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About six months ago I was trying to figure out how to get a client past Wikipedia for the term 'spread betting'.

Most people know that taking on Wikipedia for rank can be difficult because the website carries so much topic authority and a lot of people link to it. So much so that Wikipedia’s authority can trump a very popular, useful website.

In fact, one of the main rules of SEO is get a page on Wikipedia. This shows a level of Authority because you are significant enough to be listed.

While I was trying to figure this out, the client’s page on Wikipedia was dropped. The page was overly promotional. It is what happened next that is interesting.

What happened was that one month after the Wikipedia page was dropped the authority of the site in question increased and Wikipedia's decreased for the search terms measured.

From this I surmised that the site was giving its authority to Wikipedia rather than increasing its authority by having a page on Wikipedia. So we then took the conscious step of not trying to get back on Wikipedia.

I believed Wikipedia would continue to drop and if we could generate more clicks from the search terms we could quickly move past Wikipedia. So we also introduced a promotional offer into the Title as click bait.

Within two months the site overtook Wikipedia. Then caffeine happened and ranks jumped around but it has now supplanted Wikipedia.

This month something else also happened. Another website overtook Wikipedia, which has now dropped from three to five. In our authority chart Wikipedia continues to reduce. So what is happening?

Google determines authority with the Hilltop algorithm and subsequent Topic Sensitive PageRank (TSPR) algorithm. Hilltop uses reference websites to understand whether a page is relevant to a topic. TrustRank is a similar approach. TSPR will use the same references to determine whether it is continuing to link map a topic from page to page.

The original reference table for HillTop was the open directory project and Google’s quick adoption of this was a giveaway on how they are using it. I believe that Wikipedia pages are part of the reference tables to determine topic relevance. But I also think brands that own a topic, like Xerox owned photocopiers, have become part of the reference tables as that algorithm becomes more sophisticated.

Some brands have a higher authority because they invented a topic. The website we were working for has 80% of the traffic for their niche and was first mover for their niche. If I’m right, and I think this proves it, a Wikipedia page has no benefit for them. Only Wikipedia will benefit.

Julian Grainger

Published 12 April, 2010 by Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger is an internet consultant and cotnributor to Econsultancy.

9 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Julian,

An interesting summary. I've been considering the merits of a Wikipedia entry/page for a few small business Clients but have not tested this.

Is your interpretation that for a big brand that dominates for a particular keyword/phrase, Wikipedia may be counter-productive but for a small business that has to fight for air, Wikipedia might be useful?

I would be interested in your thoughts as this is one area of SEO I'm yet to get to grips with.



almost 7 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

For a brand that owns their patch that is what I am saying. For a small business, it is useful. I think a wiki page for a small business can help them get visibility via that page. So the traffic and brand awareness benefits are worth it for that. I think it is also useful for showing the significance of the business. Other than that I think your time might be better spent elsewhere working out how to get people to link to the businesses websites.

almost 7 years ago



Well interesting thoughts....but lately we have noticed that Wikipedia has made most of their outgoing links into "no-follow". Thus the link benefit from Wikipedia is only in terms of refferal visitors? .

almost 7 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

I'm not sure what to think of this. If true, it would mean you could game it in certain situations by adding wikipedia pages for competitors.

What do you think the chance is that this may be correlation rather than causality, Julian?

Either way - very interesting, thought-provoking post!


almost 7 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

@ Naveen, Wikipedia has never been available for vouched external links as far as I am aware. This means pagerank and topic have never been passed. The link is not the point, the citation is the point. The Google social search is a good demonstration that they are using more than links now as a citation. Google is only a citation system, but it has clearly moved on from hypertextual networks as the sole assessment criteria. @Dan, I thought hard and long about that but the overall movement in the ranks we monitor showed greater significance. I had to follow the data, which was persuasive. And I revisited the algorithm patents which showed support for the theory.

almost 7 years ago


Online Connect

Very interesting article thanks for sharing this information. I think if your dealing with overall brand presence does it matter whether your page comes up top or an article about your website. There is always a natural desire in seo to come up first but from a user point of view to discover your website through an article on the subject I think lends more authority, so for me I would choose keeping the wikipedia page as both your page and wikipedia page lead the user to your site and your overall brand presence is stronger

almost 7 years ago


Rick Ong

Does anybody else have a more extensive test that proves Wikipedia does not pass rank even though the links are nofollow? 

What about the concept of link hops (how far away your site is from a trusted source), don't you think it's a metric/factor that the search engines use?

over 6 years ago


Natural seo

Thats is a very interesting article. I think it is also useful for showing the significance of the business. Other than that I think your time might be better spent elsewhere working out how to get people to link to the businesses websites.

about 6 years ago

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