Search engine optimization
From Electrical Engineering TA Handbook
Wikipedia attracts many links and contains a large amount of content on a broad set of topics. As a result, Wikipedia pages tend to rank well in organic search, and to acquire high PageRank on Google, the most popular search engine as of 2007. These factors create a strong temptation for editors to add linkspam to promote their own sites, whitewash negative articles about themselves or their organizations, or astroturf articles to create a positive spin. Indeed, some search engine optimization (SEO) specialists have recommended tactics that violate Wikipedia's policies in published articles.
Before you think about clever ways to evade Wikipedia's policies, you should be aware that any trick you can think of has probably been tried before, and that sneaky editing leaves a trail an experienced wikisleuth can follow. Before you succumb to the dark side, know that the results may be unpleasant, public, and permanent.
If you are an SEO practitioner who has come to Wikipedia seeking to increase the link popularity of your site or manage your client's reputation, first of all, welcome! Second, we hope you will learn more about how Wikipedia works, because we want you to be a productive member of our community, rather than a source of linkspam and bias. Before you make any edits, please familiarize yourself with the Wikipedia conflict of interest guidelines.
Best Practices for SEOs and SEMs Participating in Wikipedia
There are a variety of ways that you can participate in the Wikipedia community:
- If Wikipedia has an article about your organization, you are welcome to correct link spam or vandalism in your article at any time. If you would like to suggest changes to the article, you can post suggested revisions to the article's talk page and ask other editors for help getting the material into the article. You can also announce yourself on the article's talk page and offer to provide answers if other editors have any questions about your organization.
- If your organization doesn't have an article yet, and you think your organization is notable, find an appropriate category or article talk page and suggest a new article. You can even help start the article and collect references. Ideally, you should post these raw materials in your own user space. You can start a page such as Mypage/Sandbox.
- If a competitor is introducing bias into articles, you can report these incidents in the proper venue. Begin by raising concerns on the article talk page. If that fails to resolve the issue, you can go to the requests for comment page or "third opinion". For obvious violations of Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy, you can file a report at the conflict of interest noticeboard.
- By participating in articles related to your field, other experts or journalists may notice you, but please avoid self-promotion when editing articles. Participation in Wikipedia may lead to public relations opportunities. You can create a user page for yourself with a short bio and a link to your personal site to provide more information about yourself.
- Many organizations seek to inform and educate the public. By linking to relevant Wikipedia articles or copying Wikipedia content to your web site, you can provide value to your audience.
- Please help expand and create articles, so long as you follow Wikipedia's policies, guidelines, and community customs. Improving the public's understanding of topics that are important to you is a good thing. Again, avoid promoting yourself or your products within articles, and maintain neutral point of view. Wikipedia is for education, not propaganda.
- Remember that you are a guest in Wikipedia's house. While you are here, you will get the warmest reception if you follow house rules and customs. If you don't like the rules, you are welcome to comment on the rules' talk pages and request changes. If you build consensus, you can even edit the rules.
Edit for hire
Edit for hire is a very bad idea. A company called User:MyWikiBiz was permanently banned for selling articles to clients. Microsoft similarly caused themselves a great deal of bad press by paying someone to edit their Wikipedia article. The problem with edit for hire is that an editor paid by an organization will almost inevitably violate neutral point of view, one of Wikipedia's most important policies.
Instead of edit for hire, you can advise your clients to get involved with relevant articles and WikiProjects. Once they understand what Wikipedia wants, they can suggest a new article about their organization. Disclosing any commercial connections is a way to increase trust and avoid ethical challenges. If other editors are interested in covering your organization, you can support them by pointing out useful references.
Can Wikipedia Increase Your Link Popularity?
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a search engine, nor a directory. There is no need to add every website that might be relevant to the external links section of an article. Long lists of external links do not add value to articles, and may reduce article quality by confusing the reader. To help create and maintain high quality of articles, many Wikipedians monitor recent changes for link drops. While an editor may get away with adding unnecessary links to a low profile article for a short time, improper links tend to be deleted immediately from high profile articles. In any case, when improper links are removed, the editor who added them may receive a spam warning. Editors can be blocked from editing Wikipedia after receiving several warnings.
Before adding external links to articles, please read Wikipedia:External links. When citing an external link as a source for a statement, make sure that you have chosen the most reliable sources available.
Wikipedia's Use of noindex and nofollow
Wikipedia user and talk pages use the nofollow attribute on external links. Google and other search engines claim to disregard such links when calculating link popularity. Certain Wikipedia pages may also use the noindex robots meta tag value to prevent search engine indexing. You may freely place links on some of these pages, but doing so probably will not help your rankings in the major search engines.
As of January 21, 2007, at the request of Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia has placed nofollows on all external links in an effort to deter spammers. Matt Cutts, a software engineer at Google, has claimed that Wikipedia's nofollow policy will not seriously affect Google's search results "given the way that we process Wikipedia links."<ref>Nofollow's Historical Changes (and Associated Hypocrisy), Threadwatch, 25 Jan, 2007</ref> That cryptic comment may suggest Google was already treating Wikipedia links differently than other links.
Websites which are repeatedly spammed on Wikimedia wikis or are utterly unsuitable for any legitimate use may be placed on the WMF-wide m:Spam blacklist. Once done, no URL pointing to that server will be accepted and all existing links are removed. Non-Wikimedia Foundation wikis that also run on MediaWiki software default to using our Wikimedia blacklist although they can opt out of this. Keep in mind that the blacklist is public, so search engines, and other websites are free to use this list for their own purposes.
Is Wikipedia a Public Relations Strategy?
There may be instances where Wikipedia's interest in creating high-quality encyclopedia articles coincides with the interests of businesses that want to better educate the public about particular topics. The Wikipedia community recommends focusing on the edit, rather than the editor. If a commercial interest is seeking to educate the public, they can possibly add appropriate, neutral point of view material to Wikipedia without provoking a backlash. Adding spin to Wikipedia is highly discouraged and will usually result in a rebuke. Likewise, starting an article about a non-notable subject in order to promote the subject will usually result in the article being deleted.
Bite: Can you explain why it’s a bad idea for a PR firm to be editing Wikipedia on behalf of a client? How does the Wikipedia community react to such activity?
Wales: It is a bad idea because of the conflict-of-interest. It is perfectly fine to talk to the community, to show them more information, to give them things that show your client in the best light. But it is wrong to try to directly participate in the process when you have an agenda.<ref>Jimmy Wales on PR in the social media era, bitemarks, August 29, 2006</ref>
Paid Editing and Conflict of Interest
If an editor is paid, that signals a likely conflict of interest, but unpaid agents can also face a similar situation. Agents should maintain the same standards of behavior as if they were the principal. Any editor, even the subject of an article, can make certain kinds of edits, for instance: reverting vandalism, and clearing linkspam. To protect their own own reputation, agents may announce themselves on the talk page, and place any remotely controversial edits there, so somebody else can add them to the article. In general, a principal's interests benefit most by encouraging neutral editors to work on the article. Agents are probably wise to take one step backwards and let the community maintain the article, while they offer support. Agents can, for instance, identify new facts or sources on the talk page so other editors can verify that information and add it to the article. Agents can also offer to answer questions.
Wikipedia:Conflict of interest contains this warning:
Whether you create a PR puff piece about a famous client, or a spam article about a non-notable client, these can really backfire. Once created, anyone can edit the article, including your competitors and all the editors who are annoyed by your violation of the conflict of interest guideline. All edits must be "encyclopedic", so any vicious stuff will be removed, but any unflattering articles and lawsuits in the public record will probably be added to your article, and you probably won't be able to remove them.