Traffic from Google to Wikipedia is in decline and is expected to fall even further.
This may come as a surprise to many people, due to the consistently high rankings of entries from the famous online encyclopaedia that show up in many different search results.
However, Google’s “instant answers” could be one of the reasons why Wikipedia is getting less clicks, although the fall in numbers has actually been going on for some time.
Another reason for the decline in organic traffic could be more to do with the search behaviour of Google users.
Although anyone researching articles or involved in writing services may use Google to quickly find the right entry on Wikipedia, other more casual users won’t need so much detailed information.
The founder of the online encyclopaedia, Jimmy Wales, certainly thinks so: “… many folks just want date of birth, death, and a celebrity overview – rather than the generally hard-to-read, massive articles which all-too-often dominate Wikipedia… Expect Google-driven traffic to go down substantially more in future.”
Quality over quantity
There have been rumours that a Google algorithm update specifically targeted at Wikipedia was behind the latest fall in clicks, but the longer-term aspect of the trend doesn’t back these unsubstantiated claims up in any way.
Wales himself is upbeat about the situation. According to him, the company cares more about encyclopaedia quality and community issues, and the proof is that it is not dependent on clicks in the same way that sites driven by ad revenue have to be.
A “quality over quantity” approach for the ongoing strength of the Wikipedia community is clearly the aim of the company. Wales said: “… very casual users of WP are not the source of long-term volunteers,” before adding that long-term volunteers visit the site independently of Google searches.
Whatever the outcome of the decline, it certainly looks as though Wikipedia expects the trend to continue, although it is unclear as to when it thinks the fall will bottom out.