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There are plenty of online promotional opportunities for your business—from Facebook to Twitter to online reviews. But should Wikipedia be on that list? Using Wikipedia for business marketing and branding can be a valuable way of helping convert customers, but there are several things you should know before you start writing up a page.
I am going to start off with being honest – a Wikipedia article is NOT for everyone. If you’re going to have a page on Wikipedia, you must have notability – as explained in their page on the subject, the subject must generally be worthy of notice in its own right.
For small online startups, notability can be quite difficult – an editor may decide that your content would be better if merged into an article on similar businesses, rather than giving you a unique place on the web. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do about that.
Generally speaking, topics with multiple independent citations are considered worth having a unique page. Try for a minimum of four – the more you have, the better.
The quality of the citations also matters. A small mention in your local newspaper is not considered a noteworthy citation – exposure in a major national magazine might be, though.
You can use your own website for citations, but should do this in a carefully restricted manner. You’re not considered a neutral, independent source, so you’ll have to exercise good judgment when deciding when to link to your own content.
The only exception to this is at the bottom of the page, in the ‘External Links’ section, where your homepage can (and should) be directly displayed as the very first result.
These should be real achievements, not simply bragging points – if you hit a million in sales in one year, congratulations, but that alone isn’t worth having a Wikipedia page for. On the other hand, if you invented a life-saving medical device, that’s worth talking about.
Note that your achievements don’t have to be anything in particular you did. If something interesting happened at your company’s physical location, that could be worth discussing as well, and your company would simply be explained as the place where the event occurred.
Achievements are difficult, so don’t be afraid to take what you can get – something is always better than nothing.
In short, using Wikipedia for business reasons is only practical if people already have a reason to care – there’s no point in creating a page before you’re notable.
Now that we’ve gone over the requirements, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of having a page.
The most important reason to have a page on Wikipedia is that it improves your reputation and credibility.
Today’s customers – especially young ones – often research companies before they buy and want some kind of independent verification of your existence. This is especially true if you’re offering something new or at a particularly good discount – buyers are wary of scams, and having a well-made Wikipedia page will help to convince them that you’re a legitimate company.
In the same vein, lacking a page suggests that you’re either not notable or have something to hide… and would you want to buy from a company you didn’t think you could trust?
Using Wikipedia for business also help to enhance your visibility by providing a solid, reliable result towards the top of organic searches. Ideally, visitors will first be offered the chance to link to your home page, but there can actually be value in having a link to your Wikipedia page right below.
This offers further information to customers who want it – and the page itself, once on Wikipedia, can be linked to by other pages on related topics. You aren’t limited to just your own page.
In conjunction with these, using Wikipedia for business can help boost your search engine results. Wikipedia is considered a high-authority site, and having proper links from it to your website can help raise your own status on the web. It also helps to suggest that your website is the most relevant on a given topic – always a plus.
Finally, as a result of all of the above, using Wikipedia for business can help you grow your sales and improve your company. In many cases, this comes about when people first examine you on Wikipedia, then follow a link to your website and ultimately end up deciding to purchase your product.
Wow, those are some nice benefits, aren’t they? Let’s make that page!
Er, as soon as we’re done looking at the other side of the issue, of course.
First of all, you have exactly zero control over the contents of the page. Sure, you might write the original article, but anyone can come in and start changing things.
This means that people who had bad experiences may come in to talk about the negative sides of your business, and the editing staff is going to take a long, hard look at what’s going on if they see you deleting every bad thing someone else says.
You see, Wikipedia wants to have a neutral point of view on all subjects. The website is not your friend or advertising partner – it’s an encyclopedia, it attempts to be honest (whether or not it truly succeeds is a debate we won’t go into right now), and it wants to showcase the truth. Rather than censoring the content, you’d be better off spending your time improving your business and fixing the problems.
Using Wikipedia for business purposes also means that you’re going to have to constantly monitor the page for accuracy, adding citations where appropriate and trying to stop any vandalism. Yes, people will edit pages just to cause you trouble, then move on in cheerful anonymity.
It’s exactly as annoying as it sounds, and there’s little you can do about it.
Finally, when you already have a Wikipedia page up and running, there’s basically no room for error for your business. This should actually be true regardless of the situation but usually in other cases mistakes are comparably easier to be overlooked or forgotten. If your business is featured on Wikipedia on the other hand, any controversy or scandals that your company is involved with will most probably be featured on your page and is going to stay there. It is obvious enough not to deliberately look for trouble but not all the time things are under total control. All it takes is a random disgruntled employee that treats a customer badly or a stray rat that appears in your kitchen out of nowhere to land you a place in Wikipedia’s Hall of Shame.
Next comes the part where we will discuss on how to create a wikipedia page. The very first thing to do is read Wikipedia’s guidelines for organizations, which thoroughly discuss the subject of writing an article that’s free from conflicts of interest.
Understand this: Wikipedia pages should never, ever read like advertisements or promotional content. You don’t want to tell people to buy your products – in fact, you should probably avoid all subjective views on what you do and simply focus on an objective explanation of what it actually does.
The closest you can get to being opinionated is using a citation to mention that an independent group thought about the subject in a particular way – this tends to be neutral enough to be accepted, especially if balanced by another viewpoint from someone else (ideally less positive, but written to not get as much notice as the first comment).
The post also needs to be substantial – don’t think in sentences or paragraphs, think of at least three or four sections that have several paragraphs each, and a minimum of one citation in every paragraph.
This is easier if you take the time to create an outline of the post and start writing it up offline. You can see how it looks before ever dealing with online formatting, and merely drafting the page can help you get a good sense for whether or not you should bother creating the full thing.
You can also consider hiring a third-party company to help you use Wikipedia for business purposes. These organizations can often give you a good pricing estimate and help ensure that your page is fully in line with Wikipedia’s editorial guidelines.
You got lucky – go vet it for accuracy and try to improve it by adding content and neutral sources.
As you can see, Wikipedia is not for everyone – and this is especially true for small businesses. Chances are you’ll eventually want to have a page, but you should only bother once you have enough content and notability to create a unique, unbiased article. Until then, using Wikipedia for business isn’t going to work very well… but once you’re notable, it can be a reliable driver of traffic and help you continue to expand.
Updated: 24 September 2017