Wikipedia Appears On Google’s Page One Only 46% Of Time, Study Shows

google-wikipedia-logosWikipedia doesn’t pwn Google nearly as much as the SEO industry thinks it does.

In fact, according to a new Conductor study, Wikipedia showed up on the first page of Google’s search results only 46 percent of the time in a study using 2,000 unique keywords.

Conductor used one thousand informational keywords (like “lyrics” and “bridal shower ideas”) and another thousand transactional keywords (like “headphones” and “where to find wall stencils”) in its study; as you’d expect, Wikipedia has much more visibility on informational searches than transactional — 60 percent for the former and only 34 percent for the latter. And overall, Wikipedia ranked one page one for 46 percent of the keywords.

wikipedia-google-study-1

Conductor’s study also found that Wikipedia doesn’t rank on page one or two for about 29 percent of the keywords it studied (see right column above).

Wikipedia: Still A Ranking Powerhouse

Even if those numbers are lower than you expected them to be, Wikipedia is still a ranking powerhouse. Conductor’s research shows that, when Wikipedia does show up on page one of Google’s search results, it’s in the top three spots 65 percent of the time (see right pie chart below).

wikipedia-google-study-2

Conductor’s study comes on the heels of a separate study last month suggesting that Wikipedia ranked highly on Google UK for 99 percent of all searches — a study that I suggested was flawed because it relied only one one-word searches. (And, in fact, Conductor’s study shows Wikipedia ranking on page one about 80 percent of the time for those keywords.)

In my article about the previous study, I suggested a different methodology — one that used a variety of keywords from single words (“headphones”) to lengthy phrases (“who built the statue of liberty”). Conductor explains that it used that methodology and, at the suggestion of Search Engine Land columnist Shari Thurow, divided the keywords into transactional and navigational. Conductor says it also examined a group of navigational keywords but Wikipedia wasn’t visible for those terms, so it excluded them from the full study.

Next, we need a similar study run on Bing’s search results so we can compare which search engine actually likes Wikipedia more. (hint, hint, Conductor…)

If you missed the link above, you can read more about the study on Conductor’s blog.

Postscript, March 23: For more on this topic, please see our article Move Over, Wikipedia: Amazon May Be The King Of Google Rankings.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Search Engines: Wikipedia | Stats: General | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mikekalil Mike Kalil

    46% is still an awful lot. 

  • Steven Shattuck

    We performed a similar study at Slingshot SEO two weeks ago and found that Wikipedia appears only 28% of the time - http://www.slingshotseo.com/blog/sample-selection-matters-wikipedia-ranks-on-page-one-for-28-of-searches/

  • Jonathan Saipe

    Only 46%? And what’s with the transactional searches? 

  • Matt McGee

    I say “only” 46% because of the recent study that suggested it was 99%, and also because for the past 5 years or so the SEO industry (me included) has assumed the percentage to be MUCH higher than 46%. I recall hearing people guess 75% page one penetration for Wikipedia at conferences 4-5 years ago.

  • Matt McGee

    Indeed it is. I say “only” 46% because of the recent study that suggested it was 99%, and also because for the past 5 years or so the SEO industry (me included) has assumed the percentage to be MUCH higher than 46%. I recall hearing people guess 75% page one penetration for Wikipedia at conferences 4-5 years ago.

  • http://twitter.com/bhardwajweb_com Bhardwajweb.com

    google like wikipedia content mostly.. and give rank page one searches

    SEO Company India

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Roberts/100000774795966 Mike Roberts

    Hey Matt – Mike Roberts w/ SpyFu.  I’m running a few queries against 348 million SERPs (Top 50 results) in the SpyFu US DB.  Should be a pretty definitive answer.  I’ll post the results in a couple hours.  Anything else you’d find interesting?  I plan to post how the percent has changed over the last 5 years. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Roberts/100000774795966 Mike Roberts

    PS. – I’m also going to post Amazon, Ebay, and Youtube.  Turns out Amazon is actually in the top 10 more often than Wikipedia.  Big change over the past year.  While I’m at it, I could run a few more domains if anyone is interested.  

    FYI, here’s a preview of what I’ve found so far on Wikipedia: http://screencast.com/t/sxNt1OsQ

  • fjpoblam

    And yet, in my Bing searches, Wikipedia is rarely farther down than fourth. Maybe that’s just the sort of things I search for… I’m not a shop-aholic.

  • Matt McGee

    Definitely interested in what you come up with, Mike — let us know via email – editors@searchengineland.com reaches all of us. Thx.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Roberts/100000774795966 Mike Roberts

    Okay.  I blogged a response.  Some pretty shocking results here: http://www.spyfu.com/blog/think-wikipedia-dominates-google-rankings-think-again

  • http://www.iwebsquare.co.uk/ iWebSquare

    Good statistics. This data proves that the Wikipedia results are being minimized and comes down to 46%, are there Google will planning their own project like Wikipedia?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Atifdanger Atif Yousuf

    Good information about Google search result most of the time Google has show result of Wikipedia. 

  • damisolockhart

    It’s not surprising that Wikipedia is showing up everywhere. It’s a content monster… I would highly recommend if you have a business to create a Wikipedia page. 

  • http://www.personalinjurydefenders.com/ Los Angeles injury Attorneys

    Great team up Wikipedia and Google. Tsk. 

  • http://twitter.com/sharithurow sharithurow

    Hi Matt-

    Oh, I am concerned that the study wasn’t conducted properly (again). “Headphones” for example is an informational keyword, as it indicates that the searcher wants to see a list of headphones that are available. It’s a very general term…probably a “fishing expedition” type of keyword…an ad hoc search.

    “where to find wall stencils” is also an informational keyword phrase as it contains a question word.

    My 2 cents.

