Real world Wikipedia editing

14 minute read

Real world Wikipedia editing

Highlights:

  • Making your own Wikipedia page is tougher than it looks. The Internet is replete with articles that say creating a Wikipedia page for your company as simple and easy - which it most certainly is not.
  • Wikipedia has rules restricting you from creating your own Wikipedia page or paying someone to create one for you.
  • Creating your own Wikipedia page or paying someone to do it (though common) can get your content deleted and your account banned.
  • If a Wikipedia editor has not already written a page for you, it's probable you are not notable enough to have one.
  • A good rule of thumb is that you should have at least 10 articles specifically about your company to be considered notable.

There are a ton of articles online that will tell you to make a Wikipedia page to boost your company’s online reputation, brand awareness, traffic, and SEO. A Wikipedia page has the potential to do some of those things (not all of them), but whether you should create one or have one created for you is another matter entirely.

The Internet has taken the difficult and complex task of creating a Wikipedia page for your company – a task that requires the help of experienced “professionals” (read: proven Wikipedia veterans) – and churned out a bunch of very misleading “step-by-step” guides that can easily do you more harm than good.

It’s not that these instructions are wrong, per se – it’s that they’re too optimistic. They don’t convey the reality of the challenge. We are giving you the whole story so you can make an educated decision for your business.

What you’ll learn in this article

Should I create a Wikipedia page for my business?

Short answer, no. Why? Making your own Wikipedia page is more challenging than the experts tell you. Firstly, if one of the 40+ million Wikipedia editors out there hasn’t created a page about you yet, you probably aren’t notable enough to have a Wikipedia page without some advance preparation work. Most people who come to Reputation X asking for a Wikipedia page are not notable enough without setting the stage for success first.

Secondly, you can - but should not - (a) create your own Wikipedia page nor (b) realistically pay someone else to do it for you. Most paid Wikipedia editors fail in our experience. 

Why make a Wikipedia page (or not)

The reasons people typically want to make a Wikipedia page are for reputation management, SEO, brand awareness, and web traffic. People and companies with Wikipedia pages are considered more mature, or even more successful.

If you are feeling discouraged about making a page, you will be happy to hear that a Wikipedia page won’t boost your SEO because the links from a Wikipedia page are "nofollow", which means that Google doesn't count them - therefore they do not increase the search engine standing of the pages they link to.

A Wikipedia page for your company can give you a boost in brand awareness and traffic because of Google’s big love for Wikipedia, but there are much better ways to campaign for visibility online. For example, a Wikipedia page about your company will almost certainly rank on the first page of search results. 

This is not a safe place

Because Wikipedia is collaboratively edited by volunteer editors worldwide, people and companies can be called on the carpet for their deeds or misdeeds; there can be a fair amount of social justice served on the pages of Wikipedia.

What that means for you is that any weakness in corporate social responsibility (CSR) can get you crucified pretty quickly. If there are skeletons in your company closet, competitors or those who do not necessary wish you well can post them to your Wikipedia page for the world to see.

Just because good news gets posted to your page does not mean that bad news won’t. If there are people that dislike your company, and their references are valid, it’s not likely your article will stay 100% positive for long. And this does not apply only to actual misdeeds – people may post damaging errors in your page, and they are not always easy to expunge. You should ask yourself if you want to subject your company to that environment before you make any decisions.

Factual errors are not uncommon on Wikipedia. According to a study published in the PR Journal, 59 percent of respondents indicated that their company or client’s Wikipedia page has one or more factual errors.

The truth about Wikipedia company pages

Who can write a Wikipedia page?


In theory, anyone can write a Wikipedia page. That is the nature and the beauty of Wikipedia. However, not just anyone can write your Wikipedia page. The main person who CAN’T write your page? You.

Not just anyone can write your Wikipedia page. The main person who CAN’T write your page? You.

That’s right, all the step-by-step, super easy “How to Create a Wikipedia Page for Your Company” guides are not only over-simplified, they can be practically pointless. Writing for a subject you are affiliated with is discouraged and even addressed in Wikipedia’s Terms of Service.

To help prevent bias within the content, Wikipedia has a Conflict of Interest policy that encourages editors to delete content submitted by an editor who has a vested interest in the subject matter.

Your IP address is recorded and shared when you make edits, and one of the 40.2 million Wikipedia editors may sniff you out. If there is inaccurate or unfair material in your Wikipedia article, you can point it out on the article’s talk page, but many users have not had any luck with that method.

