Most site owners and bloggers are eternally envious of Wikipedia, if for no other reason than the online encyclopedia’s apparent knack for showing up at or near the top of search results so frequently.
However, a new study performed by Conductor indicates that Wikipedia only ranks on the first page for 46% of keyword searches. The study was conducted using 2,000 different keywords. Conductor performed its study as a response to an Intelligent Positioning study which found that Wikipedia ranks on page 1 for 99% of searches, at least in the United Kingdom.
Noticing skepticism from other blogs such as Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land, Conductor decided to re-do the study using its own methodology.
Informational Vs. Transactional Keywords
The 46% figure represented an average for all keyword searches performed on Google. However, Conductor was interested in finding out how Wikipedia’s ranking differed depending on the query type. Conductor divided queries into two separate types: informational queries (such as “Nile river” or “Empire State building”) and transactional queries (such as “plane tickets” and “buy Playstation 3″).
As expected, Wikipedia ranks on the first page of Google much more frequently when the search query is informational – 60% of the time, to be exact. By comparison, Wikipedia only manages to show up on the first page of search results for transactional queries 34% of the time.
Perhaps the most surprising find was that Wikipedia doesn’t rank at all for 29% of all keyword searches, including 19% of informational queries and 38% of transactional queries.
At the same time, the study revealed that when Wikipedia does rank, it tends to rank very highly. Specifically, when a Wikipedia page lands on the first page of search results, there’s a 65% chance of it landing in the top three.
What Does This Mean for Your Site or Blog?
If you own a site or blog, you should take the study as an indication that while Wikipedia is indeed an SEO powerhouse, there’s still room on the market for sites specializing purely in informational content, and especially sites focused more on transactional queries.
Hopefully, the study will inspire a follow-up study looking at how Wikipedia’s ranking power varies from one search engine to the next, especially in light of the fact that Bing and Yahoo combined account for about 30% of overall search traffic.