Practical Ecommerce

SEO: Can Wikipedia Help Your Business?

In Google, Wikipedia is everywhere. Pretty much anything you type into Google seems to result in a Wikipedia entry being returned as a top-10 result. Wikipedia’s status in the search engines as an “authority site” is undisputed. Those lucky, well-connected, skillful or famous enough to be cited enjoyed the benefits of Wikipedia’s unique “golden link effect.”

Then a new policy instituted in January changed all that. As a countermeasure to thwart spammers competing in an SEO contest, all external links within Wikipedia were “nofollowed.” This effectively cut off the outward flow of “link juice” (PageRank) to websites referenced in Wikipedia.

Still an important component

Despite this setback, Wikipedia remains an important component to your SEO strategy. Firstly, having a Wikipedia entry for your company that shows up in the search results lends credibility to your organization. Secondly, if high rankings for a competitive keyword prove elusive, you can get Wikipedia into the top 10 with relative ease. Of course it would only be of benefit to do so if the entry referenced you or linked to you, or if you wanted to displace competitors or pages that were unflattering or critical of you.

Some SEOs may feel inclined to contribute edits on behalf of their clients. However, that’s a practice frowned upon by the Wikipedia editor community, as is editing or contributing entries that are about your own organization. One of Wikipedia’s core policies is that articles must be written from a neutral point of view.

SEO consultant Jonathan Hochman has edited Wikipedia since 2005 and counts more than a thousand edits under his belt. Rather than doing the job for clients, he participates in Wikipedia for recreation and making friends. While he believes that Wikipedia’s policy of restricting contributions to disinterested parties is not particularly pragmatic, he advocates the overall objective: To make valuable, notable contributions from as neutral a point of view as is possible, incorporate reliable sources, and never permit spam.

Beware of related parties

Commissioning others to contribute to Wikipedia on your behalf has its hazards, as does editing Wikipedia yourself. Countless entries get deleted when it is discovered they were started by an employee or company representative. Microsoft was admonished for its recent attempt to pay a blogger to make edits to the entry on the subject of Open XML.

Does all this mean you’re doomed to wait indefinitely for some disinterested third party to spontaneously start an entry about you or link to you from an existing entry? That doesn’t seem desirable either. Doing nothing will gain you nothing. You need to get involved. But how?

On Wikipedia, reputation is everything. A central tenet is to become an upstanding member of the Wikipedia community. Do this by building a solid history of edits that aren’t self-serving. Engage with Wikipedians through your Talk page, their Talk page, the Talk pages of entries you wish to contribute to, and The Village Pump. Creating an informative User page can build credibility and boost social networking, too.

When someone reverts your edit, ask them for clarification. What could you do differently so that you address his/her concerns (via the aforementioned Talk pages).

The notability test

Make sure any new entry you contribute passes the “notability” test and include the references to back it up — from the get-go. Good references are articles from the mainstream media that are available online; an out-of-print or registration-required article may be acceptable, but it’s not ideal.

If the entry is for a person, being an author really helps with notability; Hochman advises referencing their book’s ISBN number to support your case for notability. If the entry is for your company, a press mentions page on your website where you link to all the different media coverage you ever received will also make it easy for Wikipedians to establish your level of “notability.” The best references, according to Hochman, are those that do fact-checking and maintain editorial control and independence from the source.

If you want to add a link to an entry, it’s preferable to add it to the References section rather than to the External Links section, as it’s more likely to stick around and not get reverted. If you do add a reference, make sure it substantiates a statement made in the main body of the article. Avoid adding links where registration is required to access the content, as that will be removed or flagged as spam.

Wikipedia sister sites like Wikinews should be on your radar too, as the sites interlink and achieve visibility in their own right.

Don’t add photos to entries that are not Creative Commons (commercial use) licensed; they will be removed because of copyright infringement.

Hochman suggests monitoring entries that are important to you by way of the “watch” function within Wikipedia. When you log in, you will be alerted to any changes that have been made to those entries.

It’s wise to use categories and add entries to relevant categories, because links are part of the category pages.

Build relationships with Wikipedia editors in the real world. For example, if there is a Wikipedia “meet-up” in your city, it might be worth your while to attend.

After adding a new entry, build up its PageRank with internal links from other Wikipedia pages including, if relevant, other entries, [“category pages”] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Technologycompanies’ title=’Category Pages Example’).

Most of the time you will want to be logged in, so that your edits become part of your viewable contribution history. However, there may be times where it would be appropriate to be logged out and only known as by your IP address, for example, if you edit a controversial page.

Hochman cautions that, as a Wikipedia newbie, you shouldn’t just jump into a high profile entry and start editing. Cut your teeth on less-scrutinized entries. Similarly, as a newbie you shouldn’t put an entry you create into a high-profile category; high-profile categories are monitored by a lot of people.

A final caution from Hochman: Wikipedia is not a place for original thought, but a place where you consolidate what has already been published elsewhere.

Now get out there and start contributing.

Stephan Spencer

Stephan Spencer

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  1. Legacy User February 15, 2007 Reply

    I wonder if it's possible to add an 'Add to Wikipedia' button to your page, much like the Digg buttons we see everwhere. lol.