Learn about the Wikipedia editing process here

 

How much does a Wikipedia page cost?

Once most people learn they can’t write their own Wikipedia page, their next question is “Can I pay someone to write it for me?” Well, you're not supposed to. But, it's common to try.

The biggest issue with paying someone to write a Wikipedia page for you is that most people who offer the service are... how to put this... less competent than they say they are. They get banned. Your page gets deleted. Future attempts at creating a page are red flagged. Second chances are tough in the world of Wikipedia. 

There are a few things you'll want to know about writing a Wikipedia page, especially your own.

First of all, the author is required (requested) to disclose that he or she has been paid to edit the page, which dramatically increases the likelihood of the page or the edits being deleted or attacked and changed. In other words, if you follow the rules and disclose the editor was paid, some Wikipedia author will most likely revert or delete your page because you admitted the edits were paid.

That said, some people still try, and the cost can range from a couple hundred bucks to several thousand, depending on the complexity of the subject. If you pay someone a couple hundred dollars you'll probably get banned. Real Wikipedia editors with street credibility and thousands of edits get paid quite a bit. The reason they're sought after is because they won't make risky edits because doing so could get their hard0-earned account banned. A paid Wikipedia editor spends years building her profile. If that profile is banned they potentially lose tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, if you pay someone to write a Wikipedia page for you, make sure they have skin in the game. Cheap Wikipedia editors don't have skin in the gam, so they will make risky edits.

If you are going to pay someone to write your page, do your homework first. That's pretty tough because an editor willing to live the gray hat area of Wikipedia won't disclose their user name because it would be foolish to do so. If you don't have the name, you cannot check the number of edits they've performed or check out their reputation on Wikipedia. 

Our recommendation is that Wikipedia pages should never be created by new editors. To avoid immediate deletion, new pages should be written by established editors with thousands of sustained edits and a good reputation, so check your potential writer’s contribution level.

Hiring someone from a freelancer platform like UpWork is a good way to get your page deleted and your account banned. These editors typically do not have the reputation and skill to execute your edits in a way that will be accepted by the Wikipedia community, and we strongly believe Wikipedia editors monitor platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to catch people buying and selling Wikipedia edits.

Wikipedia article wizard

Finally, similar to the aforementioned point on notability, if a company has to pay someone to write a Wikipedia page for them, they are usually not notable enough to have one. It does happen though.

Reputation X estimates that upwards of 80% of companies that request a Wikipedia page be written are not notable enough. Some are "close" to notable enough though, and in that case we build out their real world credibility with necessary sources. It is imperative it's done right the first time.

What activities trigger problems

Editing of Wikipedia articles without disclosing paid advocacy is something Wikipedia takes seriously - though it's often hard to identify. Promoting external interests on Wikipedia without revealing affiliation is a violation of the site’s Terms of Service.

In 2015, 381 user accounts were blocked for this type of editing in a scandal that involved 210 articles, which were deleted. Most of the articles were business-related and the edits offered biased and skewed information, unattributed materials, and copyright violations. The accounts included many “sock puppet” accounts (accounts that are created for the purpose of deception).

There are Wiki-Hackers that are known for using multiple accounts to execute these types of edits, attack accounts with reputation-damaging content, and then “rescue” them as a paid specialist – and even blackmail businesses in some cases.

How to start a Wikipedia page

If you’re set on creating a Wikipedia page, there is a process you will have to go through. When describing this difficult process, many blogs portray it as a simple checklist that you could get done in a day. Hubspot even refers to their article as a “quick guide” and claims you can “create a Wikipedia page for your company today.” In our over 15 years of experience we think that's not likely.

The process itself isn’t complicated, but Average Joe off the street can’t walk in and create his own page. About 1,000 articles are deleted every day, almost twice as many as the number added. Those that are added are typically done by experts who have no affiliation with the subject they write for.

Create an Account

This step is pretty much what it looks like. On the Wikipedia.org Home page, there is a button in the upper right corner that says, “Create account.” If you click that, you will be asked to choose a username and a password, provide an email address, and enter a captcha. Provide the information and click “Create your account.”

Create a Wikipedia account

Wikipedia will send you a confirmation email. Click the first link in the email to confirm your address. The link will take you to Wikipedia and you should be automatically logged in. To log in in the future, click “Log in” in the upper right corner of Wikipedia’s home page (right next to “Create account”).

