What You Need To Know About Getting Your Business on Wikipedia (And Keeping It There)
Depending on when you check, Wikipedia usually takes one of the top 10 places on Alexa Internet’s definitive ranking of the world’s most popular websites. And the free encyclopedia is held up as a paragon of website authority in Moz’s explanation of its Domain Authority ranking score, another definitive measure of website quality and algorithmic influence.
Wikipedia is so heavily trafficked—and highly ranked in Google’s search engine results pages—that a suspicious traffic drop in mid-2015 led some industry observers to wonder whether Google had adjusted its algorithm specifically to dilute Wikipedia’s dominant organic search position.
Simply put, Wikipedia is impossible to ignore. A dedicated Wikipedia page quite literally puts your business on the digital map. Next to your corporate website and LinkedIn company page, it’s perhaps the single most important digital property in your lead generation arsenal.
Unfortunately, though Wikipedia is crowd-sourced, it isn’t a pure democracy. Earning a dedicated Wikipedia entry isn’t quite as easy as purchasing a top domain and spinning up a new website with an out-of-the-box WordPress template. It takes skill, determination and a bit of luck.
Here’s what you need to know about Wikipedia’s editorial standards—and what you need to do to get a legitimate Wikipedia entry for your growing company.
Wikipedia: A Brief Overview
Wikipedia officially launched in January 2001. Founders Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger borrowed heavily from Richard Stallman’s decentralized framework, which posited that no central authority should have the final say over editorial decisions. Crucially, that ethos—with some modifications—persists today.
Within two years, Wales and Sanger stepped aside from Wikipedia’s day-to-day. Wales remained involved behind the scenes for years, but “mostly restrict[ed] his own role to occasional input on serious matters, executive activity, advocacy of knowledge, and encouragement of similar reference projects,” according to Wikipedia.
In other words, Wales let the platform develop organically. Today, Wikipedia remains open to (and funded by) the general public. Anyone can edit unprotected Wikipedia pages, and the process for doing so is easy to anyone familiar with basic text editing. Edits to some pages, typically those covering controversial topics and prominent public figures (among others), may be restricted. Wikipedia has several user access tiers, each conferring its own set of editing and review permissions:
- Unregistered users: Unregistered users are identified only by their IP addresses. They can edit unprotected pages and create talk pages, but can’t upload images or other file types. To prevent abuse, unregistered users have to answer CAPTCHAs when adding external links. If you’re concerned about traceability as an unregistered user, use an anonymizer.
- Registered new users: Registered new users can make minor edits without review by higher-ups and purge redundant or unsuitable pages without confirmation. If you’d like to create or edit your organization’s Wikipedia page, you should register right away.
- Confirmed/autoconfirmed users: Users are autoconfirmed after making at least 10 edits within four days. Under certain circumstances, Wikipedia admins can manually confirm users who haven’t reached this threshold. Autoconfirmed and confirmed users have more privileges, including creating and moving pages, editing semi-protected pages and uploading files.
- Extended confirmed users: This level requires at least 500 edits over 30 days. Extended confirmed users can edit pages with extended confirmed protection.
- Administrators: This privilege level is granted in response to formal requests for adminship. Administrators have access to a host of tools that collectively confer considerable discretion over Wikipedia’s content. Most notably, admins can edit fully protected pages.
- Bureaucrats: This privilege level is granted on a case-by-case basis following formal requests for bureaucratship. Bureaucrats are the only volunteer users who can make changes to other Wikipedia user accounts.
For more information about exactly who can edit what, and when, on Wikipedia, check out the platform’s user access levels guide.
Wikipedia’s Five Pillars
All Wikipedians are expected to adhere to the five pillars of Wikipedia:
- Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is an encyclopedia modeled after—but distinct from—physical predecessors like Encyclopaedia Britannica.
- Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view. Where conflicting points of view exist, Wikipedia strives to treat them equally and neutrally based on verifiable, legitimate sources.
