Wikipedia: Page one of Google UK for 99% of searches

Posted By February 8th, 2012

wikipedia logoThere’s been a lot of questions in blogs for ages wondering why Google loves Wikipedia so much and why it is so dominant in Google and how dominant it actually is. Everything we search for in Google seems to have Wikipedia on at least page one. So we thought it was about time we did some research to get some clarity.

I’ve seen previous research done in this area in one instance the searches conducted were for actual Wikipedia page titles, which of course it would do well in. So we searched nouns (Def. A word used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things) from a couple of random noun generators. A full list of the words we searched are below.

The Methodology of Wikipedia Research:

  • We used a random noun generator to obtain the keyword
  • We then searched that keyword on Google UK (the internet)
  • To get around any personalisation issues we used Google Chrome Incognito browser
  • The search settings were ten results per page
  • There was no other filtering of search results within Google’s settings.
  • We did not include shopping or video results within our count (as these were additional to the 10 on a page)
  • We searched from Brighton, south England
  • We made 1,000 unique searches, any duplicates were removed and re-searched.

The Results:

  • Wikipedia is Page One of Google for 99% of searches (of nouns)
  • Wikipedia is position one of Google for 56% of searches
  • 96% of searches had Wikipedia in position 1-5 on Google

 How the positions were shared (total 1,000 searches)

Position One dominance

As you can see from the charts, 96% of the searches landed in the top 5 positions.

Is Wikipedia’s dominance deserved?

We all love Wikipedia, but should it really be so prominent and all conquering in Google? We know that Wikipedia is a vast site with millions of pages and thousands of editors offering unique vital content on multitudes of subject matters. But should Wikipedia be the de-facto resource for pretty much all subjects? Surely some pages are riding on the back of other quality pages or perhaps lazy references to the site from businesses and bloggers across the internet. Google obviously loves Wikipedia and still ranks it despite there being next to zero content on some of the pages.

Percentage Share of Wikipedia positions in Google UK across 1,000 keyword searches

 

 

General Observations

Unsurprisingly Wikipedia, did extremely well (top two positions generally) for old-school encyclopaedic searches. What I mean by this is searches with any geographical, scientific or natural reference. For example “Himalayan”, “bird” and “paediatrician”. This was expected, but more surprising is that it also did extremely well for food substances and clothing. I’d imagine “butter”, “milk” and “mayonnaise” as well as “trousers”, “underclothes” and “wallet” would be fought over tooth and nail by large corporations within their respective industries.
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Some flawed results from Google

When searching for the word “Air” in Google there are so many results that could have come up in the SERPs: Adobe Air software, Nike Air trainers, the French Band, Apple Air laptop, any Airline, a science page on the make-up of our atmosphere.

But no. In second place is the Wikipedia page, not for any of the above, but a disambiguation page for the term “Air”. How can this page, which is ultimately full of links to other Wikipedia pages, is short of real content, and presumably not linked to by external authoritative sites, be the second best possible result for this huge search? This is where there are ultimately flaws in Google’s offering of Wikipedia content.

Google Loves Wikipedia – But Why?

So is Google being lazy? Does it feel that at least one result needs to be there, is that an unwritten law within the algorithm? However, after reading this article about SEO bad for the Internet, it got me thinking, that if there was one place taken up in every search by Wikipedia, then that would mean there is one less place in the Top Ten for possible PPC paying corporations. Just a thought, not a fact.

The ones that got away

There are so few that were not on Page One that I can list them here:

  • Mail
  • news
  • trainers
  • national
  • sweets
  • wardrobe
  • phone
  • flight

All these words are obviously highly competitive or incorporate the word within major corporations and services (for example National).

Feedback

We will be re-doing this research again soon using our own SEO software. We will be using different random noun generators too (maybe even human generated ones). But if anyone has any questions about the methodology or recommendations please leave a comment.

