Why Does Wikipedia Rank So Highly in Google Search?

  • Simply Zesty,

Wikipedia often pops up in search results and we normally put this down to its popularity, but a new study shows just how highly Wikipedia ranks in Google search results, and prompts some questions as to why this is. Intelligent Positioning Blog has released the results of research they did into the relationship between Google and Wikipedia.

They conducted an experiment into how often Google brings ups a Wikipedia entry in its search results, by typing in 1,000 different nouns and seeing what came up. The bloggers found that Wikipedia comes up on the first page of results of 99 per cent of Google searches, that Wikipedia comes in first position in Google searches in over 50 per cent of searches, and that 96 per cent of searches resulted in Wikipedia featuring in the top five results.

You're probably well aware of the frequency at which Wikipedia pops up in your searches, and perhaps it is what you're searching for, but does Wikipedia really merit these high search rankings in Google? Is there so kind of special relationship between the two? The Wikimedia Foundation already has a relationship with Orange Mobile, as we reported a few weeks ago,

and it turns out that Google gave the Wikimedia Foundation a $2 million grant back in 2010, which Wikimedia announced in a press release, with one of the co-founders of Google, Sergey Brin, quoted as saying that "'Wikipedia is one of the greatest triumphs of the internet'”.This illustrates the openness between Google and Wikimedia about the relationship between the two. At the time of the $2 million donation, Matthew Ingram of GigaOm commented that "For better or worse, it sounds like Wikipedia and Google will be joined at the hip for some time to come- not just because of the money, but because the relationship benefits both sides equally”, which seems to still be the case according to this latest research.

The results of the Intelligent Positioning Blog research got me thinking about other search engines, so I did a quick search for three random words on both Bing and Google just to see for myself if there were any obvious correlations or differences that would suggest that Google gives Wikipedia preferential treatment, and this is what I got:

Bing

Apple: Wikipedia is the second result, the entry is for the fruit

Hat: Wikipedia is the second result

Rome: First result is images, second result is Wikipedia

Google Chrome Incognito

Apple: Wikipedia is the tenth result, and it's for the company Apple

Hat: Wikipedia is the first result

Rome: First result is Wikipedia

So in Chrome, two out of three of the first results were for Wikipedia, although interestingly enough it was tenth for the search for 'Apple', while Bing delivered similar results, Wikipedia came in second for all my searches. So from this tiny piece of searching, it seems that Wikipedia is almost as popular and relevant a result on a competitor's search engine, which would suggest that perhaps Wikipedia is not receiving preferential treatment from Google.

But Intelligent Positioning Blog argue: "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." At any rate, the research that was conducted is worth a look, but I'd love to see the same 1,000 words survey carried out on Bing or another rival search engine just to see what the results would be.

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