Wikipedia Tip Sheet

Wikipedia’s editors can be capricious. Links from Wikipedia to your company page don’t count for SEO. Defending an entry for a smaller company can be maddening. So why does Sterling counsel clients on creating and maintaining a presence on Wikipedia — especially when Wikipedia itself frowns on companies working on their own entries?

Search “wireless networking” or “customer relationship management” or your own company’s keyword phrase and see what Google lists at the top. Most people working for tech companies conduct online research before making a large purchasing decision. Wikipedia articles are almost always included in the search results, usually on the first page. Google drives about 50% of search engine traffic to Wikipedia. The site ranks sixth for overall website traffic, according to Alexa.

Ignore Wikipedia at your company’s peril. Here are 5 things to remember:

  1. Wikipedia has no editorial board. No editor is assigned or accountable for a particular entry. Anyone can create an article. Anyone can edit it anonymously. And even the top editors who control most of the flow are usually pseudonymous and often seem arbitrarily fastidious when revising or tagging your entries. Two guidelines, however, guide most of their work:
    • Wikipedia has “Conflict of Interest” rules to discourage self-promotion. One way editors test if an organization is “worthy” of its own entry is to see how many reliable, independent, secondary sources are already talking about the topic or organization.
    • Wikipedia strives to maintain a “neutral point of view.” Marketing claims of “best,” “greatest,” “leading,” “cutting-edge,” “state-of-the-art,” “innovative,” and so on should never make the first draft of an article. The flat, just-the-facts style is intentional.
  2. Wikipedia has strict guidelines to block organizations from writing their own profiles. From the site: “Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a vanity press, or forum for advertising or self-promotion.” It is tempting to burnish the reputation of your company or product, but if you do, you can easily be caught. Wikipedia records your IP address, and sites such as WikiScanner can track you down, even if editors or competitors don’t.
  3. Your competitors’ entries may be bigger, but their claims may be unverified. Their companies may be linked to half a dozen articles. Someone they pay may be deleting you from the site. There is nothing you can do about that. Leave your competitors alone unless they engage you in a discussion page. Focus on what you can control.
  4. Create an account. Edit articles important to your industry in which you have expertise or facts to add. Track changes in all articles of interest — including competitors — in an RSS feed reader. Develop a strategy to ensure your article is clear and accurate.
  5. Without an account, the articles you create are more likely to be flagged. On the other hand, an account with a history of neutral, non-promotional articles builds up your credibility in the eyes of Wikipedia editors, who will then be less inclined to flag your work going forward. After all, your role is to summarize, inform, and reference, not promote, whitewash, or sell.

Photo credit: Cary Bass-Deschenes