The Full List of 1,000 searches and their positions in Google

WordPositionWordPositionWordPositionWordPosition
Aries1Illegal1Tiger1Result2
Aardvark1Insect1Timbale1review2
abigail1Instrument1Timpani1Rhinoceros2
Acrylic1Interest1Tire1Ricardo2
Actor1Invention1Titanium1Ring2
Adapter1Island1Toe1Rowboat2
Addition1Israel1Toenail1Sagittarius2
Agave1Jacket1Tortoise1Salesman2
Agreement1Jam1Town1scarf2
Alley1James1Tray1Second2
Alloy1Japanese1Treatment1Secure2
Almanac1Jaw1Trial1Seed2
almond1Jewel1Trombone1Session2
aluminium1Join1trousers1Shade2
Amy1jug1Trowel1Sidewalk2
Andy1June1Trumpet1Signature2
Anger1Jute1Tuba1Sister2
Angora1Kamikaze1Turkey1Snowflake2
Ankle1Kenya1Twine1Snowstorm2
Antarctica1Kevin1Ukrainian1Soccer2
Anteater1Kilometer1Underclothes1soda2
Apology1Kite1Unshielded1Sort2
Argument1Knife1Uzbekistan1spray2
Ashtray1Knot1Vacation1Square2
Asia1Kohlrabi1Valley1Step-grandmother2
Asparagus1Ladybug1Value1Step-sister2
Asphalt1larger1Van1Stinger2
Attention1Laundry1Venezuelan1Stocking2
Author1Lead1Verse1store2
Authority1Leather1Vicki1Suede2
Baboon1Legal1Viola1Suit2
Back1Limit1Vise1Swimming2
bacon1Liquid1Volcano1Swiss2
Badge1Literature1Waiter1Swordfish2
Bagel1Locust1Wallet1T-shirt2
Balance1Love1wand1Tabletop2
Ball1Luis1Watchmaker1Thailand2
Bankbook1Lumber1Weasel1Thursday2
Barge1Lunch1Weed1Triangle2
Baritone1Lute1Wheel1Truck2
Battery1Lyocell1Whiskey1video2
Bee1lyra1White1Vision2
beer1Maid1Winter1wales2
Beetle1Male1Withdrawal1Wash2
Begonia1Manager1Woman1Weight2
Bengal1Maraca1Wood1Whistle2
Berry1Marble1wooden1Window2
Bibliography1Marimba1Worm1Window2
Bird1Mass1Wound1Wing2
Birth1Mattock1Wrench1wipe2
biscuit1Mayonnaise1Wrinkle1zebra2
blimp1Meal1Xylophone1Acoustic3
blouse1Meeting1Yacht1Alibi3
Blowgun1Melody1Yak1Apparel3
Bomber1Mercury1Year1Apple3
Bonsai1Message1yoga1Bag3
border1Metal1yogurt1Bakery3
Bottle1Methane1Yoke1Bank3
bottle1Mexican1Zoology1Bath3
Bread1Mexico1Account2bench3
Breath1Michael1Air2Burn3
bridge1michelle1Airplane2Century3
Broccoli1Middle1Alcohol2Chain3
Broker1milk1Animal2Channel3
Bronze1Millimeter1Ant2Chill3
Buffet1Millisecond1Appliance2Cord3
Bugle1Mini-skirt1Approval2Dan3
Bulb1Minister1Aquarius2debt3
Burma1Missile1Arch2Direction3
Butcher1Monday1Area2Discovery3
Butter1moon1Armadillo2Dish3
C-clamp1Morning1Army2Downtown3
Cabbage1Morocco1Arrow2draw3
Calf1Mosque1Athlete2Dugout3
Can1mountain1Atm2Equipment3
Canadian1muffin1Attic2event3
can1nelson1australia2Find3
candle1Neon1Australian2Fireman3
canoe1Niece1Avenue2Fireplace3
Cardboard1Nitrogen1Banker2Freeze3
carrot1North america1Bar2Game3
