Alister Cameron // Blogologist

Changing the world. One blog(ger) at a time.

Linking to Wikipedia is lazy and a disservice to someone else who really deserves the link!

No unfair linking to Wikipedia!Imagine you’re Google for a moment (I accept that’s not an easy challenge!). Your job is to do the “right” job and fairly and wisely and correctly rank web pages from all across the internet on any given search term. What a job!

So you refine, refine, refine and refine some more a funky-as “algorithm” that does that job for you, and as most of us SEO-type people know, you rely pretty heavily on incoming links to determine what pages have what “authority” against a given keyword or phrase…. so far so good.

At one extreme is that category of search terms which has been “SEO-ed to hell”, like:

These are among the kinds of search terms where the SEO companies like to show off their skills, because these terms are either very hard to SEO, or aggressively sought-after, or it’s clear that the top (say) 20 Google results are all backed by explicit and determined SEO work.

But there’s another category of “term” that I’m really concerned about, where bloggers like you and me have a significant and rarely talked about onus of responsibility. These are the terms where someone out their is deserving of a link, because they either deserve to “own” that term in the SERPs, or they have added something significant to the meaning or development of that terms or subject-matter.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

  • social media optimization
    Rohit Bhargava is rightly credited with coining this term and promoting its use aggressively. So he deserves (I think) the first position in Google, as indeed I think he deserves the link when you and I write this term into a blog post and want to link to somewhere for it. And sure enough, Google gives him that first place of honour. Yay.
  • asset based community development
    This is an approach to community development made popular by a couple of guys at Northwestern… and sure enough Google honours them with first position. Yay again.
  • email spam
    First result here goes to Wikipedia. Is that because no-one “owns” that term, so we should default to the Wikipedia entry? Personally, I think the site probably deserves more recognition than its current 5th positition. It’s has massive pedigree, age, authority in the industry, etc.
  • identity theft
    The US Government has the first position on this keyword phrase, an impressively accomplished attorney called Mari Frank has second position and Wikipedia comes in third. My guess is Wikipedia is on the rise here, as it is in most places.
  • wearable computer
    There are a number of university “labs” dedicated to this subject, most notably MIT’s, and yet Wikipedia holds first position on this term. MIT comes in third at the moment.

OK, so here’s my issue, and it’s to do with the way I suspect most bloggers write posts — not all, just most, including yours truly…

We know it’s good blogging practice to apply links to key terms and phrases we use; we thus enrich our posts with links to content that help the uninformed reader dig deeper… it’s just a good and nice thing to do. But my fear is that as Wikipedia entries “rise to the top” of Google rankings (in particular), bloggers will link to those pages more and more, over and against other, perhaps more deserving pages, because we tend to go for the first result of a Google search when we go looking for someone to link to.

I want to suggest this may be a) laziness and b) ripping off a more deserving (than Wikipedia) website of a link.

My request and challenge is therefore this: in your blogging, as you come across the need for external links to this and that issue/subject/term, please think carefully that you are at that moment making an IMPORTANT decision… you’re ultimately determine the search rankings for those keywords in the search engines! Yes you are!

So please STOP “defaulting” to a Wikipedia entry just because, either:

  • you can’t be bothered finding out who else is richly deserving of that link; or
  • your habit of finding a link is to grab whatever Google lists at Number One (too often Wikipedia, in my opinion).

As an important aside, I think this “defaulting” to Wikipedia is the world’s most brilliant SEO strategy ever, and I just don’t think it’s deserving of it (that’s a whole other story).

Meanwhile, if you come across Google search results that you think enfairly favour Wikipedia over against a more deserving website or blog, leave a comment linking to that search on Google. Maybe they’ll come over here and have a look 🙂

blogging, deep-thoughts, seo, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, linking, wikipedia, google, serps, search results, search rankings


Note: Commenter website links are not no-followed, in case
you were wondering... I believe in rewarding commenters!

  1. James Kircher
    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    Wikipedia is often deserving of a link. Information is only as good as the way it’s presented, and I must say that too many websites are horridly laid out. I would link to wikipedia purely because of it’s efficient layout. ie it’s easy to read, and you are guaranteed not to be bombarded by ads, invitations to join the site, flash animations, pop-ups and other annoyances. If everyone who had something to say chose to display their information in an easy to read or standardised manner, perhaps then they would be more deserving of a link. Wikipedia is just too reliable for those who want their information right in their face.

    Otherwise I tend to agree with what you have said.

  2. Posted 9 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    First of all, I love your site. Very nice.

    I find it weird that everyone seems to agree with you on this issue, though. I find myself unconvinced. I honestly don’t give a hoot about being “fair” to certain web sites or that Wikipedia is being ranked “too high.”

    Wikipedia gets ranked high for a reason. The articles usually have good accuracy (it depends on the profile of the article, but I can confirm the math and science articles tend to be quite good), they are well laid-out, they give a succinct overview of the topic, and they provide external links and references to learn more. I like finding Wikipedia articles at the top of my searches. Yes you have to take what you read with a grain of salt, but that applies to all sources. Knowing the credentials of a particular writer is historically a highly imperfect defence against wrong information.

    I found your blog while doing some research to try and make a middleware for my Django blog to automate making links to Wikipedia – so I’m firmly on the dark side :). Of course, absolutely nobody reads my blog so maybe I should care after all lol.

  3. Posted 9 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Wikipedia ranks for some insane terms with very sub par content. Although there is definitely some very solid content on Wikipedia, there is no reason to feed this beast that everyone has decided is God of information. They are like Google in this regard – People believe that they are the all knowing heart of the web, when they simply throw up crap and call it gold now that they have an insanely powerful brand. /rant

  4. Posted 9 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    I think some of Wikipedia is good. I will never forget though the one time I took the time to apply as an editor and learn how to add to pages. I have a doctorate degree, years of work experience and some fairly specific knowledge in certain areas, so I thought here’s a page that I can… not really so much correct but clarify a great deal by adding just a couple of sentences. It took me a bit to learn to do this edit, and I felt good having given something back. The next day I looked at the page while logged in and saw the previous editor of the page undid all of it. I went to the editor profile and saw what looked like a young kid sitting in a dorm room with a lot of stuffed toys on the dorm room bed in the editor profile picture. I won’t waste my time again. Wikipedia is just as good as the editors of the page you land on. Maybe good enough, maybe not. I guess accuracy is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. Posted 9 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    Good post. Totally agree with you. I never link to them.

  6. Son of Torkel
    Posted 8 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Linking to Wikipedia is a good choice, when you put your readers first, because Wikipedia is easy to read, in a format consistent across ALL of its pages, doesn’t have annoying ads, and (as someone said) its links never change.

    I could go on and on about the reliability of Wikipedia being greater than what most people think. It has moderators, vandalism is removed almost instantly for most articles, and some common sense will tell you that moose do not “breathe fire” as you’re skimming the article about the Moose. The important information in an article always cites its source, or else a note is placed that asks for a source.

  7. Posted 4 years, 3 months ago // Permalink

    I never even heard of this technique and now reading this I won’t even use it :))

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] good reasons to stop linking to Wikipedia as much. I grudgingly (because it’s more work for me) agree with his reasoning on the matter. […]

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