Writing for Wikipedia: Easier Said Than Done!

This year on its 10th birthday, Wikipedia was reported to have 17 million entries in more than 250 languages. Often one of the top results in Google search, the power of having a Wikipedia page is undeniable. However, getting your business, no matter how small or big, onto Wikipedia can prove to be a daunting task.

When I was assigned to write my first Wikipedia entry for one of our clients, I assumed the process would be very straightforward and to be honest, somewhat simple. With entries like “Balloon Boy Hoax” and “Pants on the Ground," I figured anyone could post anything. I zipped through writing my first entry, using various marketing materials and company blog posts to put together what I thought (and the client thought) was a solid entry on the company and its products. I formatted and posted the text, clicked save and my page went live.

From the time it took me to email a copy of the URL to my colleagues, the page was gone. This is when I learned the most important lesson of Wikipedia – anyone can post anything, as long as it is not about you or your company and you can prove notoriety.

Back to the Drawing Board

According to the Wikipedia editor (who had apparently been eagerly waiting to delete my page), my entry was deleted because there was “no explanation of the subject's significance” and the references included “were either internal links from the company's website, or from various unimportant other websites.”

Although surprised, I can understand the importance of these volunteer editors who are merely ensuring the integrity of the site. After all, Sarah Palin fans made headlines last month when they attempted to “rewrite history” to cover up a flub in a discussion of Paul Revere.

Still, I fought back explaining why I thought the company was significant and why my sources (the ones that weren’t marketing materials) were important. A group of editors joined in the discussion and agreed with my argument, but offered me suggestions for how to rewrite the entry. With the rewrite, I deleted some claims and found sources in news stories or other sites that provided validation of these statements.  With these changes, ultimately the group of editors gave me another shot and overturned the first editor’s decision.

As part of my rewrite, I learned that a very factual entry is the best way to establish your company on Wikipedia and you can always return after a few weeks or months to add details. So, my client’s entry went up a second time, this time focused on the most basic details of the company, minus any founder, product or other marketing materials. This time it stuck.

The Benefits Are Clear

I’ve now posted two client Wikipedia entries and my colleague is working on a third. For the clients who already have a page, they cite Wikipedia as one of the biggest drivers to their website.

According to one client, having a Wikipedia page has allowed the company top search results. Not only is Wikipedia a top 10 source of web traffic for the company, the Wikipedia page has also resulted in a good way to boost search results. Despite operating in a highly competitive market, the company has been able to achieve the top three or four results, based on the Wikipedia page alone, without having to invest any additional effort in search engine optimization.

Although establishing a page on Wikipedia can be difficult and the end result might not look anything like you’d imagined, I encourage everyone to get familiar with the resource and try to write an entry, even if it’s just a stub.  And if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

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