Cart1North korea1Beat2Garage3
Cat1Nose1Beauty2Gate3
Cattle1November1Bench2Government3
Cauliflower1Numeric1Birthday2Grenade3
Ceiling1Oboe1Blizzard2Hammer3
Celery1Observation1blog2Hockey3
Celsius1Odometer1Blow2Innocent3
Ceramic1Offer1Bobcat2Interactive3
Cereal1Operation1Bongo2Jennifer3
ceylon1Organic1Boy2Joseph3
chalk1Organisation1Britney2Knickers3
Chauffeur1Ounce1Cabinet2Look3
Cheetah1Output1Cactus2magnet3
Cherry1Oven1Call2Maple3
Chicken1Oxygen1Capricorn2microwave3
Chef1Package1career2Motion3
Child1Pancake1Carnation2Nerve3
chilli1Pansy1Carol2Norwegian3
Chin1Parallelogram1Caspar2orange3
China1Parent1Cast2Pair3
Christmas1Parentheses1Cathedral2Parrot3
Cicada1paris1Caution2Peak3
client1Part1Celeste2perfume3
Cockroach1Particle1Chance2Polo3
coffee1Passbook1Character2Powder3
Coil1pastor1Chard2queen3
coil1Patch1Charles2Quill3
Cold1Pediatrician1Chive2Raft3
College1Peen1Chocolate2Railway3
Colombia1Period1Circle2Ryan3
Colon1Peru1Cod2Science3
colour1photographer1Colony2Screen3
Comb1pipe1Color2Shell3
Committee1Pisces1Cook2Shoe3
Competition1Plant1Cost2Shorts3
Composition1Plantation1Couch2Show3
Computer1Plastic1cream2Sparrow3
Congo1Plot1cream2Spoon3
Consonant1Poison1Creek2Spot3
copper1Poland1Crocus2Spring3
copier1Policeman1cromwell2Stage3
Copyright1Polish1Cuban2Stem3
Cough1Polyester1Current2Taxi3
Crab1Porch1curry2Team3
Crack1Porcupine1Curve2Test3
Cristiano1Porter1daimond2Thistle3
cupboard1Potato1David2Tile3
Curler1Pound1Department2tripod3
Cushion1Power1Deposit2Velvet3
Custard1Prepared1Destruction2walker3
Cymbal1Print1Detail2western3
Dancer1Prison1Development2whisky3
Dead1Produce1Diamond2Wilderness3
Death1project1Diaphragm2Wish3
Deborah1Propane1Difference2Witness3
December1Pumpkin1Digger2Wonder3
Decimal1Pvc1Digital2Word3
Deodorant1Pyjama1Dinner2Advice4
Description1Quart1Doubt2base4
Desert1Quarter1Dream2Beam4
Dessert1Quartz1Drop2Bedroom4
device1Quicksand1Dungeon2Ben4
Dimple1Rabbi1East2Bite4
Distributor1Rabbi1Education2boots4
dog1Rabbit1Elbow2bus4
Dolphin1Radish1Elephant2Cap4
Donald1Rain1Elizabeth2Car4
Double1Rainbow1End2channel4
dragon1Rat1Engine2Close4
Drake1ratchet1Environment2core4
Drawbridge1Ravioli1Ex-husband2Cover4
drawer1Receipt1Farmer2Creator4
Dredger1Rectangle1Feast2Cycle4
Dressing1Regret1Feeling2Dad4
Drink1Report1festival2Ease4
Driver1Rest1Flame2Fact4
Drug1Retailer1Flock2Forest4
Ear1Reward1Flower2Ghost4
economy1Rhythm1Fly2Hallway4
Eel1Rice1Fold2hammer4
eight1road1food2Health4
Ellipse1Robyn1Footnote2Icon4
Employer1Rocket1Freckle2kestrel4
Engineer1Rod1Freya2laptop4
