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Wikipedia gets too many high rankings
considering it is not authoritative
beren




msg:767029
 2:15 am on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

One month ago, on July 15, I created an article on Wikipedia about "cranberry glass". Wikipedia is a site where anyone can change anything. Others have since contributed to the article, but it's nothing special. I certainly don't claim to be an expert on this topic.

Today, a Google search for "cranberry glass" brings up that Wikipedia listing on the first page. Google reports over 1,000,000 sites, but puts this new article, a month old, on the first page of results. Isn't there something wrong here?

I see Wikipedia ranking highly for many searches. Doesn't this undermine Google's claim to return authoritative sites? Anyone can change any article at Wikipedia; the site is subject to vandalism constantly. People can write all sorts of false information, and yet Google thinks highly of any page at that site, it seems. In my example, I really find it difficult to believe that an article that is only a month old is linked to. Why is this new article considered authoritative enough that Google puts it so high?

(I hope the moderators will not censor out my example of "cranberry glass". I use it only as an example and I have no interest in any site on this topic.)

 

robotsdobetter




msg:767030
 1:22 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wikipedia is often vandalism, but they have several editors that look out for things like this, so the web pages get fixed fast. They are also considered an authority, you can see that by looking at their Page Rank, so it makes sense for their web pages to rank high. Also remember that Google and all the other search engines are far away from being perfect.

steveb




msg:767031
 1:28 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

It should be obvious wikipedia is more authoritative than the vast majority of websites: anyone can put any crap they want on a webpage, but wikipedia allows others to change the content. In other words, if you put up a lame article on your website, that is it. If you put up a lame wikipedia article, someone else can make it less lame (or more lame too).

At the same time, my view is wikipedia articles generally should rank about #20 for most stuff. Seldom are they the best resource, but usually they offer decent content.

hutcheson




msg:767032
 1:40 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Two points:

(1) Compare wikipedia to the slovenly work at Encarta, or the miniscule articles at encyclopedia.com. There is really no comparison; there isn't another comparable encyclopedia online or off. Many bad things COULD happen to it; the fact is, most of them don't. (There's a virtue in living in the real world rather than obsessing on paranoid fantasies.)

(2) Google, like other indexes, favors large sites with second-order stability. Overall, this is a feature, not a defect. A defect. Sure, Aunt Millie COULD have a better cranberry glass page, but she COULD equally well be already contributing to Wikipedia. And people who are primarily interested in providing content tend to migrate to the large cooperative sites. And so Google's acceptance the "imprimitur" of an online community that has itself gained the imprimitur of many users is -- a successful imitation of the way reputation works in the real world.

Does the concept of "reputation" work perfectly? Of course not, and no imitation of it can work any better. But giving a page on a highly-reputable site an exceptionally high ranking is only reasonable, even if it doesn't always achieve the ideal results.

abbeyvet




msg:767033
 1:43 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

I refer to and link to wikipedia all the time and use it as a source for research daily - not copying it by the way, just using it as one of a number of sources to check things when writing articles. While I have not trawled though all that many sections, for those that I am interested in it is definitely both authoritative and accurate. Not to mention remarkably up to date.

Personally I love it when I enter a query and a wikipedia entry appears in the results - I know, or at least believe, I have at least one good result. Which is precisely the opposite to how I feel when an About result appears, and both are often there together. In fact I often append the word 'wikipedia' to the end of a search if the original results don't look too promising.

flicker




msg:767034
 1:54 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

At least the Wikipedia article is always on topic. It's frustrating when I click on it and there's only one sentence and the "this is a stub, help make it better" message, but at least I know when I click that it won't be a crappy made-for-adsense fake directory; there will always be SOMEthing about the topic on there. And sometimes it's really good information.

You can't just assume there won't be wrong information at ANY website these days. I don't think Wikipedia is any more prone to bad info than most other sites out there.

Atticus




msg:767035
 7:01 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

abbeyvet,

If you "love it" when wikipedia shows up in the SERPs and if you "often append the word 'wikipedia'" to your queries, wouldn't it make more sense to just search wikipedia itself rather than use Google and hope a wiki article shows up?

While many wiki articles may be top notch, beren has given us a very good example of an article which has no signs of authority (other than it being on the wiki site), but which ranks number one nevertheless.

