Wikipedia, the juggernaut of the online information world. The site which spawned the idea of allowing internet users to update information regarding any topic has grown in such a way that only a handful of sites can be considered larger in scope. One of these sites, google.com, really likes Wikipedia when displaying queries to users utilizing their search engine. However, how much do they like Wikipedia? Also, do they like Wikipedia more than their rival, Bing?
“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world, can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.” - Michael Scott (The Office)
A few months ago, Intelligent Positioning released a study which stated Wikipedia appeared on Google UK's page one of their SERPs for 99% of noun related searches. This percentage was based around 1,000 unique searches, using a random noun generator, and the search settings at the standard ten per page. They also found of the 99%, 56% of the words displayed a Wikipedia link in the 1st position.
This study raised a red flag in the SEO community as "99%" is a staggering claim to make. Many experts questioned Intelligent Positioning's methods, which led Conductor to release their own study, utilizing some stricter parameters. Here's a few key takeaways from their study.
- Wikipedia appears on the first page of Google SERPs 60% of the time for informational queries, 34% for transactional, for a combined 46%.
- The longer a keyword string, the less likely the term will appear on the front page. As demonstrated by their graph below.
- For single word queries, 80% of the time Wikipedia will appear on the first page of Google's SERPs.
These studies occurred in March, fast forwarding to May we find Conductor has released a follow-up study, comparing how Google treats Wikipedia with how Bing treats the website in terms of SERP presence. Below, you can see their graph indicating Google features Wikipedia on their first page 15% more than Bing.
Reading further into the study, the results become even more interesting. While Google features Wikipedia on their first page more often, Bing features Wikipedia in the top overall spot 18% more often when they're on the first page.
Matt McGee of Search Engine Land made some interesting points, and had valid criticisms involving the studies surrounding Wikipedia and Google/Bing. First, it's ironic he notes Matt Cutts has stated at different conferences that Wikipedia is featured more on Bing than Google. McGee also references yet another study, stating Bing actually favors Google more. This study was done at the same time as the Intelligent Positioning study, and the first Conductor study.
So, taking in all of the studies from - Intelligent Positioning, Conductor, Search Engine Watch, and Matt Cutts, two of them state Google favors Wikipedia more than Bing, and vice versa for the other two.
One point McGee makes in his article, which I'm going to unequivocally support and harp on is how none of these studies can truly say who features Wikipedia more. Search engines are continually changing their results, hourly, daily, monthly. So, how can any so-called study make empirical statements about how a search engine features Wikipedia more than the other?
If I search for Jeffrey Jones (the actor who played the principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off), I'm going to get a specific set of searches based on the current state of a search engine's algorithm. However, if Jeffrey Jones were to smoke meth, get in his car and crash into Harrison Ford's front yard, the entire list of results on an engine's SERPs is going to change. In a matter of hours, and in some cases, minutes. So, again, how can anyone be so certain who's favoring Wikipedia more?
As a SEO expert, webmaster, or anyone who has a disdain for Wikipedia, it can be irritating to always see the site featured above another for a specific keyword. Especially if it's your website who's having to sit below Wikipedia, even if your site is completely dedicated to the keyword. However, this shouldn't lead you to simply believing a study that claims to have answers you're seeking, because most likely someone else is claiming something entirely different.