Posted by Sam Battin, Senior Natural Search Specialist
For years, Wikipedia has consistently been a top-ranked site for high-volume keywords. The site was designed with SEO in mind, and its contributors have produced hundreds of millions of quality pages that are exhaustively cross-referenced and updated to contain the newest information. Search engines love this site because it satisfies so many informational needs for visitors; thus, search engines tend to give it high visibility for relevant queries. In the best case, a Wikipedia page for your company can be a source of good information and a potential ambassador for your site, as well as a concise definition of your business’s primary focus that can indirectly assist visibility for your brand.
On the other paw, your company’s Wikipedia page can seem like a nightmare if it shows negative information about your brand. The high visibility and reputation of Wikipedia can give pages on this site a good chance of ranking above the fold for searches on your brand name. You can’t blame people for looking, though; the variety of information on the Web helps users make informed buying decisions, and neutral sites like Wikipedia are indispensable to the modern participant.
So what can you do when your Wikipedia page paints a mean picture of your brand? This POV will help you review your options and make a decision on what to do next.
Search Engines Want Reliability
In some cases, you may be able to “push down” a Wikipedia page in the results by improving the link portfolio of information sources that show your brand in a more positive light. If search engines think that other pages are more reliable, authoritative, and useful to visitors than the Wikipedia entry, they will rank these pages above Wikipedia. For example, though AT&T has a Wikipedia page, the search query “AT&T” returns a full set of site links, entries for the “Map Pack” for AT&T stores in the local area, and a variety of different att.com subdomains like “Fan Zone”. This pushes the “Wikipedia” page down to the 10th result or lower, so search engine users will generally see the Wikipedia page only if they are looking for it.
Building out a broader link portfolio will take a lot of time, careful planning, and a wide array of content related to your brand. If these resources are not at your immediate disposal, you will have to go within the Wikipedia community to manage your brand’s reputation there.
Your Primary Weapon is Truth
The information on the Wikipedia page is typically the result of dedicated research and an adherence to Wikipedia’s standards of conduct. In addition, your business will only have a page on Wikipedia if it is “Notable,” that is, if the business has an interest outside of its own particular industry.
To provide value to its visitors, Wikipedia must strive to maintain a balanced, neutral viewpoint and articles must center on facts rather than conjecture. Wikipedia has strict policies against “attack pages,” which are Wikipedia entries created for no other reason than to attack a particular person or business. If your business’s Wikipedia page is made up of nothing but false and malicious statements, this may count as an attack page and Wikipedia has procedures in place to deal with this. Attack pages are rare, however, and usually taken down immediately.
Is it True?
All information on a Wikipedia page must be accompanied by links to authoritative sources. If a Wikipedia page contains information about your brand that you perceive as negative, the next question you must ask is, is this true? If the information on the page is not factually correct, and you can cite authoritative sources that prove your point, then you can edit the page accordingly. Please note, you cannot use your own company’s site as a reference. Only neutral third-party sites are accepted as valid sources.
Community Informational Policing
Wikipedia has evolved a number of measures to keep things on the up and up. Familiarizing yourself with these procedures can prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
Each time you make a change on Wikipedia, you can add notes that explain why you made the change. These notes appear on the “View History” tab at the upper right on each article page:
This tab shows a sequential list of each change the page has undergone since its creation. Documenting each step you take is important; keeping a record of your actions on the site and why you made them leaves a “paper trail” showing how you have acted in accordance of Wikipedia’s standards of conduct.
The “View History” tab will also show you the names of the people who have contributed the most information to the page. Whether you agree with them or not, they have invested their time in building the page and they believe in the truth of their remarks. In addition, regular contributors to a page often take the option to “Watch” the page, which means they will be informed whenever changes are made. If a page undergoes a critical mass of changes (e.g. two or more contributors are repeatedly deleting one another’s content), Wikipedia may declare an edit war and Administrators will eventually render a final decision about the page.
You should also read the “Talk” section of your Wikipedia page by clicking the tab at upper left:
“Talk” is a section for each Wikipedia entry where the contributors for an article can present additional facts and reasoning that informed their conclusions. Very often you’ll get to know the Wikipedia names of the people most interested in the article. The talk page will show you if there are any “edit wars” going on between two or more people who are insisting on diametrically opposed points of view.
In the Long Run
For better or worse, a Wikipedia page about your business can inform your audience’s buying decisions. It’s worth reviewing the information there to determine that it only contains factual information. Over the years, Wikipedia and its community have demonstrated a strong dedication to the value proposition of providing free and useful information to its readers. In this environment, the truth will always have an advantage over false information.