- Wikipedia content is free to use, edit, and distribute. Wikipedia content is freely licensed, never owned by its creators or editors. Fair use, copyright and anti-plagiarism laws and best practices apply.
- Wikipedians must demonstrate respect and civility. Wikipedians are expected to approach disagreements civilly and to assume good faith on the part of other editors. Capricious or punitive actions against specific users or subjects are frowned upon and may result in being banned.
- Wikipedia has no firm rules. Aside from the above, Wikipedia has no ironclad rules. The spirit of published guidelines is more important than the letter, and Wikipedia’s management team is open to changes that benefit the community as a whole.
Cautions: What Wikipedia Is Not
The five pillars encapsulate what Wikipedia is. What about what Wikipedia is not?
This wiki is an exhaustive overview of what Wikipedia isn’t. We’ll highlight what’s most important to know for your Wikipedia-listing campaign:
- No original thought or reporting. Wikipedia isn’t the place for editorializing. This is very important for businesses creating or editing their own Wikipedia pages—all claims must be well-sourced. Don’t base your Wikipedia strategy on privileged or internally held information that you’re not at liberty to disclose.
- No overt self-promotion. Likewise, Wikipedia isn’t the place for self-promotion. If your entry is essentially a press release disguised as an unbiased primer, it’s likely to be flagged for review and edited—or possibly deleted.
- No link, file or image farming. Wikipedia is a great place to insert a high-authority link to your corporate website or blog, but it’s not meant to be a receptacle for links or images related to your company. Excessive linking and image-caching will trigger action from other editors or admins.
- No blogging or socializing. Wikipedia isn’t a social platform. Don’t reach out to other editors except to discuss entries you’ve created or edited. That means no lobbying efforts—attempts to unduly influence fellow editors are off-limits.
- No unverifiable speculation. In the context of company pages, “unverifiable speculation” might include forward-looking statements about your company, opinionated statements about the quality of its products, and other claims for which you don’t have an unbiased source.
- No censorship. Wikipedia has a strict anti-censorship ethos. Every edit and deletion needs to have a legitimate impulse behind it. Wikipedia severely frowns upon sabotaging competitors’ pages.
Standards for Dedicated Wikipedia Pages: What Do Subjects Need To Demonstrate?
Now that we know what Wikipedia is and isn’t, we have to ask: How does a small or emerging business get its own Wikipedia page?
First, it needs to meet Wikipedia’s article inclusion criteria. These include:
- Minimal substantiveness: The more information, the better. Stubs are permitted, but editors are encouraged to flesh them out as new information becomes available.
- Verifiable sourcing: As noted, entries need verifiable, objective, preferably independent sources. For instance, BetterWorks’ Wikipedia page includes citations from Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and Inc.
- Meeting notability criteria: This is the single most important inclusion criterion. According to prominent Wikipedia administrator Mark Hetherington, you need at least three to five “solid references” to establish notability; otherwise, your subject isn’t notable enough to merit its own page. You can’t use self-published materials, such as press releases or blog posts, to establish notability—though you can use self-published materials as citations once you’ve established notability.
- Following other Wikipedia policies: Wikipedia entries must follow all other policies outlined above, such as neutral point of view and avoidance of self-promotion.
Articles that don’t meet these requirements may be quickly deleted.
Attracting Coverage from Reliable Sources
Well-written and -sourced articles can usually avoid self-promotion and other content-related risks. For small organizations, the highest hurdle cited here is notability.
The easiest way to earn attention and clear Wikipedia’s notability threshold is to draw coverage or recognition from trusted third parties: media outlets, reputable bloggers with wide followings, municipal and public-private booster organizations, prominent institutions, etc. Well-placed national media stories and awards from government departments or institutions can dramatically raise your company’s profile, even without a corresponding explosion in sales or revenue.
