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Wikipedia SEO: Don’t Spam – Contribute

Mike Valentine

Because Wikipedia entries routinely show up in the top 5 search engine results at Google, some black hat SEO’s (and a few clueless beginners) realized the value of a link from the online encyclopedia and began link spamming blatantly. So recently Wikipedia posted the “nofollow” tag to all outbound links, purportedly to stop SEO Spam by reducing the value of those outbound links.

SEO’s weren’t the only ones to notice the value of Wikipedia entries. Microsoft became the focus of Wikipedia editors wrath when someone at Microsoft attempted to buy some edits to entries unfavorable to Microsoft. That gaff was a PR nightmare for Microsoft and encourages others to attempt underhanded methods of editing articles to favorable from negative or controversial.

Because reputation management is so critical for companies, and because Wikipedia entries can follow right on the tail of company web sites in the search results pages, it has become routine for PR departments, marketing departments and product managers to monitor what is said about their company in Wikipedia. The problem comes when they learn that they can edit entries and just jump in there and do that before becoming valued members of the community – and don’t even engage those who are respected community members in conversation through accepted forums and public discussions.

Against this background, Search Engine Strategies offered a session in New York on day 3 of the conference titled, “Wikipedia & SEO” where the decscription was:

This session looks at appropriate ways to interact with the service. It also examines if there’s more that can be done to make Wikipedia editors more accepting of marketers and to make marketers more understanding of the Wikipedia community goals.

The key lines there are “appropriate ways to interact” and “understanding … community goals” because, unlike press releases, marketing campaigns, sales sheets and testimonials, Wikipedia is FACT based and neutral.

So the SES NY session opened with Niel Patel of Advantage Consulting Services, giving examples of how he had tested the limits of spamming at Wikipedia by attempting to link spam under multiple accounts. He said with a grin that his entries were very quickly deleted and he was banned from the community. He continued on that track by explaining to the audience what NOT to do, including:

  • Link building
  • Add biased or sales info
  • Delete accurate info.

Reversing from the negative, Patel then suggested those items that bring value to the community:

  • Don’t be a dick
  • Develop a reputation as an editor
  • Add information first, links second
  • Follow the notability rule.
  • Wikis are everywhere – find them and contribute, edit.

Jonathan Hochman of JE Hochman & Associates followed with a stern warning that if you make the Wikipedia “Spam Blacklist” that you are extremely unlikely to ever get off that list, which is universally applied to all wiki’s using the system – not just Wikipedia. Hochman also claimed to have many examples of those with Wikipedia links getting more traffic from Wikipedia than from Google searches for their primary keyword phrase and that those clicks convert at a higher rate than searches do.

Don Steele, Director of Digital & Enterprise Marketing, Comedy Central took the mic next and explained how Wikipedia was a top ten referrer for the company, which gets a total of eight million pageviews monthly. Surprisingly, he claimed that Comedy Central was an aggressive SEO and SEM player and that they proactively communicate with the editors and community of Wikipedia because great entries referencing their TV shows could save them $20,000 monthly in PPC costs.

Not surprisingly he briefly mentioned the Colbert Report and South Park as major drivers of traffic through Wikipedia entries, pointing out that often after a show airs, multiple new entries are posted about each of the shows within the hour following broadcasts.

Stephen Spencer of NetConcepts was last and spent the most time proposing that anyone wanting to make edits or contribute articles spend time becoming a valued member of the Wikipedia community by:

  • Developing a profile that proves that you are an upstanding member of the community.
  • Incorporate content edits when adding a link. It makes it harder to revert your edit.
  • Communicate with the main editor of he article before adding an external link that you think is valuable but could be looked at with suspicion and removed.
  • Add substantiation with references.
  • Adding value, rather than just editing a link.
  • Create a new entry by getting social via the talk page, not directly editing the article itself.
  • Maintain activity on your profile at all times to be a contributing member of community.

So we actually end up with the panel saying, Don’t Spam, Contribute.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gregory Kohs April 17, 2007, 12:16 pm

    I’m not sure the Microsoft “gaffe” was such a black eye for Microsoft, as it was for Wikipedia. Wikipedia handled it very poorly, to say “EXPERTS SHALL NOT EDIT ON TOPICS RELATED TO THEIR LIVELIHOOD — INCLUDING THOSE WHO DIVULGE WHAT THEY’RE DOING!” It just drives the whole field underground, into the secret shadows. That will be the major lesson learned by the majority of capitalists who followed that story.