17pm

Hey Giovanna,

Wiki pages seemed to drop in some search results. I wonder if that was one of the reasons google made domain names more important.

Debbie

November 21, 2007 - 7:24am

Hi Debster,

It could be from a number of things.
1. you were logged on to your Google account
2. you searched for a broader, longer-tail keyphrase (they don't do well there)
3. more competing sites

November 20, 2007 - 9:38pm

I have a website (City Forum) that is very popular and known to the area I live in, so I was honored when the "Lords of the Wiki" allowed my website link.

When I look at my backlinks in the Google Webmaster Tools, I see dozens and dozens of other websites that are stealing the content from that Wiki page. I don't know if this is good or bad for my website? On one hand it's more backlinks I have, but on the other hand it's spam...

November 20, 2007 - 10:08pm

Hey Giovanna! Awesome Post!

Good to see someone else handling work with Aaron. He has a great style and deep insight in search, but it is always nice to change up that style every now and then.

Wikipedia may very well someday own search for non ad terms.

November 21, 2007 - 1:55am

Great post; do you guys think that wikipedia is on its way down, in terms of relevance? Has it enjoyed more market share than it will?

November 21, 2007 - 5:55am

OK, that's first post from Giovanna, so is my :) rMy respect to work you are doing here.
Call my question dumb... but, I still can not understand, why not monetize a traffic by some Adsense? Who from you ever clicked on that DONATE button?

November 21, 2007 - 6:40am

Hi Rolands,

My guess is that they want to appear as clean and pure as possible in preparation to their upcoming search engine (and perhaps its associated ad network)

November 21, 2007 - 6:42am

All they need to do now is throw 10,000 or so subdomains on their site and they will dominate results 1-10 ;)

November 21, 2007 - 6:44am

Hi genuinechris,

I think they will hold up well until they release their search engine. As soon as they appear to be a threat to Google, their relevancy might diminish.

November 21, 2007 - 7:10am

I can suggest (maybe it's already discuss on your blog, if so, sorry), one more threat. B2B sites, especially the alibaba.com. As my website is selling a niche networking products, my customer is a guy who enters for example, a product called "E1 to Ethernet converter". Or whatever. Now, try search this on google.
at least 3 or 4 of search result on forst page comes up from alibaba.com, or tradekey.com, B2B's because they are stacked up with virtually everything started from T-shirts and ending with tractors. And of course, such a content rich site seems relivant for google. Any suggestions :((.

November 21, 2007 - 8:45am

Giovanna - great first post :-) I think you've got the crystal ball smoking with those last couple comments.

I doubt Wikimedia will tamper with their Wikipedia product directly -- they'll keep it pure so as to not kill the golden goose. But they can strongly leverage their rankings/link juice in choice ways by crosspromoting ancillary projects like the upcoming search engine that do generate revenue.

November 21, 2007 - 11:38am

Hi Aaron (& Giovanna from now on!),

I can’t find your e-mail address so I’m going to spam your latest blog entry, asking for a little attention…

I really need to tell you I find what you do absolutely awesome.

To be honest, I read the SEO Book 6 months ago downloading it by file-sharing. For the first time in my life (and probably the last) I’m going to buy your e-book even if I have it already (just waiting for next month’s wage :)

I used to pay 50 bucks monthly to Seomoz to read articles I could write myself and have questions answered in a general, practically useless way.

Thanks to you free Q&A session, now I finally got a precise, concise, complete answer not chattering about “Heidegger’s seo philosophy” or “doing link-baiting writing about my socks”.

It shows you're passionately involved and deeply KNOW what you're talking about.

Thank you. I really appreciate.
Alessio

For the moment, my little payback is sharing a Video I think everyone can find it really useful and somehow...moving! I see yourself involved here...

Guy Kawasaki's speech - Art of Innovation
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3459408090550854446

November 21, 2007 - 2:20pm

Hi Alessio
Thanks for the desire to support my work.

I think Rand is one of the brightest minds in the industry and many people find great value in his offering. On the other hand, I am not much of a fan of Guy Kawasaki.

November 21, 2007 - 4:24pm

And as a follow up, I did an analysis a while back on the top 1000 long term (90 days) and 1000 short term (48 hours). Evilpedia ranks in the top 10 in Google on 70% of the terms.

