There have been a lot of rumors about the decline in traffic Google is sending Wikipedia’s way. There have been reports from SimilarWeb that Wikipedia has shown a “sudden” and “massive” decline in traffic from Google’s organic search results.
But Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, said this week that this is not a sudden or drastic drop in traffic from Google, but rather a “long-term issue with decreasing traffic from Google.”
Wales added that the SimilarWeb article also misrepresents how Wikipedia needs those clicks from Google:
“It is also false that ‘Wikipedia thrives on clicks,’ at least as compared to ad-revenue driven sites… The relationship between ‘clicks’ and the things we care about: community health and encyclopedia quality is not nothing, but it’s not as direct as some think.”
Wales seems to be correct. Wikipedia is noticing a long-term and gradual decline from Google. SearchMetrics shows this in their “SEO visibility” charts, which don’t measure traffic, but measure how visible a website is in search results:
I noticed this decline back in March, so this has been happening for a long time now.
Back in the day, Wikipedia dominated Google’s search results. It was likely the most visible site in the Google search results.
The question is, why is there a decline in Wikipedia’s traffic from Google? Some have theorized it might have to do with the Google Answer box, others say the algorithm has changed. It is hard to say for sure, but overall, it’s clear that Wikipedia is noticing a steady decline in traffic from Google.
Postscript: Based on all the news around this, Wikipedia released a PDF document discussing the reports on their Google traffic lose. The paper tries to downplay the news, saying there is no decrease in Google traffic, depending on how you look at it. Here is what they wrote:
Based on the data we have we can establish that the most obvious avenues for verifying or dismissing
SimilarWeb’s claim show no evidence that Google traffic has declined. However, we do not have the data at
our end to eliminate all avenues of possibility.
Our next work should be to reach out to Google themselves and talk to them about the data we’re seeing,
and to build out infrastructure to begin tracking metrics like this on a consistent and automated basis, rather
than relying on costly ad-hoc analysis.
I look forward to seeing more data on this from Wikipedia.