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Why Is Wikipedia On Top in Search Results?

So many searches now have Wikipedia at the Top.

   
7:32 pm on Feb 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I've noticed in many searches for business names or people over the past few months that Wikipedia is now the No. 1 or 2 result. Is Google promoting a non-profit site over others or just the huge traffic Wikipedia is getting?
10:22 pm on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Wikipedia is often the best possible result for obscure topics. At the same time, it is usually a poor result for broad topics (like one word search terms).

In this way Google's weak algorithm is displayed in all its non-glory. Index pages of niche authority domains, with hundreds or thousands of high quality, deep content pages are the results that best serve users, not a skim-the-surface eight paragraph article.

For these one word searches, a Wiki article in the top 50 is normally rotten search engineering. Basically generic linking wins out over high quality niche linking. This has been a problem with Google basically forever. It does poorly recognizing niche value, which is basically always better than generic value.

Wikipedia is a big, popular website that deserves lots of good rankings, but a top five ranking for a trivial article on Apache server or football or something like that is absurd.

I must have typed this a 1000 times, but google's minor valuation of niche authority leads to virtually all its core ranking problems. Google embraces idiotic concepts like trustrank rather than "trust trusted sites on the topic of the query".

10:39 pm on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Who cares what Google does on one-word searches?

The ideal result for a one-word search is "Google estimates there are umpty-leven gazillion results for this term. Do you want to [see them ALL] [get a dictionary definition of your word] [try again with a more specific search] [log out and come back when you learn how to use a search engine]?"

But nobody does this yet either.

10:51 pm on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



The level of expertise of individuals within Wikipedia does not have to be high in the specific subject area, although it does help.

What Wiki editors do need to have, and Wiki rules demand are "neutral point of view", "attribution", and it should not contain "original work". These are part of the Wikipedia's rules as far as I know. Above all, Wikipedia editors need to be good researchers.

If you find an article that seems to have a slant, or lacks attribution, or is an original work, put it in the discussion. It will be struck.

I have done this several times, and they are reasonably fast.

We can either complain about the strong current and struggle against it, or take advantage and surf. It's our choice.

[edited by: Tapolyai at 10:51 pm (utc) on Feb. 24, 2007]

11:02 pm on Feb 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



"Who cares what Google does on one-word searches?"

Any sane person, since simplicity is how the vast majority of people search.

People making one word searches are not looking for dictionary definitions. That's silly. Someone searching for "football" or "viagra" or "blackjack" or "madonna" are not looking for a dictionary definitions. And obviously this is the challenge of a search engine. Millions of pages mention a word and that is why engines have to look for authority linking. Google used to use dmoz as a starting point for authority, and that was a pretty great idea then (and still is to a lesser degree).

One word searches of course aren't the point since the same is true of two words and three words, but one word searches expose the algorithm for what it is, general rather than specific, generic rather than niche, layman rather than authority.

12:03 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



The only time I use a one-word search is when I'm looking for a definition. I wouldn't ever consider searching for any of the terms you mention. In fact Google could completely monetize all single-word searches, and I doubt any surfer in the world would notice. You're not dealing with folk who glory in room-temperature IQ levels here.

>Google used to use dmoz as a starting point for authority,

I have heard this also -- in fact, I'm sure I've repeated it. But based on statements from people actually associated with Google, I'm not sure I have any valid reason to believe it was ever true. (It's OK with me if they did, of course.)

12:19 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



What you search for isn't something to devote a thread to, nor your opinion on how stupid other people are. On this planet though most people don't babble on in search boxes.

Obviously though that is not even the point. Google serving up a Wikpedia page as a top result for apache server or football is a bad result. It's even worse for other broad, specialized terms, regardless of whether they are one or two or five word searches, where there are deep content, authoritative resources that should be returned first.

Wikipedia articles are just that, articles. They skim the surface, while in general referencing the real authorities on a topic. Again in general, those referenced sites are the ones that should be at the top of the results.

A general authority site like Wikipedia is useful in helping to recognize genuine niche authority, but just like a newspaper story about something, the Wikipedia pales in comparison to the specialized sites.

Google fails in valuing the thing that Wikipedia itself values, citing the real sources of information.

3:15 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



I like Wikipedia and think it is very useful. However, I don't like that is taking over the search results in Google. I wonder if Google will modify their algorithm to give other sites a shot since they seem to be dominating nearly every keyword or person's name.
3:24 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



Wikipedia Taking Over Google SERPs
[webmasterworld.com...]

To quote Yogi Berra, "This is like deja vu all over again."