envelope1Romania1Friction2leon4
Error1Rose1Friday2Mailbox4
Ethiopia1Rule1Frog2Name4
Exclamation1Russia1Frost2Open4
Existence1Sail1Gander2Phil4
extension1Sailor1Gazelle2Plasterboard4
Eyelash1Salary1Gearshift2Police4
Fahrenheit1Sampan1Giraffe2Postbox4
Fairies1Sand1glass2Quit4
Fang1sandwich1globe2Reading4
Father-in-law1sauce1Glue2record4
Feather1sausage1Goggles2Request4
February1Saxophone1Gong2School4
Felony1Scale1Good-bye2Seashore4
Female1Scarecrow1Gore-tex2Street4
Fertilizer1Scent1Grade2string4
Fiber1Scorpio1Graphic2Theory4
Fiberglass1scotch1greek2Transport4
Fiction1Screwdriver1Grey2Walk4
Fir1Seagull1Gum2Warm4
fish1Seal1Handle2Watch4
Fisherman1Servant1Hardhat2wine4
Flesh1Shadow1Hayley2wire4
flip-flop1Shark1Head2Act5
Flute1sheep1Heart2Answer5
Force1Shoemaker1Helicopter2Baker5
Forgery1Shoulder1Hip2Card5
Fork1Shrine1History2case5
Fortnight1Siamese1Hobbies2Caterpillar5
Fowl1Side1Hood2Decrease5
Foxglove1Skin1Hovercraft2Driving5
Freighter1Slipper1Hydrant2Exchange5
fruit1slipper1Icicle2Exhaust5
garlic1Slope1Index2Font5
garnish1Smell1Inventory2frame5
Gasoline1Snowboarding1Jason2Gym5
gastronomy1socket1Joke2Jet5
Gauge1Soil1Judo2Jonny5
Geology1Soprano1Jumbo2Map5
Geranium1South africa1jumper2monitor5
German1Soybean1Key2Passenger5
Girdle1spaghetti1Kick2tube5
Gladiolus1Spain1klaxon2Cinema6
glaze1Spear1ladel2Dryer6
gloves1Sphere1Lan2football6
Goal1Sphynx1Link2Fragrance6
Goa1Spruce1Lion2hills6
goat1Squirrel1Lipstick2jeans6
Goose1state1Lisa2Loan6
grape1Statement1Loss2Matt6
Grass1Step-daughter1Margin2Music6
Grasshopper1Step-mother1Mark2Paint6
Gray1Stew1Market2Poppy6
greek1Stock1Mechanic2Radiator6
Group1Stomach1meteor2radiator6
Guilty1Stopsign1Milkshake2station6
Guitar1stream1Mind2tap6
Gun1Sudan1Minibus2Tights6
Gymnast1Summer1Moat2View6
Hair1Sundial1Mother2zoo6
Haircut1Sunflower1Nail2Babies7
Half-sister1Support1Node2Bed7
Hall1Surfboard1Octave2Burst7
ham1Surname1Octopus2Calendar7
Hamburger1Sushi1Olive2Delivery7
Hard hat1Sweater1Outrigger2Frame7
harp1Swing1Owner2Freezer7
Harry1Sycamore1Ox2Insulation7
Hawk1Syrup1page2Rail7
Helen1Syrup1Pail2tablecloth7
Helium1System1Panda2Tent7
Helmet1Tachometer1Paperback2Baby9
Hemp1Tail1Parade2coach9
Heron1Tailor1Pear2hamper9
Herring1Tandoori1pencil2Replace9
Himalayan1Tank1Peony2sideboard9
Hole1Taurus1Person2timer9
Holly1Tea1Person2Mail11
Horse1Television1Ping2News13
Hose1temperature1Popcorn2trainers13
Humidity1Tempo1Pot2National14
Hyacinth1thigh1Printer2Sweets14
Hygienic1Thing1Puma2wardrobe14
ice-age1Thumb1Question2Phone18
Ikebana1Thunderstorm1Quotation2Flight22

