Is Wikipedia Being Hit By a Google Penalty?

Please see the updated post, including six months of data and a confirmation that Wikipedia’s traffic is indeed suffering a gradual decline.


In conjunction with my recent post on Google’s new Panda 4.2 update, I want to explore another site that seems to have been hit – though whether or not it’s from Panda is still unclear.

In the last couple of months I started to notice a rather disturbing trend: referring traffic from all Wikipedia pages to SimilarWeb started dropping. At my last analysis, I calculated that Wikipedia referral traffic dropped a whopping 40%!wikipedia google analytics

What was going on? Was it just our site that was affected, or was there something wrong with Wikipedia itself? To find out, I took a look at Wikipedia to see how their traffic was holding up.wikipedia organic search

What I saw shocked me. Wikipedia lost an insane amount of traffic in the past 3 months. And by insane I mean that the free encyclopedia site lost more than 250 million desktop visits in just 3 months!search traffic to wikipedia

As you can see from the above chart (taken from SimilarWeb PRO) the big drop can be seen coming from the branded search terms, like Facebook and Google. But it’s not just big brand names that are siffering from a drop in seach – it’s popular TV shows as well.

This has also affected our Wikipedia referral traffic, as mentioned at the beginning of the post. Our Wikipedia page used to be #2 in the SERP, now it dropped to #4 . It looks like Google is giving preference to the brand itself, as opposed to a brand’s Wikipedia page.

Now let’s have a look at Wikipedia’s outgoing links:wikipedia outgoing links

You can see from the change in traffic (marked in red to show a negative change) that –Youtube is getting 32% less traffic from Wikipedia than it was just a month ago.  Facebook is getting  9% less traffic, and Twitter is getting nearly 6% less traffic. The list goes on.


A Wikipedia-less Future?

So why is Wikipedia losing such crazy traffic? What happened? That’s the million dollar question and we still don’t know the answer (we’re working on it, though!) What started off as a personal project born out of mild curtiosity has fast become something of a puzzle we’re actively working to solve.

Wikipedia has long since been a huge competitor for brands in terms of website traffic. SEO’s aren’t crazy about it, because it takes a huge chunk of our traffic. So while this decrease in traffic is definitely a plus for the SEO community, it’s not so great for those websites relying on their Wikipedia pages to drive site traffic.

In an earlier post, our head of Marketing Communications and Education Natalie Halimi addresses the issue of why online marketers might want to donate to Wikipedia – since so much traffic comes from the free encyclopedia. But if the current trend continues, online marketers might want to save their pennies for something with more ROI (or, conversely, donate to see if that will help anything).

Whatever your feelings about the free encyclopedia, there’s definitely a downward trend which we’ll continue to analyze. We’ll keep you updated on our progress.

About the Author -

A pioneer in the field of SEO from a young age, Roy Hinkis currently serves as the Head of SEO & Digital Marketing Evangelist for SimilarWeb. He has over 10 years of experience in online marketing, with specific expertise in affiliate marketing, social media, and of course, SEO.

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