Become an Autoconfirmed User

Sorry, Hubspot. This step ruins the whole “make a page today” suggestion. Autoconfirmed users are users who have made at least 10 edits, even if some were deleted, and have had their account for at least four days.

Triggering Wikipedia’s change filters can affect your autoconfirmed status. The change filters are filters that automatically stop certain users from executing certain actions. For example, users who have made fewer than a specified number of edits might not be able to move pages to titles with trigger words that are indicative of vandalism. If you can wait several days and make a few low-key edits, you should not have much difficulty becoming an autoconfirmed user.

Design and write the page

Once you’re autoconfirmed, the internet’s step-by-step guides will tell you to go ahead and make your page. Using Wikipedia’s Article Wizard, the creation process is pretty intuitive. After clicking on the Article Wizard, you can click “Next” to begin creating your article or you can practice creating a page with the sandbox editor.

Wikipedia sandbox

Hubspot provides the following tips for writing your page.

The first three tips are great advice for an editor who is qualified to create a page. The last one is true, but not good advice. When creating a Wikipedia article, it’s important to be as comprehensive as possible. A page with incomplete information is likely to be edited or deleted, and in some cases, those edits might make you wish you were deleted.

Side note: Get ahead of Your scandal

If your company has any controversy whatsoever, it will be added to your Wikipedia page. The editor who adds it might be a lot more venomous than whoever you choose to write your article, so get the information on the page from day one.

Put it low on the page and keep it purely factual. Sugarcoating or downplaying controversy is known as whitewashing (or greenwashing if it’s related to corporate social responsibility) and will draw attention and potentially harsh edits to your article (which, as mentioned, can be hard to change).

This is especially important if you’re trying to use a Wikipedia article as part of a reputation management strategy, but we don’t recommend that. Even if you are honest about your scandal, your citations will link to negative web content and will push that content to the top of Google’s search results.

Include citations

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. You must include citations to third-party sources. If none exist, your company does not belong on Wikipedia in the first place and won’t be allowed to have its own page.

Most step-by-step guides will tell you to find articles that mention your company, websites that backlink to your website, and directories that link to your company profile. These sources are not likely to be accepted.

Wikipedia wants articles that are:

  • Written by notable publications with reputations for fact-checking
  • Written specifically about your company

That means they can’t be articles with just a “mention” of your company. They should ideally have your company name in the title of the article.

A good rule of thumb is to have about ten of these articles available before writing your Wikipedia page. Wikipedia says, “Social media, press releases, and corporate/professional profiles do not qualify.

Wikipedia article notability

Submit for review

Evaluation times can range from three to six months. If your article is published, you will get a notification in your email. New articles are NOINDEXed so search engines won’t see them. After 90 days, once editors have had time to crawl the page and make edits or recommend deletion, the article will be indexed.

Submit Wikipedia article for review

How do I manage my Wikipedia page?

The last step in many misinformed guides is to regularly update your page to keep the information fresh and accurate. This is a bad idea for the same reason it’s a bad idea to write your own article.

There are currently 130,385 active editors. At least one of them is going to see your edit, check your IP address, and your account could be banned. If that happens, your edits will be deleted. It’s not worth it.

Wikipedia FAQs

Who owns Wikipedia?

The Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit parent organization that supports and owns Wikipedia, as well as Wiktionary, Wikibooks, and the rest of the Wiki resources. The site used to be hosted on Bomis, Inc.’s servers and owned by Jimmy Wales. Jimmy Wales created Wikipedia alongside co-creator, Larry Sanger.

Is Wikipedia making money?

As popular as Wikipedia is, it doesn’t make money because it doesn’t show ads. Their mission is to make free information accessible to everyone all over the world. To do so, the Wikimedia Foundation regularly requests donations from loyal visitors. Those visitors don’t disappoint. From July 2015 to June 2016, Wikipedia raised almost $80 million in donations.

Should you trust Wikipedia?

Because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone at any time, academics believe it’s not a reliable source of information. That is true to an extent. You should not bet your life or your job on the information your find on Wikipedia because at any given moment, the page you are looking at could be vandalized, inaccurate, or incomplete. However, Wikipedia volunteers and editors work very hard to maintain the neutrality and accuracy of the content, so you can generally count on what you are reading to be factual.