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24 Responses to “Wikipedia: Page one of Google UK for 99% of searches”

  1. Dave Hargreavevs says:

    Great data and research. Can’t believe the number is so high.

    99% ? Unbelievable, though it does make sense in terms of Google’s business model.

  2. Alec Perkins says:

    Of COURSE Wikipedia will rank highly if you’re just searching random nouns. It’s an encyclopedia. This seems really flawed in terms of how people actually search, since a good number of searches are apparently unique (the latest % I’ve seen is 20%). 1000 searches is a very small sample for this sort of thing. And it’s not as if Google has any opinion about Wikipedia. The Web really likes Wikipedia and signals as such to Google, which ranks it highly.

  3. Aleena says:

    Wow! no wonder why is Wikipedia at the top spot in Google ranking. Informative post.

  4. Daniel says:

    Great research with sound volumes to draw insightful conclusions – Wikipedia is a fantastic resource and a real trophy of the internet. I am not however so sure as to whether it should have this level of page one dominance. If Bing purchased it, i wonder if we we see the positions drop?

  5. Sam says:

    Hi Alec did you read the full article?

    I wanted to choose RANDOM words.

    What came up was words from many different spheres: clothing, food stuff, financial products as well as many randomly found brand names: Boots, Air, Puma, Bench.

    These terms are all searched millions of times a day and are hugely competitive.

    Yes i’d love to search 1 million terms. Fancy coming in and giving us a hand?

    And what do you mean “It’s not as if Google has any opinion on Wikipedia” – of course it does. Why else would we see it on page one so often. Wikipedia is my single favourite website on the internet. But there are many pages where it is appearing much higher than it should. As i said this is either down to laziness or something else. This study was just to shed some light on this area.

  6. Pete_E says:

    Here’s a suggestion: why not re-do the test with bing and yahoo and see how wikipedia ranks on other major search engines?

    If results are similar then maybe it’s not just a love affair with google. It could be that Wikipedia is any search engine’s dream with its vast oceans of information, keyword-abudant single page articles, constant updates with the latest data, masses of links, age, and general authority.
    Could it simply be that the big Wiki ticks all the SEO boxes and deserves these rankings?

    After all Wikipedia articles are created, edited and searched from normal, everyday folk (and lots of them). The same people who make Wikipedia are the ones searching it. Wiki articles are edited and updated hundreds of times over and over to reflect all the information the Wikipedian himself is hunting for when entering the search terms into Google.
    And Google’s intent is precisely that: to return information you need best suited to your search. Who better than Wikipedia to know exactly what you need? Because Wikipedia are the people entering those searches into Google in the first place.

    Then again the big library of the web might not be an SEO dream at all -it could just be an infatuation on Google’s part.

    It would be interesting to see some results from other search engines. The world doesn’t belong to Google! (yet)

  7. Wojtek says:

    Thanks for great article. I think Wikipedia is Queen of information about nouns :)

  8. Sam says:

    Pete_E

    Yes, good suggestion. It could help some of my claims. We used Google because here in the UK its got a 90% share.

    “Could it simply be that the big Wiki ticks all the SEO boxes and deserves these rankings?”

    Yes on the whole i think it does. Wiki is an ideal structure and has huge amounts of links. But in some cases (Such as “Air” highlighted above) Google really is throwing up pages that don’t tick these boxes.

    Furthermore, Wiki doesn’t tick many of the social signals that Google demands. So in a way it is going against some of its own stipulations.

