Wikipedia and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) / Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

By Eric Goldman

As regular readers know, this is one of my favorite topics! In December 2005 (and renewed December 2006), I predicted that marketers would overrun Wikipedia, contributing to Wikipedia’s demise. As further evidence of this effect, Danny Sullivan’s new search engine marketing conference had a panel devoted to marketing via Wikipedia–and the session was “completely packed.” From the recap:

With over 1.7 million articles in English alone, it is clear why the site ranks so well. And as the equation goes, with visibility comes pageviews, and with pageviews come marketers. Yet search engine marketers have been particularly fond of Wikipedia for an entirely different reason: its page rank. That is, until Wikipedia implemented a no-follow rule, indicating that outbound links should not be followed by search engine spiders. One would think that this move would kill all interest in Wikipedia’s value to the SEO crowd, yet a link is still a link, and many search engine marketers have realized that capitalizing on the original intent of a link (to secure traffic) can be just as good, if not better, than securing PageRank. (emphasis added)

For example, Comedy Central gets 90,000 visitors/month from Wikipedia, making it a top 10 referral source for them.

As for Wikipedia’s future, the recap suggests that “it appears that optimizing a Wikipedia article internally and externally has become more important than optimizing one’s own site.” Sounds to me like the future will include plenty of marketers swarming all over Wikipedia! Dedicated Wikipedians are standing tall against the challenge for now..but for how long?