Consider these profile-raising strategies:
- Posting press releases touting major company events, such as key hires, sales milestones, new territories, successful fundraising rounds, and prominent partnerships or backers
- Establishing yourself or other key employees as industry thought leaders and earning open invitations to contribute to business and industry publications
- Pitching regional, national and trade media on stories relevant to your business or industry
- Cultivating high-visibility partnerships with major municipalities or institutions with national name recognition
- Publishing original content for your audience, such as in-depth guides or books
- Inking distribution or licensing partnerships with major partners (earning digital or physical shelf space for your products or services)
- Securing promotional partnerships and running campaigns with prominent endorsers or backers
Can You Write Your Own Wikipedia Page?
Clearing the notability threshold doesn’t automatically entitle you to a Wikipedia entry. Wikipedians are busy people; they lack the resources to monitor emerging companies for signs of notability, much less spring into action to create entries as companies edge across the threshold.
So, should you jump the gun and write your own Wikipedia page? Probably not.
“The DIY approach to Wikipedia … is usually a bad idea,” writes CIO contributor James A. Martin. “Such DIY Wikipedia contributions also sometimes come from people with little or no prior Wikipedia editing experience, and that can raise red flags in the Wiki community.”
The safest course of action is simply to wait until someone else creates your page. But that’s not always realistic. The next best approach, says Martin, is to hire an outside firm or independent editor with Wikipedia experience.
Creating Your Own Wikipedia Page (Cautiously)
And if you (or a subordinate) absolutely must create your own Wikipedia entry?
Growtraffic outlines a step-by-step approach. Keep in mind that this process is in no way sanctioned by Wikipedia’s administrators. Conclusive evidence that you’ve created a Wikipedia article about your company without disclosing the clear conflict of interest may be enough to get you banned from the platform. At minimum, the entry is likely to be deleted, unless it clearly meets notability standards.
- Use an anonymizer to create your Wikipedia account.
- Establish a user history by editing multiple articles over the course of a week or two. Ideally, you want to unlock autoconfirmed or even extended confirmed status.
- Draft your company’s Wikipedia article using a competitor’s article as a guide. Write impartially and include plenty of third-party citations.
- Publish the article piecemeal, over at least an hour, so that the editing history appears more natural.
- Continue editing unrelated Wikipedia articles—and yours, as warranted.
If editors do flag any issues with your company’s article, respond promptly and without emotion. Remember Wikipedia’s five pillars and treat fellow editors with respect.
Citation Links: An Alternative to Full-Page Wikipedia Entries
If your company doesn’t meet Wikipedia’s notability criteria, or you’re not comfortable with the idea of creating an entry yourself or hiring someone else to do it, aim your sights lower and consider an alternative to full-page Wikipedia entries: legitimate citation links. Follow these steps:
- Regularly publish industry-relevant content on your corporate blog. These might cover companies, people, processes, locations, trends and other topics pertaining to your company.
- Spin up microsites or content portals devoted to industry news, analysis, announcements and opinion.
- Look for “citation needed” flags on industry-relevant Wikipedia entries.
- Commission original, impartial studies or reports with defensible conclusions. Post them on your blog, microsites, or portals.
- Plug these studies or reports into appropriate “citation needed” slots.
Avoid doing this yourself, if at all possible, and remember to disclose any conflicts of interest. If you must do this yourself, continue editing unrelated Wikipedia articles to avoid attracting undue attention.
Your Business Belongs on Wikipedia
Wikipedia is an objective online encyclopedia, not a venue for self-promotion.
Once your company clears the notability threshold, you need to carefully, slowly put together your own page, or hire an expert editor to do the job for you.
Alternatively, you can create objective, informative content outside the Wikipedia ecosystem, then opportunistically link to it from industry-relevant Wikipedia pages.
Whatever you do, you need to adhere to Wikipedia’s quality standards and platform guidelines. You can’t do your company any good when you’re banned from the world’s most popular online encyclopedia.