    So doing a Yahoo search, which doesn’t use as many of these signals would be interesting.
    Thanks for the comment
    Sam

  9. It is not true that Wikipedia will be around forever, but it will be here long enough to make a real impact on commerce and industry. Therefore, we need to be finding a way of getting Wikipedia to work for the people in the way it should. Like any other institution in society, eventually it needs to answer to the people it affects, so let us make that answer a positive and constructive one. At the end of the day, Wikipedia is up there because it uses the Internet the way the world has generally believed it should be used–as Stephen Colbert says “the market has spoken”. It will be interesting to see when capitalism catches up with the site, and I hope, that it adapts and evolves as elegantly as it has to most problems it has faced thus far.

  10. Alec Perkins says:

    @sam

    > Hi Alec did you read the full article?
    > I wanted to choose RANDOM words.

    Yes, I even used the word random, too.

    > What came up was words from many different spheres: clothing, food stuff, financial products as well as many randomly
    > found brand names: Boots, Air, Puma, Bench.
    > These terms are all searched millions of times a day and are hugely competitive.

    Wikipedia is a massive concentration of knowledge about nearly every subject. Singular generic words describing things are right up its alley. If I search ‘puma’, the Wikipedia article on the cat ranks 2nd to Puma Shoes’ puma.com. If I search ‘puma shoes’, Wikipedia doesn’t show up for five pages. In fact, one of the displayed related searches is ‘puma shoes wiki’, which suggests people find it necessary to hint their query toward Wikipedia if that’s what they’re looking for. (The related searches section would be a good source of searches to test. Another source could be a Twitter search for links to Google queries, and trying those. There must be thousands.)

    > Yes i’d love to search 1 million terms. Fancy coming in and giving us a hand?

    Sure. A screen-scraping script to do this would be trivial. You could also factor in things like the ranking of dictionary websites, to help indicate how generic the word is. Another dimension is the size of the target Wikipedia page and whether or not it’s a stub. If stub pages also rank highly then maybe something fishy is going on. I think you could even get the internal links to that Wikipedia page in an automated way without too much difficulty, using their “what links here” special pages. Actually, I think I’ll give this a shot…

    > And what do you mean “It’s not as if Google has any opinion on Wikipedia” – of course it does. Why else would we see
    > it on page one so often. Wikipedia is my single favourite website on the internet. But there are many pages where it
    > is appearing much higher than it should. As i said this is either down to laziness or something else. This study was
    > just to shed some light on this area.

    There’s no evidence that Google favors Wikipedia, and plenty evidence to the contrary. Wikipedia shows up often because it covers so many topics, is often full of content, and is frequently linked to. I also don’t see how PPC links are losing a slot to Wikipedia, since ads are separate from the organic results. The organic search results are sacrosanct at Google; they’ve even deranked their own stuff when it didn’t play by the rules. I would be willing to bet they have the same attitude toward artificially promoting results. Besides, if Google were lazy, then they wouldn’t do anything to favor Wikipedia, since it would actually require more work for them to bias the results.

  11. Sufu says:

    Great article and good analysis Sam. Poses many a question! I appreciate a bigger sampling would be good but its certainly quite indicative and I like Pete_E’s suggestion about comparing it to the likes of Yahoo and Bing – now THAT would really say something. Perhaps Wikipedia are great at what they do and they deserve the ranking, perhaps Google has some affinity with their site. I’d be intrigued to see more on this.

  12. Alec Perkins says:

    Had an hour this morning to put together a quick scraping script. It needs some tuning still, but using the words you did it got pretty similar results when pointed at Google. I let it loose on Bing, and Wikipedia pages tended to rank even HIGHER: http://cl.ly/2p2T2M0c2l1Y0z0v2v1j

    So, yeah, it’s doubtful there’s any sort of conspiracy. Any oddities in the results, like a disambiguation page for ‘Air’ showing up highly, are quirks of the page rank algorithms being applied to the emergent system that is the Web. Keep in mind that the ranking order on the page is relative. It may be that instead of Wikipedia ranking highly for certain things, other pages are ranking poorly, especially given that the most generic form of the words is being searched for.