    — *heather paquinas*

  2. Legacy User February 15, 2007 Reply

    Stephan, these are all good points, but it would take literally months and months to implement properly. In the meantime, I'm co-developing a wiki site that WELCOMES entrepreneurs and companies to post their Wikipedia-style entries. And, if the contributor wants, he/she can even "protect" the content from further community editing. And, because we've implemented semantic tagging in this new directory, we're actually proving that we can "outrank" Wikipedia on identical listings on specific geographic- or industry-related search terms. If you and your readers are interested, check us out at Centiare.com.

    — *Gregory Kohs*

  3. Legacy User August 5, 2007 Reply

    Can I get my law firm listed in wikipedia?

    — *Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer Mike Ehline*

  4. Legacy User April 12, 2008 Reply

    I am a bit confused by this new policy and I am wondering if those things on Wikipedia that went up before January were grandfathered in even though they don't fit the new regulations. Is that the case?

    I ask because as the director of a non-profit educational corporation, I have been asked by many of those using our unique work to put something up on Wikipedia. When I finally found the time to do so, it was rejected. Yet I see very similar articles on comparable methodologies (such as Waldorf and Montessori). And I even see many on particular schools that are clearly advertising as they have no original curriculum or methodology or reason to be of general interest.

    So, what can I do to meet the requests of parents using the Enki Education model and also to let others know of this work. It is a 501 (c) (3) and therefore not owned by anyone.

    Any guidance on understanding why both Waldorf and Montessori methodology have pages and Enki Education was rejected, would be much appreciated.

    Beth Sutton, M.Ed., Director
    Enki Education, Inc.
    bas@enkieducation.org
    http://www.enkieducation.org

    — *Beth Sutton*

  5. Legacy User June 14, 2008 Reply

    Thank you Mr. Spencer, for this article. Unfortunately, I have experienced the ugly side of Wikipedia, and have trouble recommending it in environments such as Beth, above me, would like to use it. In Beth's case, she is about to clash with a force at Wikipedia. I don't know how common this type of thing is – but since Beth happened to bring it up here – perhaps what I'm about to describe is relevant to the dynamics here. In Beth's case, her only problem is

    Hi Beth, I recommended your school system today (I hope you're the real deal). I'm a critic of Waldorf education. I'm also unable to post on Wikipedia so I'm a soon-to-be critic of Wikipedia.

    You are ABSOLUTELY correct, there is NO difference between your school system and Waldorf (I can't speak to Montessori). Waldorf is 501 (c) (3)… there is no reason you shouldn't be allowed to post your article. So why can't you? Here's my guess… You were HONEST. You are not supposed to produce an article about your own organization. I'll bet you were identified as who you were. On Wikipedia, the way to go is, pseudonyms.

    It's pretty common knowledge among almost anyone who has edited there, that Wikipedia has systemic problem that can be traced back to immature and paranoid administrators, moderators and arbitrators (Mr. Spencer didn't mention in his article, that when getting along with the editors doesn't work – these are the next line of defense). Where this becomes evident is when editors go through the motions described in the article above and established themselves among the Wikipedia mods. They begin to gain some "clout" – everybody probably says – "who cares". Please hang with me here…

    Waldorf Education articles on Wikipedia including any article remotely connected to anything relating to Anthroposophy are currently controlled by a small group of Waldorf teachers and Waldorf activists – names you would recognize if you have spent time in Waldorf circles (and I know you have) – but using pseudonyms in most cases (one guy uses his real name and the administrators know he is a Waldorf teacher but see nothing wrong with him completely controlling the articles about Waldorf education – that's how it works there). Anyone looking at any Waldorf, Steiner, Anthroposophy, Eurythmy etc. etc. article will notice, by looking at the edit history, the very same 4 or 5 names controlling those articles with heavy-handed editing. At last count, there were around 35 articles I counted that were being spawned and controlled by this small group (as part of their Anthroposophical missionary work). Wikipedia is a Waldorf project. One cannot say anything critical of Waldorf on Wikipedia. In fact, they even control the articles of groups (such as PLANS) who are critical of Waldorf.

    My long overdue point is, it would not surprise me if they are able to influence your ability to post your article there (they were able to get me kicked off for trying to bring some neutrality to the Waldorf articles which read like brochures) – especially if you selected a user name that identified you as yourself. You are competing with people doing missionary work on Wikipedia… and they have nothing but time on their hands… which brings us to…

    The other problem – which is is, (and this is quite a common problem on Wikipedia on ANY controversial topic), if you DO get to post something on Wikipedia, be prepared to defend it daily because you will be representing competition to the Waldorf crowd. They don't like that. That's why no critical edits make it into the Waldorf articles. Editors who put in something critical must either stand by and defend it or see it removed. That might be another point for the article – If you have someone put something on Wikipedia about your company – be prepared to have the content checked regularly. Wikipedia is not like posting an ad – your competitors have access to your copy… just sayin'.

    Pete Karaiskos

    — *Pete Karaiskos*