When did Google start ranking individual pages based almost entirely by the site they appear on, regardless of the age/IBLs/content of the individual page? I don't really care for the "everything on site A is great/everything on site B is supplimental" SERPs coming out of Googleland these days.

Hinso




msg:767036
 7:14 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

This debate reminds me of a search I did with a query taking the form of 'articles about zzzzland' (the actual query was a real country).

The number one result in Google was a page from a (very)large travel site that Google regards as white-listed.

Apart from the heading, the sum content on that page about the relevant destination was the following sentence:

THERE ARE NO ARTICLES ABOUT ZZZZLAND

lammert




msg:767037
 8:20 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

The bad thing of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. :(
The good thing of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it. :)

On every field there are experts in the world, but many don't maintain a website themselves, yet they have loads of valuable information. What I often see is that someone starts an article on Wikipedia with basic information which is not always 100% correct. Within a few weeks a real expert has found the page by accident, sees the incorrect information and edits it until there is a really good article from an authorative source. Those expert editors would never start their own site, but editing an article on Wikipedia is easy, doesn't cost any money, and no technical website knowledge is needed.

The fact that you don't have to sign up may attract spammers, but in my niches, the number of experts that contribute because it is so easy is far higher than the number of spammers. And in general the editors do a good job to remove spam quickly.

victor




msg:767038
 8:29 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Isn't there something wrong here?

There might be.

But, in general, among the 100+ factors that Google say they take into account when ranking SERPS, your page is likely to score highly on several of them.

  • It's fresh content
  • that is not page scraped / auto generated duplicate content
  • on a site that has proved its worth as an authority
  • and the content is undiluted by advertising or links to dubious commercial operations

    It's reassuring that Google has picked a gem from the garbage and held it aloft.

    Many of the complaints on WMW are the opposite: Google failing to spotlight lowgrade commercial waste product.

  • abbeyvet




    msg:767039
     8:52 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

    abbeyvet,

    If you "love it" when wikipedia shows up in the SERPs and if you "often append the word 'wikipedia'" to your queries, wouldn't it make more sense to just search wikipedia itself rather than use Google and hope a wiki article shows up?

    Thanks for the handy search tip. :) I do which ever is handiest. Wouldn't it be nice if eveyone used the internet in predictable ways?

    My point was that I think most average searchers will be pleased by the appearance of a wikipedia page in their results, in the vast majority of cases they will have found what they want or at least a good path to it via some quality hand picked links.

    top5jamaica




    msg:767040
     5:41 pm on Aug 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

    yeah .. outta nowhere wikipedia is suddenly in the top 20 for 'wikipedia'. it's got tonnes of top quality incoming links so i guess that's all it needs :-¦

    Small Website Guy




    msg:767041
     1:41 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Most genuinely authoritative sources don't make their content viewable for free, so Wikipedia is the best that's available for free. So people do link to it. Bloggers link to Wikipedia quite a bit.

    As someone else said,the Wikipedia article is probably better than someone's crappy SEOed site-o-affiliate links.

    Atticus




    msg:767042
     5:51 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

    This thread was started by beren who wrote a wiki page on a subject in which he claims he is not an expert. That page now ranks top ten in G SERPs.

    One can generalize all day long about how many wiki pages are informative and have strong IBLs. But that misses the point of the original post, doesn't it?

    I think the point is that G ranks pages (and now entire sites?) by signs of quality but can not determine actual quality.

    That's the way search engines work. However, the larger the disconnect between supposed quality and actual quality determines the true functionality of the engine.

    abbeyvet




    msg:767043
     6:01 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

    I think the thing about Wikipedia is that be the very action of Google treating it as an authority, even a less than authoritative page will almost certainly become one in a fairly short period of time.

    People with an interest in whatever the subject is will easily find it, edit or add to it and it will evolve over time into something worthwhile, even if it did not start out that way.

    A similar guess about a page on other sites would probably not have this effect, especially a made-for-adsense page, whose owner would be very hesitent to mess around too much with a high ranking page, no matter how poor it was in reality.

    hutcheson




    msg:767044
     10:06 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

    >Most genuinely authoritative sources don't make their content viewable for free

    Welcome to planet earth. You will enjoy this place, Here, we have organizations like the BBC, Smithsonian, NYT, Project Gutenberg, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, CACM, NASA, CIA, Encyclopedia Britannica (well, nine out of ten isn't bad) ... all the way down to the dude who admits to being the world's greatest authority on christian men, explaining how much christian men need water heaters. All free.

