Wikipedia has been one of the success stories of the internet, growing rapidly to become the de facto reference site for many people.

There are more than 4.4m pages in the English language edition alone, and it is still growing at the rate of 771 new pages every day.

How can its impact benefit digital marketers?

While everyone has heard of, and probably uses, Wikipedia, what fewer understand is the impact it has on search results.

Wikipedia ranks highly in responses to many search queries due to the high degree of trust the search engines have in its content, the breadth of information it contains and the global, multi-language scope of the site.

Our own SEO Ranking Factors Rank Correlation study shows this clearly. Typically Wikipedia ranks second in results for a large number of keywords, for example behind the respective brand or the specific URL for the search term itself.

However, if there is no significant brand that would match the search query, Wikipedia often ranks first. This is particularly true of informational keywords (such as definitions) that are unconnected to brands.

Looking at this graph from google.co.uk illustrates the correlation between Wikipedia URLs and search results:

Average ranking of Wikipedia in google.co.uk searches (from Searchmetrics 2013 SEO Ranking Factors - Rank Correlation Study)

So how can brands benefit from the correlation between Wikipedia and high search results? I’d say there are four key ways:

  1. Keep pages up to dateWikipedia aims to be an independent information source, so over developed pages about your company or products will be frowned upon by the community and potentially removed. However you should ensure that there are up to date, factual pages to ensure that you rank highly in search results.

    This is particularly true if you want to appear towards the top of results for informational keywords – make sure you are providing unbiased information that positions you as an expert.

  2. Maximise your Google Knowledge Graph informationGoogle’s Knowledge Graph feature aims to enhance search results by providing immediate information on the results page. Normally on the right hand side, it gives either basic details and images/maps on a topic or company, or direct answers to very specific queries, such as What is the population of London?, without a user needing to click on other results.

    Wikipedia is one of the major sources of this information – rather than your corporate website. So make sure information on your revenues, senior management, staff and products is always up to date on Wikipedia.

  3. Use photos within WikipediaKnowledge Graph also trawls Wikipedia for images to accompany results. Therefore make sure you include up to date images (such as your logo) on the site if you want to provide the latest information to browsers when they are searching.
  4. Increase trust in your brandAs it has been vetted by the Wikipedia community, information about brands on the site is considered highly trustworthy and independent by consumers. It provides neutral, fact-based content, along with multiple links to specific information which encourage people to find out more.

    Not having a Wikipedia page can therefore reduce trust in your brand. 

Our Ranking Factors survey shows that while Google favours quality, substance, and ultimately, relevance in ordering its search results it always takes into account secondary factors such as Wikipedia.

The information on the site is interwoven into Knowledge Graph results, meaning it could be the first thing that a prospective customer sees about your company or brand. Therefore you need to ensure you have built the right presence on Wikipedia and are keeping it up to date if you want to benefit from its undoubted power when it comes to search.