Jason Lee Miller knocked my socks off with this article on Encyclopedia Brittanica’s president Jorge Cauz’s disrespect for Wikipedia’s democratic nature. And, I must say, he’s right on the money. This paragraph from the article sums it up succinctly:
”In order to compete with Wikipedia in the Google SERP, Britannica needs to build up inbound links. If content is locked up behind the paid content walls, people will be much more likely to link to other websites with free content (such as that available on Wikipedia).”
Thanks Heather Hopkins of Hitwise.
Cauz has a point when he says that Wikipedia’s information is less reliable than Britannica’s, but the problem for Britannica is that Wikipedia is free. And no one is going to link to information that must be paid for to be viewed. That’s not Wikipedia’s fault and it’s not Google’s fault. That’s Britannica’s fault.
The next time you want to whine that Wikipedia dominates the search results, think about Britannica. Think about how great their print product is. Think about how awesome their online product probably is. Do you use it? No? Why not? Because it’s not free, right? Why pay for information that you can get for free somewhere else. And not just at Wikipedia. Practically everything that you’ll find in Britannica can be found somewhere online for free. For most of the citizens of the web, if it’s at least 75% accurate then that’s OK.
Inbound links count. A lot. And that’s why Wikipedia is doing so well in the SERPs. People are linking to it. Why? Because it’s free. Britannica doesn’t have to compromise the value and strength of its product in order to provide free information that outdoes Wikipedia. They could charge advertisers a premium advertising price based on the traffic to each listing. How big a website is Britannica anyway? I’m betting that it’s huge.
Offering user-generated content isn’t the answer. Going free is the answer. Not only would Britannica get more respectable search listings, more inbound links, and more traffic if it offered itself to the world for free, but they’d probably make more money too. If you want to know why Wikipedia is beating Britannica at the search engine optimization game, well, it’s because Britannica leaders don’t understand the game and Wikipedia’s leaders do. So there.