The Future of Gamepedia
Today, we have a big announcement. After nearly two years of working together to bring Fandom and Gamepedia wikis onto one platform, we will be starting to migrate all Gamepedia wikis to a Fandom.com domain in early 2021. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the primary ones is to ensure that Gamepedia wikis and the hard work editors put into them continue to rank well in search results.
I know this is a big change, but that search result visibility makes it a necessary one. Over these two years, changes to Google’s algorithms—meaning, the secret sauce Google uses to determine how pages show up and rank in their search results—have negatively affected Gamepedia’s search engine optimization (SEO). This affects how readers, as well as future editors, find your wikis. On average, each change Google has made has reduced visibility for Gamepedia wikis by up to 10%, while boosting Fandom wikis by up to 18%. With an average of four changes per year, the total annual loss of visibility for Gamepedia wikis is staggering, making it harder for your content on Gamepedia to find an audience.
Migrating the domain is an action we are taking to resolve the risk, preempt future losses, recover some of that lost visibility, and then perhaps even grow the discoverability of your content on Gamepedia. To confirm the expected scope of the SEO impact, including its impact on incoming traffic, we will be doing a test migration of a few dozen wikis in a few weeks. For now this only impacts the domain, and is separate work to the design changes that will come in the next phase of the Unified Community Platform (UCP), some of which we’ll start to cover at the end of this announcement.
We’ve been digging deep into the SEO of Fandom and Gamepedia over the last two years. SEO, as a reminder, is the process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to web pages through search engine results. It is of vital importance for wikis, since 90% of overall wiki traffic comes from Google searches. Even before the merger of these two platforms, the Gamepedia team noticed that changes to Google’s search algorithm seemed to hurt Gamepedia wikis, while Fandom wikis did better. On average, each algorithm change results in a visibility decrease of up to 10% for Gamepedia wikis and a visibility increase of up to 18% for Fandom wikis.
The algorithm at Google is one they hold as a very closely guarded secret. How changes to it affect Fandom and Gamepedia wikis is not fully understood, but what we do know is that brand strength and domain unity can protect wikis from SEO drops and lead to SEO benefits. With these algorithm changes happening about 4 times a year, Gamepedia wikis could lose up to 40% search visibility in 2021 or gain up to 70% visibility by migrating to Fandom URLs. The initial migration tests will help us narrow down that number, become more exact over time, and understand the associated traffic impact. For context, with the Wikia.com to Fandom.com domain migrations in 2018, we saw the test communities begin to gain search authority and ranking within 8 weeks. That migration continues to undo the damage of Google’s major 2018 algorithm change, which disfavored the Wikia domain while favoring Fandom. It will take testing to know for sure, but we expect similar results for Gamepedia and Fandom domains.
You can see that illustrated in the graph on the right:
Part of the reason why Fandom does better with SEO than Gamepedia is the difference in size and the breadth of the platform and brand, AKA brand strength. Fandom encompasses the universe of fan interests, including but not just limited to video games. Even though gaming is nearly half of our traffic, association with non-gaming content of interest to fans is huge for surfacing gaming wikis in search results. Even prior to Fandom and Curse merging, Curse was beginning to explore the possibility of expanding beyond just Gamepedia for wikis, recognizing the potential of a broader approach (think Animepedia or Moviepedia). Additionally, the average fan is 2.5 times more likely to know what Fandom is, compared to Gamepedia, based on market research of comparative brand awareness we performed this spring with surveys to Fandom and Gamepedia readers and editors. We are also working on ways to better recommend wikis based on interests, as announced last year.
For these reasons, we made the decision to move Gamepedia wikis to Fandom URLs. The process will begin with a test batch of wikis migrating later this month, a monitoring period to confirm the SEO impact, as well as improvements to our migration process and then the remainder of the wikis migrating in early 2021. No editor or admin preparation is required for these changes. It is entirely our responsibility.
In cases where there is a conflict between wiki names, we will be making subdomain changes. For a community that was part of Project Crossover, like Fallout, the combined wiki will remain as fallout.fandom.com, while the archived Gamepedia wiki will become fallout-archive.fandom.com when it migrates. Likewise, for a crossed-over community like Magic: The Gathering, the combined wiki will migrate from mtg.gamepedia.com to mtg.fandom.com while mtg-archive.fandom.com will be the new home of the archived wiki on Fandom. For communities which have not crossed over, either due to their decision not to do so or their crossover not being completed, staff will be selecting subdomain names, mostly based on traffic data over the past 3 months. There will be a list of these changes available when they are ready. For non-English Gamepedia wikis, they will be transitioned to the Fandom domain structure, like fallout.fandom.com/de instead of the Gamepedia style of “<game name>-<language code>” in the subdomain. Based on our Wikia.com to Fandom.com migration experience, we expect that some wikis may experience a loss in SEO caused by content formatting issues. We are committing that our teams will help those wikis take steps to reverse those negative SEO impacts if they happen. Gamepedia URLs will correctly redirect to the new wiki URLs on Fandom.