  13. Firstly, a really interesting well put together article. But a site that contains a huge volume of general content ranked well for one word general terms? Not a surprise to me, sorry. I would like to see the experiment repeated with say three word keywords and then see where it comes and whether the content justified it.

  14. Hi Sufu and Philip

    We’re going to do more searches with multiple keywords. But yes i’m aware that wikipedia will appear less and less the more keywords you choose and the more newsworthy it becomes eg: Arsenal versus Liverpool Feb 2012.

    However the biggest searches (via Google hot trends or Hitwise/comscore top searches per sector) are usually one or two word searches.

    Try doing searches here and see that 90% of results have Wiki on page one:
    http://www.google.com/trends/hottrends/atom/hourly

    Many thanks for the comments
    Sam

  15. Qrystal says:

    I’m pretty sure Google tunes their search results based on what people actually click on, so is it really any wonder that Wikipedia ranks so highly in this test? Who here hasn’t done random searches for things, seeking more GENERAL information rather than specific information? When doing such a search and clicking the Wikipedia link from the results, every one of us is reinforcing Google’s confidence ranking of Wikipedia as a source of decent and relevant information, and the feedback we provide perpetuates its position in the top search results.

    Besides, the single-word random nouns do lend themselves extraordinarily well to things that Wikipedia covers. Their corresponding article URLs will tend to contain the search term, which is one of the oldest SEO tricks in the book: it gives a really strong hint to any search engine that the page contains information that is relevant to the search term.

    The “air” example, getting a Wikipedia disambiguation page, also seems extremely reasonable to me. After all, the word appeared alone in the search terms, and the incognito browser had no recorded history for Google to make a reasonable judgement on which meaning for “air” was desired. (On the other hand, in a non-incognito browser belonging to someone who frequently shops for shoes, I’d imagine the Air shoes would be a higher-ranked result.) In fact, Google may have cross-referenced what other search terms often appear alongside “air”, and then came up with a search result that contained as many of these pairs of search terms as possible. Personally, I’m impressed by this result, and your dismissal of it as a good result is the main thing that prompted me to write this comment.

    Still, I think it is interesting to note that Wikipedia is ranking highly, but I really do believe it is deserved. Long live Wikipedia! :)

  16. BMG says:

    For those finding that 990 searches returning wikipedia sites on the first page is not significant, I propose that they find 990 common words NOT giving a wikipedia result on the first page. It should be hard work….
    More seriously, I think that Google gives maybe priority to wikipedia when using a single word in your search; in this case your search is quite general and wikipedia could be a good source of information. If you use two words wikipedia frequently disapears of the result. Take” Aardvark” alone, in my computer environment, wikipedia comes in second and third place and one more time on the first page. Making search for “Aardvark reproduction” in the same environment gives no more wikipedia result on the first page nor the second one, you have to go to the third page to find a wikipedia link. So I think that maybe one of the reason for the popularity of wikipedia in this type of research is the priority probably given by google to “not too specialised sites” in the result of very general searches based on only one word. The chance to give a bad result with a link to wikipedia is less than with a link to a very specialized scientific site or a specialized software possibly called Aardvark. You know, Google don’t know if you are 12 year or 24 when you type “Aardvark” from a random computer..

  17. Alec – great link thanks for that. Sorry i haven’t responded. That shows that Bing gives Wiki as much love.

  18. Piskvor says:

    What hasn’t been emphasized yet in the discussion: the huge mass of links pointing *towards* Wikipedia’s articles from the outside – lots, *lots*, and I mean HUMONGOUS HORDES of pages are linking to the W for explanations – and there are very different kinds of sites, from a one-visitor-per-year webpage to an online newspaper. IMNSHO, if they all were linking to a different source, you’d be seeing *that* one popping up quite high in the results.