You can see all the data at http://www.themadhat.com/search-engines/wikipedia-has-the-answer/

November 21, 2007 - 5:18pm

Nice research there. What is even scarrier about that data is that they not only dominate Google, but Yahoo! and MSN too!

November 21, 2007 - 6:33pm

Thanks. What initially jumped (other than evilpedia pwning the web) out was about.com ranking so low (this data was before they took the big hit).

MSN even puts them in the top 3 more than Google does (like anyone really cares what MSN does, but nonetheless)

November 21, 2007 - 8:21pm

Hey Aaron, how come you did not show us how SeoBook ranks for top keywords.

It would be nice to see what is under the hood...:)

November 21, 2007 - 9:07pm

I think I showed some of them in one of the seo videos I created. Most of the top keywords are brand related like

  • seobook
  • seo book
  • aaron wall
  • seobook.com

I also rank for a few other big terms like keyword tool and keyword tools.

November 21, 2007 - 10:07pm

You are gorgeous Giovanna and so is your first post :)
All the best

November 22, 2007 - 1:18am

Sheesh thanks for remind them on that, as we don't see them enough on the search results. They even rank #3 for "web hosting" and "web hosting service/s" as if they were offering web hosting services.

November 22, 2007 - 1:27am

p.s. Don't remember if I congratulated about your marriage Aaron, by the name (Giovanna) seems like you married a italian woman (now we can proclaim you the seo mafia) just teasing.

November 22, 2007 - 6:08pm

I agree with everybody who is annoyed by the fact that every crap article in Wikipedia seems to rank well, only because of the strength of the XXX.wikipedia.org domains and its general authority. Wikipedia is certainly not in every instance the best authority for the subject, even if an article or worse, an article stub, exists there.

It's like with Matt Cutts blog and his posts about his cats. Yes, Matt is an authority when it comes to subjects related to Google's organic search and web spam, but that does not make him an authority about cats.

Eric Lander wrote something related to this at Search Engine Journal where I posted a (long) comment that suggests a few things Google could and IMO should do regarding the evaluation of individual article pages at Wikipedia and their quality = authority.

Pyle: regarding NOFOLLOW. That's a mess Google created all by itself. They started out with creating it to flag links where you don't trust the destination or did not had the chance to review in the case of user generated content. This was a failed attempt to stop blog spam or at least to reduce it. A few months later did Google turn around and said that nofollow should be used to indicate paid links. Uh? There is a big difference between PAID LINKS and NOT TRUSTED LINKS. How can you use it for both? That does not make sense. Nofollow is used today for all kinds of stuff, but the thing it was originally designed for.

p.s. the Wikipedia article to NOFOLLOW is actually pretty good. Okay, I admit that I created a substantial amount of it, but I wasn't writing it all by myself. Several other people were working on it too. If you see something wrong or missing, the "edit" button is the third tab from the left at the top of the article :).

December 29, 2007 - 9:14pm

thats right, an advanced search tool, or perhaps with a dumbed down interface on the main page that says "raw search" or something.

Or, when google stops looking generalist sites for terms and starts realizing that maybe amazon, ebay, and wikipedia should not come up all the time.

December 29, 2007 - 10:59pm

I think the current dominance of Wikipedia, etc. by Google is as much to hold back spam from ranking as it is to actually be relevant to the queries.

As/if content quality improves on smaller sites AND larger sites start becoming more interactive platforms with spammy user generated content I suspect the reliance on domain authority as a core ranking signal will be depreciated to some degree.

January 23, 2008 - 8:39am

Giovanna:

1. Nice post.
2. Absolutely. The primary reason i see is that they don't really get that sort of participation from users. Wiki's resources seems restricted in a way that it is difficult to have topical writers who can provide "in-depth" insight on a particular sub-sub-sub topic that can be associated with highly targeted keywords. For instance, information of wiki for seo is good, and they do have linking to further sub topics like say, in-bound links, but what sort of information those pages contain can be seen here :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbound_link

Now, is this the right volume of information a seo expert will have? They do have external links pointing to good information but does that really gives benefit to the site itself. My point : Participation is limited.

Aaron:

1. Agreed to some extent. But if user interaction increases for submission of content, so will be for moderation.

2. Another point i see is that with increase in topical search engines, more and more of the invisible web will become visible and "topical information" will surface. And this is going to help kill major fraction of spam we see today. Probably there will be good competition for quality content with the top sources of today.

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