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Wikipedia Case Study – 8 Tips for Optimizing Technical Terms

There are various assumptions as to why Wikipedia usually appears in search results, often in 1st place. The reasons range from an extremely strong domain authority to good internal linking, leading to preference by Google.

A factor that seems most likely is the ongoing work since 2001 on articles that, in scope and content, frequently look for similar pages and follow the criteria of a good OnPage optimization.

Tip 1: Expand and Constantly Update your Content to Cement 1st Place

Of course, Wikipedia no longer has a chance at 1st place for the keyword VPN with the 243 words from the year 2004. The content had over 4,000 words almost 10 years later, and it has not become longer since then, but has constantly changed. The encyclopedia is in 1st place for this keyword without variation. Would this ranking have stayed if the content had not been edited over the years?

vpn-textlaengen-entwicklung-wikipedia Wikipedia Case Study

Figure 1: Development of the text lengths on the topic of VPN by Wikipedia

The revision history where you can see which areas have been reworked is also interesting.

In practice, you will probably run up against the following problems if you want to maintain your content regularly:

  • Which writer gladly updates an outdated story and adds new facts?

  • Who would happily plan a budget for the updating and completing of content instead of for creating new texts?

  • Which site operators have sufficient mechanisms installed that allow for a structured procedure?

  • Which agency actively sells content maintenance?

This ongoing scepticism and the lacking processes provide you with a great opportunity to be one step ahead of your competitors.

Tip 2: Name Synonyms Directly at the Beginning

This usually means incorporating synonyms, colloquialisms, and technical terms into a subordinate clause. It is seldom made clear whether the words used in the text are really synonymous, where the terminology comes from, and where the thematic limitations for the respective article lie. This offers potential for questions to be raised in the reader's mind, and you should therefore clarify them as far as possible at the beginning of a text.

Example: The Broad Bean and its Synonyms

In a text, instead of mentioning a broad bean in one instance, and then calling it a field bean, and then a fava bean, these terms, which all mean the same thing, should be listed at the beginning. Naming the important keywords at the beginning of the text not only helps with the ranking, but also helps the reader. If you search for the term fava bean and come to the page, you know immediately that you are in the right place and that the terms can be used synonymously.

Tip 3: Remove Double Meanings and Rank, Even for Unclear Keywords

It doesn't always have to be a long text! For keywords with more than one meaning, it is also possible to observe these separately and to ask the user for which meaning he or she was searching. Wikipedia names this a term clarification page.

Example: Heartbeat or Cardiac Cycle?

Wikipedia ranks in 1st place for the keyword heartbeat and offers the choice of cardiac cycle and muscles of the heart as well as various other meanings for the term heartbeat.

Wikipedia_figure_3 Wikipedia Case Study

Figure 2: Development of disambiguation pages for heartbeat

Tip 4: Wikipedia Shows You What Belongs to a Topic and What is Unique

Everyone speaks about holistic content and topics instead of keywords. But what is a topic? Where does it begin and where does it end? Wikipedia helps you to evaluate which aspects you can build for your own site.

With the SEO glasses, you ask yourself not only what makes topical sense, but also what can be optimized on a site and what can achieve page 1 rankings. In addition, you can have a look at the search results on the most important keywords of partial aspects of a topic. If the same URLs hereby rank for various topics, separate pages make little sense. Wikipedia is a good measure here - if even Wikipedia has not managed to rank top with the same article for your keywords, it will be difficult for you to achieve a top ranking with this topic.

Example 1: Separate Articles for Larger, Definable Partial Areas

Would you view advanced product quality planning as an aspect of quality management and therefore treat it in the same article? On Wikipedia, this element of quality management has its own article. You will see from the rankings that this is right; 1st place for advanced product quality planning and 1st place for quality management, each with its own article.

Example 2: Find Content Gaps

Wikipedia sees experimental typography as a part of typography. That is perhaps not wrong, but no significant ranking is achieved. While Wikipedia is ranked in 1st place for typography, the domain of experimental typography is found only on page 2. If you would like to find experimental typography, you should create a page for it and not handle it as a partial aspect of the overarching topic.

Screen-Shot-2017-08-08-at-10.03.51 Wikipedia Case Study

Figure 3: Experimental typography as a partial aspect

Example 3: Rank With the Same Page

If Wikipedia can rank several areas of a topic with one URL, this is a good sign. Feeding or breeding of panda bears, for example, are aspects that Wikipedia treats in the same article and is thus also found to be successful. It is different with the differentiation between large and small panda bears. Hence, there is a separate article on the small panda bear.

Tip 5: Explain and Secure your Featured Snippets

When it comes to the integration of Featured Snippets in the search results, Wikipedia is very successful. In addition to other factors, the fact that Wikipedia works with several concise definitions plays an important role. In case you’re thinking that any kind of rubbish can rank as a Featured Snippet, you should consider that even white writing on a white background has ranked well ;-)

In your content regarding informative search inquiries, try to get to the point in a straightforward manner. Frequently, for search inquiries with words such as comparison, different, lists or definition, Featured Snippets are featured. Here, you can show that you’ve researched sufficiently and invested a lot of thought in the topic, or that you are a true expert.

Example: Social Proof or Social Influence?

Figure_5_social_proof_social_influence Wikipedia Case Study

Figure 4: Featured Snippet integration for Social Proof or Social Influence

Wikipedia establishes that Social Proof and (informative) Social Influence can be used synonymously.

Tip 6: Spend More Time Structuring and Produce Good User Signals

Once you have established the structure of a text, you've done 50% of the work.

Wikipedia observes the following rules, unlike many texts written for search engines:

  • Define in the introduction what the text is about, and lay out the important aspects. This way, the user will know that they are looking at the right page, and that you are handling the topic they searched for.

  • For longer pages, give the user an opportunity to see at a glimpse what the article contains with a table of contents. The user will therefore see straightaway that they will find all the information they need on your site and will not have to search further, whilst at the same time they will be able to quickly navigate to the information they need.

  • Don't promise anything in the subheadings that is not contained in the following paragraph. That way you will avoid frustration, lower the bounce rate and increase the number of returning users.

  • Show where you have obtained the information and link to trustworthy sources. This shows competence and supports your ranking.

  • Don't constantly repeat yourself.

Tip 7: Information Does not Need Banners

How often do you read the sayings in sliders that take up the entire upper screen area on websites? Or how often do you look through the slides? When you are looking for information, you scroll through such web designer signs quickly and look for whether something is usable below.

Text above the fold is heavily weighted by search engines. Therefore, do as Wikipedia does, and promote content that offers added value instead of banner blindness.

Tip 8: Use Knowledge Graph Entities

In the presentation of definitions as a part of the knowledge graph, Wikipedia is quasi-monopolist. However, the knowledge graph nevertheless allows itself to be used for the OnPage optimization of technical terms.

The knowledge graph consists of entities that relate to one another. In the section people also search for, Google shows some of these.

Knowledge_graph_tip_8 Wikipedia Case Study

For copper, for example, Google shows these 12 entities:

  • Metal

  • Brass

  • Bronze

  • Tin

  • Lead

  • Steel

  • Stainless Steel

  • Cobalt

  • Water

  • Wire

  • Titanium

  • Glass


If you're optimizing toward non-commercially-oriented keywords, Wikipedia can help you to delimit your topic. If you would like to obtain Featured Snippet integration, you should also take a look at the encyclopedia, for example, for the handling of double meanings and the constant expansion of contents. What have you already learned about Wikipedia, or do you think the domain is a special case that offers no orientation for SEO practice?

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Published on Aug 7, 2017 by Leonard Metzner