  19. Yes Piskvor – perhaps i should have pointed this out more clearly in the article. Wiki has millions of links:

    Site wide: 8,450,000,000 (Majestic SEO)
    With Pages indexed: 41,000,000 (Google)

    I did suggest that Wiki gets referenced (linked to) a lot. In many cases it deserves it, in others it is a lazy link from the webmaster or blogger who can’t be bothered to do more research. Some pages are indeed fantastically written and deserve all the links they get other pages are riding on the back of the general richness of the rest of the site.

  20. Adam Ainsworth says:

    In our company, we have a feature known as Grim Graph of The Week. This week, this article was chosen as the subject. The reasons are as follows:

    Its gaudy appearance may have been chosen on purpose to encourage people not wanting to hear this “truth” to read on, but it’s not just the colours that make it grim. Here are some other reasons:

    - There is no title on this chart and therefore it takes a while to figure out what it is showing us – and in fact we still have to resort to reading the accompanying article, which is never the sign of a clear chart
    - The article explains that a recent study looked at 1,000 search terms (generated using a random noun generator) in Google and found that Wikipedia ranked on page one for a huge 99% of them
    - This graph is therefore supposed to show the percentage of terms for which Wikipedia ranks in each position. Or to make it clearer, in 56% of the searches Wikipedia ranked in position number one, in 24% of searches it was position two… and so on
    - It’s quite difficult to see the conclusion that Wikipedia ranked on page one for 99% of the terms clearly – in fact it looks like 100% instead because they’ve added a segment called 10+, which could be easily mistaken for 10
    - It is also because they have rounded up the data to the nearest whole percentage point and that means there is no slice of pie at positions 8 or 10 – and since we look to position 10 as the cut off for page one, this is confusing
    - The rounding also causes there to be a visible pale green slice of pie for position 9 even though it is labelled with 0%! This data would be much better visualised in a more subtly coloured bar chart – and definitely should have been produced using non-rounded percentage values

    I hope this will encourages you to produce clearer graphs in the future :-)

  21. Sam says:

    Adam – i have received a lot of comments from people who seem to concentrate on the minutai and totally miss the point – and are on the verge of trolling. Your comment transcends theirs.

    It’s been weeks since you posted this, but i haven’t stopped laughing about the fact your company has a “Grim Graph of The Week” wall – party on.

  22. Michael says:

    I have to say this is a very interesting article Sam, and I’m very pleased I stumbled across it while browsing the net. I remember reading an article (I wish I had a link!) that discussed the wikipedia article on Turkey (the country), and how it appeared at the top of thousands of different google searches. At the time the summary was that it was due to the content on the page and the links going into the page.

    However, I would guess that the content on the nouns above is often short and concise. Not only this, I would say the links into say ‘swordfish’ would be fewer than many of the pages below it in the search results (such as the swordfish film). This would therefore prove the prior argument had a number of flaws.

    It does beg the question behind the real reason Wikipedia pages are instantly indexed at the top of a search term.

  23. It has been reported that (and speculated why) the global leader of search engines Google has consistently favoured the global leader of user-generated encyclopedias Wikipedia by showing relevant pages frequently and prominently in the search engine result pages (thereafter SERPs) (?uhalev, 2006; Charlton, 2012; Gray, 2007; Silverwood-Cope, 2012). Based on 3000-search query SERP data collected in 2011, I have also found that indeed “Wikipedias” too dominate “Chinese-language” search engine result pages(SERPs) as the most visible websites, but a clear difference in which “Chinese” Wikipedia dominate “which Chinese search engine” result pages.
    http://people.oii.ox.ac.uk/hanteng/2013/05/06/wikipedias-or-its-copycat-dominate-chinese-search-engine-result-pages-serps

  24. Sam says:

    Ha ha. I need to make an amendment to this post.

    The words, Flight, Phone and Wardrobe were the three worst performing terms for Wikipedia. Since writing this piece a couple of years ago, Wikipedia has seemingly got its act together and now positions on page one in Google UK for these terms.

    However “Sweets” still eludes it. Come on Jimmy.

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