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Wikipedia and You: Best Practices For Businesses and Marketers

July 24, 2007

Wikipedia and You: Best Practices For Businesses and Marketers

Marketing Guru Joe Vitale is excited to find an entry on himself in Wikipedia. Who wouldn’t be happy to find themselves listed in the world’s most widely read encyclopedia?

Joe suggests to his readers that “It might be a sound marketing move to list you, your product or service on Wikipedia”. While that may be a good idea for some business owners, it may not be right for everyone. It may seem counter-intuitive, but, a listing in Wikipedia isn’t always a good thing.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind to ensure that your Wikipedia entry is an asset and not a liability:

  • Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules. There are a few guidelines that determine what sort of content stays in Wikipedia and what gets removed by the army of volunteers who edit the site on a daily basis.Before creating an entry for your product or service, be sure the entry meets the notability requirement. Generally speaking, “a topic is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject.” While this isn’t a problem for an internet superstar like Joe, many new products and services may not yet qualify as notable. While it’s true that you can add anything to Wikipedia, chances are an editor will pull your entry if you aren’t notable. Worse yet, you risk offending the Wikipedia community who may consider your entry to be a form of spam. The last thing any of us want is to be accused of spamming.

    If you meet the notability requirement, be sure to write your entry from a Neutral Point of View (NPOV). Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales refers to the NPOV rule as “absolute and non-negotiable.” Be aware that, if your entry isn’t written from a NPOV, someone else will very likely modify it to conform with the rule. Given the opportunity, most of us would prefer to draft our own copy rather than have a stranger redraft the copy on our behalf.

  • Prepare to lose control. Once your entry is in Wikipedia anyone can update or modify it. Unlike your own website, you won’t have the final word on how your information is presented.
  • You may already be listed. There are millions of entries in Wikipedia, with thousands of new pages being added every day. Joe was surprised to find his entry, and you may be surprised to find that your name, product, or service is already listed without your knowledge. If that’s the case, it raises a few questions — who wrote the article and what did they say about you?Whether you plan on creating your own Wikipedia entry or not, ALL businesses should make an effort to monitor Wikipedia for mentions of their company name, key employees, brand names, and service offerings. Depending on the nature of your business monitoring Wikipedia could be as important as monitoring references to your business in the mainstream media and the blogosphere (you do monitor blogs, don’t you?).

    The fact that anyone can create or modify a Wikipedia entry means that your entry could be modified by an unhappy customer, or worse, an unethical competitor. As a result you’ll want to monitor your entries for any misleading or inaccurate information, and promptly make corrections when justified. This is an area where the NPOV rule can really work to your advantage — you can use the rule to ensure that your Wikipedia entry is a fair and balanced account of your business.

  • Consider how your listing will affect your Google ranking. Are you currently number one for the name, word, or phrase that would also be the title of your Wikipedia entry? If so, are you prepared to lose your top ranking to Wikipedia? It could happen. It’s well known that Google favors sites that it considers to be authoritative. Few sites are as authoritative as Wikipedia. Wikipedia ranks number one on Google for many popular search phrases.As I’ve noted, you don’t have the same level of control over your Wikipedia entry that you have over your own website. With that in mind, consider the possible issues that may arise if your Wikipedia entry were to outrank you on Google.
  • Sometimes a link is better than an dedicated entry. In the past, search engine experts have encouraged website owners to find relevant Wikipedia entries where they can insert links to their websites. Links from Wikipedia were believed to pass page rank and authority to the site being linked to. The problem is, lots of people had the same idea, and many unscrupulous SEO practitioners began indiscriminately spamming Wikipedia with off-topic links. As a result, Wikipedia has begun adding the “no follow” attribute to all outgoing links. This means that Google and other search engines won’t follow the link, and links of this sort will no longer improve your search engine ranking. However, it may still be a good idea to add links to information about your product or service where appropriate. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the links appropriate and on topic — again, link spamming is never a good idea. Besides, a link of this sort is only useful if your website is relevant to the content of the Wikipedia page you’ve added the link to. Remember, the goal is to add relevant content that actually enhances the Wikipedia entry.

As you can see, there’s quite a bit more to Wikipedia than just adding an entry to promote your business. Even if you have no desire to be listed in Wikipedia, you may already be there. Be sure to add Wikipedia to the list of media sources you monitor on a regular basis.

Wikipedia is a great resource and I think it’s safe to say that we’d all like to see it stay that way. The best way to ensure the ongoing quality of Wikipedia is to understand how it works and to play by the rules.

One Response

  1. Rules of Engagement for the Web Marketing Battleground: Wikipedia says:

    […] information, and of course, not end up in an embarrassing situation. Be sure to check out this helpful rules of engagement on […]

    August 19th, 2007 at 8:23 am