Last month, there were a number of reports about a significant drop in Wikipedia’s Google traffic. A report from SimilarWeb found that Google “stole over 550 million clicks” from Wikipedia in 6 months. According to Search Engine Journal, the site’s organic search traffic from Google dropped 11% from May to July.
Search Engine Land reported a few days later that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales had said there was “a long-term issue with decreasing traffic from Google,” but that the SimilarWeb article was a misrepresentation of how Wikipedia actually needs the clicks in question. The article quotes Wales as saying:
“It is also false that ‘Wikipedia thrives on clicks,’ at least as compared to ad-revenue driven sites… The relationship between ‘clicks’ and the things we care about: community health and encyclopedia quality is not nothing, but it’s not as direct as some think.”
Wikipedia later released its own report on the subject saying, “No direct data shows a decrease in Google traffic; in fact, direct referrals from Google have been increasing in the last few months, rather than decreasing. However, we have some fuzziness around indirect referrals that cannot be resolved without the participation of Google. We should seek that participation, and work on tracking these metrics in an automated fashion.”
The report concluded:
Based on the data we have we can establish that the most obvious avenues for verifying or dismissing SimilarWeb’s claim show no evidence that Google traffic has declined. However, we do not have the data at our end to eliminate all avenues of possibility.
Our next work should be to reach out to Google themselves and talk to them about the data we’re seeing, and to build out infrastructure to begin tracking metrics like this on a consistent and automated basis, rather than relying on costly ad-hoc analysis.
Now there’s a new report on this subject. This one comes from Stone Temple Consulting, which has recently delivered interesting findings related to Google’s partnership with Twitter and engagement on Google+. They ran an analysis of the rankings data for over 340,000 search queries.
According to that, Wikipedia is still prominent on the first pages of search results, but has lost many of its #1 and #2 rank positions.
“Wikipedia still is far more prevalent than Google properties, so we cannot conclude that Google is favoring its own content,” a spokesperson for Stone Temple says.
It did find that Wikipedia pages are more prominent in commercial queries than for informational ones. It also found the opposite to be true for Google properties.
Check out that full report here.