I think Jimbo Wales is brilliant, but I must confess my love-hate relationship with Wikipedia.
As a blogger/ web publisher I love linking to Wikipedia, because the information is clear, concise, and easy. However, as a search marketer, I know I am contributing to Wikipedia’s inexorable rise to the top.
According to SeoChat, “Wikipedia has somehow hit on Google’s magic formula for reaching the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).” How so?
Wikipedia is a User-Generated Content Machine
As of July 20, 2007, Wikipedia has approximately 7.8 million articles in 253 languages. According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikipedia had about 47 million unique visitors, making it the 9th largest Web property that month.
It is the largest, most extensive, and fastest growing encyclopedia ever compiled. Written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, editable by anyone with access to the Internet, it is a user-generated content machine. This massive volume of content, updated daily by tens of thousands of volunteers all over the Web, is an all-you-can-eat buffet for search engine spiders.
Wikipedia’s Site Architecture is Structured for Success
It has minimal code bloat and the HTML/XHTML validates. Wikipedia provides a clean indexing path for search engine robots. The interlinking structure is masterful, especially since, according to some SEOs, search engine spiders do not differentiate between inbound links from external sites and narcissistic internal page links. Google bots love Wikipedia’s site architecture, which is a model that SEOs ought to strive for.
Wikipedia Link Love – All Take, No Give
Search engines see inbound links as popularity votes and Wikipedia has about 2.5 million of them. Furthermore, these are high quality back links because the anchor text is frequently the keyword that relates to the page. Links from other growing collaborative Wikipedia projects, such as Wiktionary, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, Wikinews, Wikiversity, and Meta-Wiki will, no doubt, add to the link love.
Early this year, Wikipedia added the <rel= “nofollow”> attribute to all outbound links in order to neutralize and discourage link spam. Many SEOs see this act to be as brilliantly diabolical as the orchestration of the Twin Tower attacks.
More than discouraging link spam, which can be effectively handled by a number of anti-spam tools, the <rel= “nofollow”> attribute ensures that Wikipedia rises to the top of SERPs.
Link juice is the passing of page rank from one site to another. The <rel= “nofollow”> attribute instructs search engines that the outbound hyperlinks should not influence the destination page’s ranking in the search engine’s index.
The end result is that Wikipedia’s inbound link juice grows exponentially as people all over the Web link to it, but Wikipedia shares no link love at all through its external links. This juice-hording action is the dynamic that drives Wikipedia to the top of Google SERPs. Wikipedia is, in essence, a link hole – a black hole on the Web that sucks all the links in, but lets no links out.
Why do SEOs Hate Wikipedia?
Wikipedia’s domination of SERPs, makes it the object of fear, loathing, and secret envy among search engine optimizers (SEOs). At the heart of the debate is concern over the proliferation of amateur content on the Web, in addition to the ability of meritless and sometimes empty Wikipedia pages to outrank pages with better quality content.
Wikipedia Proliferates Amateur Content
Wikipedia is the logical starting point for information on general subjects on the Web. But it’s written by anonymous authors whose expertise is questionable. Wikipedia content is more often than not, not based on original research, but a re-writing of work performed by others – knowledge built by scanning other sites. However, its influence on the Web is so powerful, that it threatens the survival of more authoritative sites that pay for original content by diverting monetizable traffic to the Wikipedia universe.
While far better content written by experts might exist on the Web, its impossible for a search engine spider to determine what quality content is. Because Google ranks sites through an algorithm that cannot tell the difference between great content and regurgitated garbage, it bases relevance on the number of inbound links.
For this reason, Wikipedia occupies the top 5 positions for most all keywords, even for pages that are staged for future entries, but that are currently devoid of content. Wikipedia is the 800lb gorilla that always wins.
Wikipedia’s NoFollow Tag Sucks
The NoFollow Tag actually does nothing to discourage link spammers. Link spam can be effectively handled by link spam tools. Furthermore, Wikipedia’s legion of volunteer administrators can effectively identify and eliminate said link spam. If Wikipedia is all about community, it can at least friggin’ reward community participants who add valuable reference links to Wikipedia articles and enrich the global knowledge base with a little link love.
What To Do About Wikipedia?
Wikipedia will not go away. But if you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.
Green businesses, social enterprises, social activists don’t stand a chance against an 800 lb gorilla like Wikipedia – you will never outrank Wiki. However, your expertise has immense value in the world and deserves to be included in the Wikipedia’s knowledge base. Post relevant content, enhance Wikipedia articles and use your site as a reference. You will not gain any SEO advantage by dropping links, but you could get some traffic.
Reclaim Your Link Love
Practice safe link love – reclaim your Google juice by using the rel=â€nofollowâ€ attribute for Wikipedia.
Download this Wikipedia NoFollow plugin designed for WordPress.
[tags]wikipedia, rel nofollow, nofollow tag, link love, link juice, link hole, SERPs, search engine rankings, search engine results pages, wikipedia top positions, wikipedia site architecture, SEO, search engine optimization, lorna li[/tags]