Wikipedia’s Traffic from Google Down 11%, Why the Drop?

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Wikipedia’s Traffic from Google Down 11%, Why the Drop?

Wikipedia’s organic search traffic from Google dropped 11% from May to July — a decline of over 250 million visits per month.

Traffic measurement company SimilarWeb originally reported on the traffic loss, leading the company’s head of SEO to speculate as to whether Wikipedia is falling out of favor with Google.

SEOs have long griped over the fact that Wikipedia entries for companies and brands frequently outrank the actual websites.

Could it be that Google has adjusted its algorithm to instead favor brand and company websites over Wikipedia entries, as Roy Hinkis of SimilarWeb suggests? That’s one possibility.

Business Insider suggests Wikipedia’s traffic loss may not be due to any changes in Google’s search algorithm. It may have more to do with the fact that Google is providing more immediate answers to queries, limiting the need to click through to Wikipedia.

”One of the major trends happening at Google is the company’s preference for inserting its own content above the content of other non-Google web sites, even when those sites may be better resources than Google itself. Google’s goal here is to give people the best answer as quickly as possible.”

Searchers that would have once clicked on the Wikipedia link are now being satisfied by Google’s attempt to answer the question directly.

If this is indeed the case, Wikipedia would not be the first to see a traffic loss as a result of the way Google ranks its own content.

A recent study by Harvard researchers shows evidence that Google is ranking its own sites ahead of better quality results in organic search.

This is apparently most evident when it comes to local searches, which is having a significant impact on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Is Wikipedia’s traffic being impacted in a similar way? Hard to tell after just three months of data, but it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

Editorial Credit: Shutterstock

Matt Southern
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing... Read Full Bio
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  • Naida Lehmann

    As a user, I am disillusioned with Google. Wikipedia provides real information, while Google overwhelms with ads. Lots of people agree with me that Google used to be more fun and hours could be spent going from site to site. I and my friends are using other search engines more, too.

  • R.Rogerson

    Has anyone bothered to ask Wikipedia what types of traffic have declined?
    Or when it started?

    There’s a ton of possible reasons for traffic drops;
    shift to https
    removal of content/URLs
    change of URLs/content
    changes to internal link structures
    changes to internal link text
    changes to redirects/canonical link elements
    changes of inbound links
    Instant Answers
    Knowledge boxes
    Shifting in Rankings
    Other listings having more appealing Titles/Descriptions
    Less people searching for terms Wiki ranks for
    Educational Institution holidays (less kids scraping for homework)
    the weather (more people out instead of sitting at computers)
    Information apps taking preference over web-data sources
    etc. etc. etc.

    We could theorise till the theoretical cows come to their theoretical homes,
    only by looking at data from the source can we draw any real conclusions of worth.

    • Paul O’Connor

      Well put!

  • Alexander

    The drop might be related to problems with Google’s Chrome browser with OS X. It could not open (and other pages) correctly since July, at least. Because July was the first post in the support board mentioning the problem.

  • DIvyanshu verma

    A recent move from wikipedia – Migrating to https:// may be the reason (Not really sure), but we cannot conclude anything for a month drop.

    The traffic needs to be analyzed for next couple of months.

  • Joydeep Dam

    It is too quick to decide on an event with single sample. I would wait and collect more data to analyse before calling it even an offset data.

  • Paul O’Connor

    It’s a reasonable assumption to make that Google referrals are down due to Google enriching the results it provides on certain queries. However, it doesn’t tell the full story. Where is Google getting the info from? It depends but much of the knowledge graph appears to be a verbatim reproduction of content from Wikipedia so the info is still Wikipedia -driven just surfaced in another environment.

    Are overall referrals to Wikipedia up or down? Google is only one source of traffic & Wikipedia is now widely acknowledged as a source of information & people are aware of them as a brand so you could also assume that more people are going through directly.

    Would be interested to see some broader data on this.

    • Virginia Cottrell

      Google is one source of traffic yes but hogs about 80% of market these days. It’s biased and a strategy to gain an extra spot on page 1.

      Noticed google + pages coming up in search results now?

  • Daniel

    Well, I am using Wikipedia and I am very satisfied with it. I think that it’s a problem Wikipedia-Google and not something SEO related. Anyway, I hope that this matter will be quickly solved.

  • Virginia Cottrell

    Well yes! Google wish to be the source of all knowledge that can be manipulated and advertised to obtain more revenue. I’ve noticed this wiki change for a year now, not just the last 3 months. But I will generally only choose the wiki as I know it’s not as commercial as the other. Have contributed to wiki funds as well via donations so we all should to keep them going #wikipedia #wiki

  • srinivas

    I aggree with you. And I found following reasons also
    Wikipedia not updating frequently.
    Google dropped Wikipedia rank for some keywords.
    People giving preference to blogs than wiki

  • Luke Shearing

    I believe it would be of value if the editor would check out the Google Developers Blog, articles on Wikipedia, and Wiki Data(Machine readable). Google Semantic search uses Wiki Data for cross platform multi lunguil semantic projection and extraction(manual input: French, Hindi and Russian). Entity extraction starts to become different when for example “Gender”, in French language affects translation. 27 countries speak French, 13 are Bi-Linguil countries that speak French as first and second language such as Canada. Even Facebook’s primitive semantics in Unicorn, Graph search rely on Wikipedia a little bit the value of this article is misleading I strongly believe so.

  • Corey

    On one hand I’m glad to see Wikipedia might be losing their stranglehold on Google searches. On the other hand, what has replaced them is – as you stated, Google is showing the answer at the top of a search without having to click through. As a user I really appreciate it. As a webmaster it’s a bummer… Unless the answer inspires a click. Interesting post.