Also, there was another Wikipedia-bashing thread more recently where somebody accused Google of favoring Wikipedia to sell more AdWords (presumably on the theory that anyone finding a Wikipedia article on Sir Francis when searching for "Bacon" wouldn't order the pork version on an e-commerce site).

Wikipedia has millions of inbound links, millions of outbound links, and plenty of useful information. Given that Google's corporate mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible," wouldn't it be odd if Wikipedia articles didn't rank high in Google's search results?

3:30 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Google serving up a Wikpedia page as a top result for apache server or football is a bad result.

But is it? Search attemtpts to provide an answer to a need on the part of the user - "Tell me about <searchterm>". If someone says "tell me about football" then it's difficult to imagine a better response than a link that will tell the searcher what a lot of people agree football is about.

One words phrases can mean completely different things in different parts of the world - is it American Football, Soccer, Australian Football, Gaelic Football? All are commonly referred to simply as 'football'. What do you show? Without any qualifying words in the term it's very, very difficult to know what the person is looking for.

One word phrases are almost invariably vague, so a very general response that is the result of at least some limited form of concensus seems to me like an appropriate one. And in the case of football Google also delivers first page results relevant to three of the codes above, as well as the Wikipedia page, so it seems like it's really getting it right on a very vague term there at least.

6:32 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member steveb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



"But is it?"

Um, yeah. There is no point being silly about it. Wikipedia does what it does. What it isn't is an expert website on a specific topic.

What it *is*, by its own design, is an aggregator of information from other sources. By policy no original research is allowed. By guideline the goal is to provide information where a *reliable source* is cited.

It's simply obtuse to say a secondary source that copies or summarizes a reliable source is superior to the reliable source itself.

For a theory of relativity article the wikipedia could write a summary that cites Einstein's official site, but a search engine serving that result Wikipedia summary up first would be failing its users. The better result would be the 1000 page Einstien site, with a similar summary on its index page, but authority and depth of content to back it up.

These Wikipedia threads get so simple-minded. Wikipedia is a huge, popular, deep website that should rank in the top 100 for almost anything, but should virtually never rank #1 for anything that is not obscure. Attacking it for being a popular site that ranks well makes no more sense than ludicrous assertions that it should rank first for strategic, technical, specialized or expert searches.

8:11 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



Keywords: Blank City
Rank in Search Engines
1. Wikipedia in English
2. Wikipedia in other Language
3. Answers.com
4. BlankCity.com registered 1997-this website is where the poster of Wikipedia gets the information about the city

Question:::How do feel if you owned that BlankCity.com?

10:52 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Wikipedia is helpful in many cases, and it deserves to be in the top 5 for many keywords.

Having said that I do think that Google is giving to much weight to Wikipedia(and I do understand why). I have seen Search Results where Wikipedia is #1 for a keyword but the Wikipedia page is totally irrelevant and the keyword is only mentioned once on the page or the page is a stub.

I have also seen search results the Wikipedia occupied 8 of the top 10:
Wikipedia in English #1 followed by Wikipedia in other Languages.

It is becoming ridiculous.

[edited by: DumpedbyG at 10:55 am (utc) on Feb. 25, 2007]

11:17 am on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I would say get rid of wiki in the search results. Wiki is that well known that people will go there themselves if they want.
Now it's like this constant tsunami of wiki results in the serps.
12:58 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Solution = Build your own Google custom search and exclude Wikipedia.

We have a custom search on our site. We have removed Wikipedia bcos it totaly dominated the search results and was seldom relevant. Our Search engine has become much more popular since removing Wikipedia.

3:11 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



I would say get rid of wiki in the search results. Wiki is that well known that people will go there themselves if they want.

Sure, and while they're at it, Google should get rid of pages from e-commerce sites in the search results. Most people have heard of Dell, Thinkpad, Apple, Best Buy, L.L. Bean, etc., so why clutter up the search results with listings from Web sites that users can easily find on their own if they want a new computer, iPod, DVD player, or parka?

Come to think of it, Google should get rid of news stories and articles from major publications like THE NEW YORK TIMES. If I want to read about Iraq or cars or cooking in THE NEW YORK TIMES, why do I need help from Google?

Oops--the slope is getting really slippery. I'd better go to REI (another site that I already know) and buy some crampons or a pair of skis. :-)

3:26 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



In regards to Wiki ranking high in Google SERPs, web publishers are their own worst enemies. Every time some web publisher links to Wikipedia for some pop culture phrase they strengthen Wikipedia for other phrases like niche blue widgets. If web publishers were smart, they would stop linking to Wikipedia for anything and remove the links they already created. Why help the competition.

