This post aims to give you some more context on why Fandom is introducing file page redirects for anonymous users (announced in today’s Tech Update). Our goal is to make search engine improvements for the content you create across Fandom and to give logged-out readers a more straightforward, satisfying experience.
As you probably know, Google not only pays attention to what is on a page, but also to how it’s presented. It looks for user-friendly pages that are easy to navigate on mobile and tends to rank these higher. The vast majority of traffic to your wikis comes from Google searches, so Fandom’s team is constantly working on making sure the great content you create is valued by Google and not falsely categorized as “low quality” for structural reasons. Late last year, we made an update to how category pages look for that same reason.
File pages (those with URLs ending in
…fandom.com/wiki/File:) are vital elements of a wiki community, used frequently by editors and play an important role on the wiki. For casual readers, however - and those make up the vast majority of people visiting your wiki - they are confusing. Visitors who land on a file page often end their visit right there because they find little information that’s meaningful to them. That’s why Google thinks file pages are “low quality” pages and doesn’t like to show them in search results. To make matters worse, this can have a negative effect of Google’s evaluation of a wiki’s content as a whole, and result in article pages being ranked lower as well.
We figured, redirecting anonymous users (which includes Google bots) from file pages to the corresponding article pages, where they can see files in context, might help solve both of these problems. We ran multiple tests to confirm this hypothesis. In the spring of this year, we tested file page redirects for several weeks on ten larger communities such as the Harry Potter Wiki and the Pokémon Wiki and indeed found that it increased the wikis’ visibility on Google overall. As we found no negative consequences, we expanded our test in September to 100 communities on many different topics, and were once again satisfied by the results.
An important point about changes we make for the sake of search engine optimization is that they’re not always about directly boosting traffic. Often, they’re about fortifying ourselves against future Google algorithm changes and making sure search engines continue to view our wikis as high-quality content sites.
That’s why we will be redirecting logged-out users on all Fandom communities to the first article page a file was used on instead of showing them the file page itself, starting tomorrow. That way, they will see context and additional information, and have a better opportunity to discover more of the great content you created. At the same time, it ensures that Google’s bots don’t get hung up on what they perceive to be “low quality” file pages.
Logged-in users are not affected by this change. The vast majority of traffic even from logged-out users falls on content pages, not file pages, so even among anonymous users, few should notice anything changed.