  • http://twitter.com/Nathan_Safran Nathan_Safran

    Hey Shari,

    Author of the study here.  Thanks for your comment. 

    Regarding headphones as a transactional keyword–during the keyword research process in advance of the study we found it difficult to find one word queries that could clearly be labeled ’transactional’.  It seems hard to convey an intent to perform a transaction in a single word so we chose words that were as close as possible, or in some cases such as headphone, that could theoretically be transactional depending on user intent.  We were up front about this in the writeup on our blog: http://www.conductor.com/blog/2012/03/wikipedia-in-the-serps-appears-on-page-1-for-60-of-informational-34-transactional-queries/

    “Analysis of page one appearances by query length shows Google treats Wikipedia as a particularly relevant result for one word queries: Wikipedia appeared on page one of the search results for 85 percent of informational queries.  73 percent of one word transactional queries were on page one, but that may have more to do with the fact that one-word queries are difficult to convey searcher intent.  For example, searching for the term ‘headphones’ might have transactional intent, but absent elaborative keywords, Google likely treats it, and queries like it, as an informational query and therefore presents Wikipedia as a search result.  A drop to Wikipedia appearing for 19 percent of two word informational queries supports this assertion, with longer string searches expressing user intent more clearly.”

    If you have a different view on one-word transactional queries I’d be glad to hear it.

    Regarding  ”where to find wall stencils” as an information query we used this paper:”A Taxonomy of Web Search” http://www.sigir.org/forum/F2002/broder.pdf
    as guidance for defining the kinds of searches we looked at.  By their definition a transactional query is defined as: 

    Transactional. The intent is to perform some web-mediated
    activity. 

    and so the query you cite would fit as transactional.

    Hope this is helpful, and glad to hear if you have a differing view.

    Nathan Safran
    Director, Research
    Conductor, Inc.

  • http://twitter.com/sharithurow sharithurow

    Hi Nathan-

    We will have to respectfully disagree.I think all SEO professionals should do more in-depth research before publishing papers or studies. Kumvar, Rose, Teevan, Jansen, Lewandowski, White and many others have published their findings on searcher behaviors. I am quite with Broder’s work as I have cited it multiple times in my own publications since the late 90s. I believe all of their research and conclusions are far more objective and accurate.I stand by my statement (and search engine and academic research in the past 15 years backs up my conclusions) that a question word indicates informational intent and that “headphones” is an informational query, probably an ad hoc one. If I picked out 2 keyword phrases that were improperly classified, then I am concerned that there are far more query terms that were improperly classified. My gut feeling is that 46% is on the low side, considering that the majority of queries are informational ones. Besides, as I published back in 2009 and initially wrote in 2008, the appearance of Wikipedia and other informational websites in search listings is not a bad thing as it indicates informational intent.When I lecture at universities and conferences other than search engine ones, attendees don’t think Wikipedia is “evil” or the “bane of SEOs.” I don’t observe usability test participants become upset about the appearance of Wikipedia in search results. That’s purely an SEO hang-up. I have usability tested for over 10 years, both professionally and academically, which is the reason why I honestly question your study’s conclusion. I don’t think the query classification was done objectively…on the surface. I haven’t read the whole study.Again, we will have to respectfully disagree. And all I was writing was my context and experience.

  • http://twitter.com/Nathan_Safran Nathan_Safran

    Shari,

    Wow.

    “I think all SEO
    professionals should do more in-depth research before publishing papers or
    studies.”

    and

    “I believe all of their
    research and conclusions are far more objective and accurate”

    Some strong accusations and
    statements to make in a public forum from someone that admits to not even having
    read the study, no? (“I haven’t read the whole study”)

    “When I lecture at
    universities and conferences other than search engine ones, attendees don’t
    think Wikipedia is “evil” or the “bane of SEOs.” I don’t
    observe usability test participants become upset about the appearance of
    Wikipedia in search results”

    At no point did I use the
    words “evil” or “bane of SEOs”.  What we
    did say, in writing for readers of this site as those presumably involved in
    SEO, is that “Wikipedia has long been a thorn in the SEO professional’s side”.  I
    have no doubt that attendees at your conferences in lectures do not find it “evil”,
    however, for search marketers with its frequent appearance at the top of the
    search results, it is indeed a thorn in their side.

    Finally, regarding your comment
    “headphones is an informational query”, as I asked in an earlier comment, please
    provide examples, short of the word ‘buy’ or ‘purchase’ or ‘buyheadphones’ of one-word
    transactional terms that could be utilized for the study.  

    In our extensive research on the matter in
    advance of the research study we did not come up with terms that would fit this
    category, and as I stated in a previous comment we were explicit about that in
    our writeup of the study located here if you would like to read it: http://www.conductor.com/blog/2012/03/wikipedia-in-the-serps-appears-on-page-1-for-60-of-informational-34-transactional-queries/

    I do not wish to get into a
    back and forth with you, but I would like to be sure that we are being accurate
    about we have and have not said and, knowing you are a respected professional
    in the field, am genuinely interested to know if there are other examples of
    one-word transactional terms that we may have missed.

    Nathan

  • Saurabh Verma

    Great news as always

  • http://twitter.com/sharithurow sharithurow

    Hi Nathan-

    I wasn’t singling anyone in particular in my comments. I have been frustrated, for years, over SEOs who “claim” to know user experience, usability, searcher behaviors, information architecture, etc. without even defining the terms and providing supporting materials from objective resources. I wrote a searcher behavior quiz in my last column as a benchmark for those who choose to hire an SEO professional who claims to understand searcher behaviors.

    http://searchengineland.com/web-searcher-behavior-quiz-test-your-seo-knowledge-115334We will respectfully have to disagree. Let’s just leave it at that. 

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