In regards to Wikipedia being a good source there are some fields in which by its very nature Wikipedia is a completely unreliable source. In certain disciplines (e.g. science, politics, history & religion) anonymity is the antithesis of reliability. Yes Wikipedia provides good links to other sources, but in and of itself, within certain disciplines the information by Wikipedia MUST be discounted because it is posted by anonymous sources. Furthermore being that there is no standard for being able to edit information on a specific topic a self described expert on a topic who is persistent can have as much if not more impact on a topic than the true expert who does not have the time or inclination to have a battle of wills to ensure the accuracy of information posted in Wikipedia.

Simply put any student who writes a scientific paper and then references Wikipedia as a source should have points deducted from their grade or the paper failed because good science research REQUIRES the disclosure of the proper source of information.

Yes Wikipedia can make a good starting point for research because of the links it provides, but when it comes to serious academic research Wikipedia itself is normally a tertiary or quaternary source. A quaternary source references a tertiary source, that reference secondary sources which reference primary sources. At best, Wikipedia is on a rare occasion a secondary source, but it is never a primary source.

In summary, for trivia or as a starting point for research Wikipedia has merit. As a serious research destination, however, Wikipedia is not acceptable. If web publishers want to stop seeing Wikipedia show up in the top five for all kinds of search terms then we are in the proper position to stop it from happening. Wake up and stop providing links to Wikipedia; every time you link to Wikipedia you are working against your own self interests.

4:03 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



In summary, for trivia or as a starting point for research Wikipedia has merit.

That's exactly why (for example) I might link to Wikipedia's page on the history of Widgetville from a travel guide to Widgetville: to provide a starting point for further research as a courtesy to the occasional reader who really, really wants to know the history of Widgetville.

As a serious research destination, however, Wikipedia is not acceptable.

Fortunately, Wikipedia articles typically include citations to serious research destinations that are acceptable. :-)

If web publishers want to stop seeing Wikipedia show up in the top five for all kinds of search terms then we are in the proper position to stop it from happening. Wake up and stop providing links to Wikipedia; every time you link to Wikipedia you are working against your own self interests.

I'd rather see Wikipedia rank in the top five for, say, "Widgetville" or "Elbonia" than see a list of affiliate booking sites (which wasn't uncommon a few years ago). Also, the myth that Wikipedia ranks #1, or even in the top five, for every keyphrase under the sun is just that: a myth.

As for not linking to Wikipedia because doing so might help Wikipedia's rankings, that's the kind of selfish, never-mind-what's-useful-for-the-reader thinking that says "this site sucks." It's almost bad as the "don't use outbound links, because you'll leak PageRank if you do" arguments that we've seen so often in this forum.

4:17 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I'd rather see Wikipedia rank in the top five for, say, "Widgetville" or "Elbonia" than see a list of affiliate booking sites

I agree totally, but lately there is a trend that the Wikipedia result is not relevant to the keyword. I have seen many cases where the Wikipedia page only refers to "Widgetville" or "Elbonia" once and it gets a top 5 in the search results. Google just gives to much weight to Wikipedia.

4:26 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



That's exactly why (for example) I might link to Wikipedia's page on the history of Widgetville from a travel guide to Widgetville: to provide a starting point for further research as a courtesy to the occasional reader who really, really wants to know the history of Widgetville.

I typically wouldn't link to the Wiki. I might refer someone there, but I'm not going to link to them. I'd rather link directly to one of the sources they cite as a reference.

Now that the Wiki have added <rel="nofollow"> to all outbound links, what's that do for the Wiki? Perpetual juice! People continue to link to the Wiki, and in turn, the Wiki's inbound juice grows exponentially while their outbound juice may be nil. That's what is driving the Wiki to the top.

Is it just me, or did Wiki's sudden rise to the top occur after adding the <rel="nofollow">? I mean, they were pretty powerful before that when they were passing external juice. Now that they are not, they get to hoard all that stuff to themselves. ;)

If you are going to link to the Wiki, it would only be natural to link to them in the same fashion that they might link to you, a WikiCondom, available in small, medium and large...

Small - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seo" rel="nofollow">SEO</a>

Medium - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seo" rel="nofollow">SEO</a>

Large - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seo" rel="nofollow">SEO</a>

6:07 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



If you are going to link to the Wiki, it would only be natural to link to them in the same fashion that they might link to you, a WikiCondom, available in small, medium and large...

Small - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seo" rel="nofollow">SEO</a>

I certainly wouldn't argue with that (although it's worth pointing out that Wikipedia is likely to be using "nofollow" the way it was intended--to discourage spam--and not to hoard PageRank).

Also, if Googlebot were smart, it would take "nofollow" with a grain of salt when crawling Wikipedia, blogs, etc. : i.e., by following the link anyway if the link led to a page at a "trusted site."

