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What you can learn about SEO from Wikipedia’s success

This post identifies the three principles of SEO that help Wikipedia rank as the most visible site on Google, globally. And how PRs can play a role in helping their clients follow the same rules.

The latest study from our client Searchmetrics reveals that is the most visible website on Google globally, based on its search performance in ten countries (including the US, UK, Germany and France). The online dictionary has held this leadership position for international search in all three years that Searchmetrics has run the same study.

To anyone who’s familiar with the essentials of SEO, Wikipedia’s success highlights the importance of three fundamental aspects of a winning SEO strategy. Get these right, and you’ll give any website a great platform for search success. And….they are all areas that PR can help you support.

1)            Quality content kept fresh and up to date – and lots of it 

Wikipedia has a huge and growing volume of well-written content – in multiple languages – on a vast number of topics. Plus, while there might be the odd complaint about listings that are incorrect or out of date, it has very effective processes in place to ensure that content on the site is factually correct, fresh and up to date. 

If you want to win in search, your site absolutely does not have to cover every topic under the sun like an online dictionary site. But you do have to regularly churn out great content on the topics your specific audience is likely to be searching for.

Who else is more qualified to do this than your PR agency?

2)            Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks

Pretty much all SEOs agree that the number and quality of backlinks a site has pointing to it can help to boost its search performance. And Wikipedia has backlinks with bells on. After all, it is the go-to place that other websites and blogs will cite for further background on topics they’re covering – usually with a backlink. 

Google sees backlinks as a vote of confidence. So the more of them your site has (from other, good quality – and non-spammy) sites, the more trust and confidence it will have in your content.

That’s another box that’s ticked by PR folks – who effectively spend their lives building links for their clients by pitching content to relevant media and blogs.

3)            Get the user experience right!

The user experience is all about how easy it is to use and navigate a site. Is the layout and design logical? Does the way text and images are presented make it easy for visitors to absorb information without have to work too hard? And can they easily and quickly find related information?

As you’d imagine, Wikipedia firmly ticks the boxes for usability and user experience – and anyone that wants to win in search must do the same.

While PR is not directly involved in site design and layout, PR people can influence the user experience through the way they present and arrange information when creating content. For example, the way you use headings, images, bullet points, tables and internal links can all contribute to delivering a good online user experience.

There’s some debate about whether Google actually tracks and incorporates user experience metrics such as CTRs, bounce rates and time on site into its search algorithm to determine rankings.  Some experts think it does, while others don’t. Nevertheless, if you fail to deliver a good user experience, fewer people will link to your site: which indirectly will impact your rankings. So get your user experience right!

Bonuse advice: how Wikipedia content impacts Google visibility via knowledge graphs

Another learning relates to Wikipedia’s importance in Google knowledge graph integrations.

The are the boxes that Google shows at the top right-hand side of the search results in desktop searches when you type in the name of a known entity (i.e. a well known person or brand). They give you some immediate summary text and images about the entity you’re interested in.

According to research by Searchmetrics, Google regularly takes much of the information it integrates into knowledge graphs from an organisation or person’s Wikipedia listing. PRs can play an important role here by helping to ensure that Wikipedia listings for the brands they represent are accurate and up to date.