Project Crossover wasn’t started because of domain migrations, though it certainly reduced the number of potential community conflicts dramatically. Its origins were back in late 2018, two days after the Fandom and Curse merger was announced. Teams from both platforms met in-person at the Curse office to begin the process of merging our two companies together, long-time competitors in the gaming wiki space. Fandom’s approach was an entire universe of wikis for every interest that anyone can make, while Curse curated Gamepedia for specific games that a dedicated team thought had potential and nurtured. Reconciling those two approaches would take a massive effort, but each approach and each platform had really great pieces.
From the first day of meetings, an opportunity emerged—an opportunity recommended by the Gamepedia team to demonstrate our commitment to getting things right as a joint platform. That opportunity was: what if we could get wikis from each platform that covered the same game to combine their efforts, take the best of their content, and work together on one wiki? The answer to that question was Project Crossover, a nearly two year journey involving editor teams coming together and, in some cases, burying long-running feuds in order to best serve their communities. It has been a big success, with lots of wikis “crossed over” to one platform or the other. Project Crossover wasn’t conceived with a domain migration in mind, but it has helped make it possible.
Even with crossovers and a domain migration, honoring the Gamepedia brand is incredibly important to us. Later on in the process, Gamepedia wikis will end up receiving Fandom branding, but with special visual recognition as originally being a Gamepedia community. Such branding will be exclusive to these communities and is still being developed. It was crucial to us that even with the retirement of Gamepedia as a standalone site, we continue to honor the importance and identity of the Gamepedia brand spirit and legacy on our shared domain. We’ll be sharing our progress along the way to ensure your voice is heard in the development of the continued Gamepedia identity.
The Gamepedia approach to wikis, with its strong focus on editor needs and community support, is not going away. It is reflected in the way we act as a company. Much of Gamepedia’s thinking has been embraced by the larger Fandom wiki organization, and the legacy of putting fan communities first will persist. Jessica “Alianin” Clifford, the long-time Product Manager for Gamepedia, is now in charge of editor and admin experiences for the combined platform’s Product team, bringing that editor focus to the larger community. Game Widow is already the overall Gaming Wiki Lead for both Fandom and Gamepedia, managing an incredible team of Wiki Managers to support our editor community. That team, by the way, was the inspiration for the other wiki teams! And, as I’m sure you’re aware by now, I have been the Global Community Lead for Fandom and Gamepedia since 2019. Gamepedia’s approach is core to our work and the viewpoints of our editors are represented well. From admin-facing analytics, to persistent editor and staff chat, to the focus on keeping pace with MediaWiki, a lot of what Gamepedia did best has been adopted by Fandom.
Looking forward, Gamepedia wikis will be the first to get new designs as part of what you know as UCP Phase 2. A refresh of mobile experiences, designed to be more user-friendly and performant, will arrive as an opt-in test in the next few months before going wide to all users. Mobile changes are coming first because mobile users make up the majority of readers, but a lower percentage of editors. That being the first refresh makes the most sense for both our readers and our editors. I cannot wait to show you what the team has been working on. Prior to the opt-in release, we will be showcasing design mocks that will be open for community feedback so we can hear your good ideas and hear what you think. As promised with the Unified Community Platform project, the unified design work will leverage the best features from both platforms.
I am sure you have a lot of questions and I will do my very best to answer what I can. This is a really emotional announcement, even for me to make, but I am confident that the legacy of Gamepedia is properly respected while we do what’s best to make sure that readers continue to find your incredible content.
To help with your questions, Becky Westmoreland, our Director of SEO, will join a special Gamepedia SEO channel on Discord, complete with an hour-long Gamepedia SEO Checkpoint voice chat on Thursday, November 12th. Additionally, Stephanie Fried, our Chief Marketing Officer, will be our November Discord AMA guest, to answer all your questions about domain migration and branding. That session will be at 4pm US Eastern on November 13th. In the next month or so, we’ll have additional sessions discussing upcoming work on designs and tools.
The following URL changes will be made as part of the test batch this month:
Gamepedia → Fandom
Fandom → Fandom