6:31 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



That's exactly why (for example) I might link to Wikipedia's page on the history of Widgetville from a travel guide to Widgetville: to provide a starting point for further research as a courtesy to the occasional reader who really, really wants to know the history of Widgetville.

This is still a trap. By creating links to Widgetville you are still adding to the over all linking power of Wikipedia, which causes it to get better SERP rankings for totally unrelated search phrases, which it is not a reliable source for.

Yes Wikipedia can be a great source of links, but people don't understand the fundamental principles of sound research and are too quick to simply stop at Wikipedia's pages and assume them to be gospel.

If you are going to link to the Wiki, it would only be natural to link to them in the same fashion that they might link to you, a WikiCondom, available in small, medium and large...

Small - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seo" rel="nofollow">SEO</a>


Better yet do a 301 rewrite on your server and link using: <a href="/links/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seo" rel="nofollow">SEO</a>

Make sure to add "Deny: /links/" to your robots.txt file.

Personally I think the less we mention Wikipedia the better. Every mention still provides publicity and causes people to think of it more as a relevant research tool and authoritative reference source.

6:36 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Every mention still provides publicity and causes people to think of it more as a relevant research tool and authoritative reference source.

There has been quite a bit of press out there concerning educational institutions banning the use of the Wiki for research.

That's not to say you can't use the Wiki to find the authority references. ;)

7:08 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



Yes Wikipedia can be a great source of links, but people don't understand the fundamental principles of sound research and are too quick to simply stop at Wikipedia's pages and assume them to be gospel.

So what are you suggesting? That Google limit itself to indexing academic papers at .edu sites?

Google's job isn't to teach people how to conduct academic research. Google's job is to help a wide spectrum of users to find the information they're looking for.

What's more, Google isn't a human-edited directory: It's an automated search engine. It has no way of knowing whether that an article on Widgetosaurus at Petes-paleontology.com is more comprehensive than the corresponding article at Wikipedia; it can know only that:

1) Based on PageRank and other factors, a lot of people think Wikipedia is a pretty decent resource; and...

2) Because Wikipedia is filled with outbound links to third-party resources (whether they're labeled "nofollow" or not), a Wikipedia article is likely to direct the reader to other sources of information on the same topic.

Some people have complained about "stubs" in Wikipedia ranking well, but that's a Google glitch that isn't limited to Wikipedia. I've seen the same kinds of results for "user review" travel and tech sites. (It would be nice if Google could simply ignore pages that contain a high ratio of template content to unique content, but that obviously isn't practical because it would wipe results for dictionaries and many other types of useful reference sites from the index. Maybe Google should simply ignore pages that have a small amount of unique content and contain the word "stub" or a phrase like "Submit your review.")

9:02 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



So what are you suggesting? That Google limit itself to indexing academic papers at .edu sites?

I didn't say or imply anything of the sort.

What I'm saying is that if people don't like Wikipedia dominating SERPs then they should stop linking to it and remove any links they already created. Many of Wikipedia's links come from websites that are most hurt by Wikipedia's high rankings. If web publishers actively removed references to Wikipedia on their sites, they would help reduce the high back link count that gives Wikipedia such a high ranking on a consistent basis.

9:27 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



europeforvisitors,

Are you actually saying the current situation is fine and nothing should be done about it?

9:52 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Wiki is a great resource on the web, not perfect but its authoritive for the most part. Wiki is on the top because of its size and all the unique content they have.
9:57 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)



Are you actually saying the current situation is fine and nothing should be done about it?

Of course not. Didn't you see my reference to stubs?

I do think it shouldn't be surprising that Google tends to give high rankings to Wikipedia articles, and I think Wikipedia is a far more valuable resource than, say, the computer-generated, keyword-driven, template-based, corporate-owned sites that clutter SERPs for travel and technical searches.

10:04 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



I agree europe, Wiki has some good editors and the majority of the content is solid.
10:21 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Wiki is a great resource on the web, not perfect but its authoritive for the most part. Wiki is on the top because of its size and all the unique content they have.

It may be a better reference source than most on the Internet, but it is not by any stretch of the definition an authoritative site. To be authoritative one must know what the qualifications are of the person doing the writing. Put simply anonymity and being authoritative are mutually exclusive concepts.
10:26 pm on Feb 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Ken,

Most of the wiki editors are an expert in the field. Not all of them but most of them are. There is a series of edits a subject goes through before it gets posted. Like I said, not perfect but a lot better than any other site I have seen out there for all the subjects they write about.

Just their sheer volume of pages and the amount of data they have makes them very authoritive. Plus, wiki is very non biased.

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