• http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    > Personally, I think Google is giving
    > too much weight to Wikipedia.

    Is it Google giving too much weight to Wikipedia, or all the people who link to Wikipedia from online sources? Because I don’t think Google necessarily treats Wikipedia different than any other site. The results of what we’re seeing seems to be Google reacting on the existing link structure, which they’re not responsible for.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Phillipp – I think what’s happening is that Google is giving too much weight to Wikipedia, in that there’s a factor in the weightings Google uses, where Wikipedia is an outlier, and Google really should tweak its algorithm to damp down that pathologically large value.

    I’m not sure what the specific factor is, we can speculate, but it seems pretty clear there is such a factor, and Google could change how the algorithm weighs that factor for large values if it want to make that change.

  • http://www.jehochman.com JEHochman

    Given that Wikipedia is the single largest destination of traffic coming from Google SERPS, it’s not unreasonable for Google to devise a special case algorithm for Wikipedia.

    Also, in my remarks quoted above, the reason I recommend Wiki noobs start with a minor article is to avoid the frustration of having edits reverted immediately. A low traffic article gives new editors a chance to make mistakes without getting into trouble right away.

    Much of Stephan’s advice is sound, but I slightly disagree with any recommendation that implies acting nice so you can spam on the sly. Act nice, and be nice for real, and benefits will follow. Wikipedia isn’t about acquiring links (though that may be a result). It’s about interacting with your audience and managing your reputation.

  • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

    “I think what’s happening is that Google is giving too much weight to Wikipedia”


    Look up “marketing” on Yahoo. Who’s #1? Now check who ranks #1 for “marketing” on MSN.

    Just like American Idol and the “Sanjya-effect”, Wikipedia ranks high because a gazillion people “vote” for Wikipedia every day. Whether or not Sanjya can sing well is close to irrelevant.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Halfdeck is right. The idea that Google is giving special favors to Wikipedia is just completely nonsense.

    Every time a large content domain begins to show up in a lot of search results, SEOs throw out common sense and start subscribing to ridiculous consipiracy theories.

    Wikipedia is so powerful because a lot of people link to it, because it has a lot of internal linkage, and because it has a lot of content.

    There is no mystery, no “Bermuda Triangle of Search”, and this nonsense really doesn’t need to be pasted across the front pages of major SEO reference sites like SearchEngineLand.

  • Durova

    I am a Jonathan Hochman’s mentor at Wikipedia where I edit under the username Durova and am a sysop with over 15,000 edits who specializes in investigations. He contacted me shortly after this story ran. A good share of Stephan Spencer’s advice at this article would place a firm in jeopardy of a public relations disaster.

    Hochman’s comment about the Microsoft proxy editing PR debacle ought to be a cautionary example. I list several others at a Wikipedia essay called “The Dark Side”, which is linked from my Wikipedia userpage and from the site’s Conflict of Interest guideline.

    The tactics Spencer suggests are nothing new to Wikipedia, where editorial jargon calls them terms such as “meatpuppetry” and specifically prohibits these actions by policy. Cynical attempts to game the system are rather easy to uncover and earn the wrath of Wikipedians when they become known. On occasions where the press has taken an interest the general public responds with equal displeasure. Hardly anyone likes to see a nonprofit reference website exploited for financial gain.

    Because Wikipedia is such a prominent website, these news stories tend to snowball and gain international coverage. Essentially what Spencer advises is that people risk a potentially career-ending media debacle in pursuit of minor benefits. That isn’t a gamble I’d advise anyone to take.

    Of special concern to marketing and PR professionals is the extremely durable and public nature of the site’s history files. More than 99% of the information available to me as a sysop is equally available to anyone in the world who has an Internet connection and the desire to find it. Manipulative attempts usually include inadvertent self-disclosures and are always freely reproducible under GDFL copyright licensure. What this means in regular English is that mistakes can come back to haunt a firm months or years afterward.

    So far, three things have prevented more exploitive attempts from becoming generally known to the public. First, site customs discourage volunteers from handing the results of their investigations to the press. This is a gentleman’s agreement only and has no proscriptive force. Second, the journalism community remains naive about how the site actually operates. That is unlikely to remain the case very long because the first investigative journalist who learns how to use the site as well as I use it will probably become famous. Third, so far no independent researcher compiles and publishes case reports of corporate Wikipedia abuse. These factors have misled some industry professionals into believing that manipuative attempts are safe and profitable. Take my word for it: that is a fool’s paradise.

    I will gladly answer questions and concerns at my Wikipedia talk page or through e-mail, which is linked from my onsite userspace.

  • http://legalminds.lp.findlaw.com/list/cyberia-l/msg32701.html Seth Finkelstein

    Michael, I didn’t say anything about “special favors”, that’s a strawman. Google’s algorithm weightings are not sacred values set in stone. They change and tweak them all the time. There is no justification for question-begging over it. That is, if Wikipedia has dominance because of a large factor X, and I say perhaps factor X should be tamped down, it’s not a good response to simply assert factor X is large because factor X is large. I’m arguing there’s no reason to assume that aspect should be weighted as it is now. Nobody is entitled to a top position, not even Wikipedia.

  • Veinor

    In my opinion, requesting that Google tweak down Wikipedia’s weighings because it’s too popular seems rather like a B-grade student asking a teacher to mark down the A students’ scores because they have such a good grade and it’s not fair. It’s unfair to that A student.

    And while tweaking search algorithms can be necessary, modifying them just so that a certain site isn’t in the top position anymore because people don’t think that it’s fair is unfair in and of itself.

  • http://davidgerard.co.uk/notes/ David Gerard

    By the way, on the Microsoft thing – one of the reasons that story went away so soon was because Wikipedia worked hard to try to bore the press away from it. We’d sorted out the basic misunderstanding by the time it hit the AP, and it wasn’t in Wikipedia’s interest to have corporations fearful that touching us would lead to bad press in a hundred newspapers around the globe.

    But, um, yeah. It certainly wasn’t Doug Mahugh’s intention to get bad press around the globe. And I bet it isn’t that of anyone here, either.

    (As it happened Jimbo met Bill soon after and they agreed it was silly ;-) )