    You may never want to go home again. Of course, earthling porn is expensive, and so are ring tones for your cell phone, but the former should be of no interest to you, and I understand you extraterrestrials prefer to phone home.

    zafile




    msg:767045
     11:06 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Pretty interesting topic about free content and quality. Someone forgot to include in the top 10 list of free good content dictionary.com.

    How long will these examples of free good content be able to survive?

    Wikimedia has an interesting survival bar at [wikimediafoundation.org...]

    Can you afford to finance free good content?

    If you can, go ahead and supply it. Otherwise, you should have a pretty good business model to maintain it.

    Nevertheless, I found quite interesting Wiki's keyword density and page format. I found it so interesting I made a copy to dissect it.

    walkman




    msg:767046
     2:46 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

    >> I certainly don't claim to be an expert on this topic.

    sure but someone else is, and they can correct you if you made a mistake. If you had put that article on your site, no one else would be able to edit the errors. That's the difference.

    Atticus




    msg:767047
     4:09 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Walkman,

    Are you saying that relevance should be determined by how good a particular page may be in the future?

    Sounds like a great opportunity for infant webmasters. Websites by babies have nothing but potential, and thus deserve to rank top ten every time!

    walkman




    msg:767048
     5:13 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Atticus,
    unless a Google engineer checks every page individually (8 billion pages) before assigning a rank, guessing is the best way to do it.

    Brian




    msg:767049
     8:37 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

    I get the impression that Yahoo has some kind of thing favoring Wikipedia, but that Google doesn't. Wikipedia is okay on things that aren't controversial, but in some areas there are a lot of guys trying to chisel facts to suit some kind of conspiracy theory or urban legend, making Wikipedia dangerously unreliable. With regular websites, you can judge the authority to some extent. With Wikipedia, who or what lies behind the words is secret. I hope Google penalises it somewhat if it starts to creep to the top of too many searches.

    sem4u




    msg:767050
     8:50 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Wikipedia has a lot of good information on there.

    What is wrong if a page from it ranks well if it is relevant?

    Nimzovich




    msg:767051
     9:24 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

    When did Google start ranking individual pages based almost entirely by the site they appear on, regardless of the age/IBLs/content of the individual page?

    From Florida, IMO.

    I don't really care for the "everything on site A is great/everything on site B is supplimental" SERPs coming out of Googleland these days.

    Bad times for small players. That's way I closed my small sites and I have been working on an authoritative site since Florida. And I am still far from the wikipedia in my language.

    FranceFan




    msg:767052
     4:39 pm on Aug 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Although this thread started off on Wikipedia, I would like to know:
    - Do other encyclopedia's get the same boost as Wikipedia, or is it a one-off within the domain of encyclopedia's?
    - What are the other main on-line encyclopedia's anyways?

    BillyS




    msg:767053
     5:22 pm on Aug 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

    [quote]Do other encyclopedia's get the same boost as Wikipedia/[quote]

    There is one that I come across a lot Investopedia. It ranks remarkably well for many phrases. At times, I think too high because they often have one line explanations.

    The thing I don't like about Wiki is that it ranks well on lots of topics. Some of which it should, others which are questionable. It is also better for students or someone that is truly researching a topic because it has more information than the average person cares to read. Stated another way, if you're looking for a quick anser, Wiki is not the place to be.

    alphacooler




    msg:767054
     6:43 am on Aug 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

    Atticus,

    When did Google start ranking individual pages based almost entirely by the site they appear on, regardless of the age/IBLs/content of the individual page? I don't really care for the "everything on site A is great/everything on site B is supplimental" SERPs coming out of Googleland these days.

    I HEAR ya! I've recently had a major player move into my sector and it is killing me. Things didn't used to be like this. I definitely see G returning results almost entirely based on the site they are on, and not the individual merit of pages. Like someone mentioned before, I am going to have to close down a lot of small sites and try to become an authority in an increasingly difficult market. If G continues this path, the mega-giant networks like CNET will take over the internet.

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