Wikipedia and SEO, An interview with Wit

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Understanding, and leveraging, this trusted information source can lead to better SERPs and more traffic for your site.

Wikipedia was started in 2001 and has grown to become the largest reference website on the Internet. It is a free-content encyclopedia, collaboratively written by anyone with access to an Internet-connected computer. This has led to some controversy lately, but a recent survey found Wikipedia to be “about as accurate as Britannica”.

Many posts have turned up in forums with SEOs commenting on the value of having Wiki articles accepted – especially articles with links back to their sites. It seems Wikipedia is about as valuable to Google as DMOZ is, with Wikipedia results appearing in the “onebox” above the SERPs.

Most of us are familiar with Wit, former mod and prolific poster at SEOChat. In my conversations with him over the last several months he let slip that he had experience with Wikipedia. Somehow, I got him to agree to an interview!

I understand you are an engineer, how did you get involved in SEO?

You’re right that my job has little to do with SEO. I consider myself to be more like an SEO hobbyist than a pro. My first steps in the “game” were aimed at optimizing my table tennis club’s web site. I made the site for my club mates, with regional competition dates and scores and stuff, so it’s not really intended for the masses. Still, at one point I thought it would be nice to draw in new members via the internet. So I submitted it to DMOZ and it got accepted. Then I joined SEOChat and soon realized that I needed to edit my DMOZ title and description “pronto”.

All in all it didn’t take too much effort to get it on #1 for my targeted key-phrase, beating a couple of old, large, well-established competitors in the process.

How long have you been involved with SEO?

I started to optimize web sites about a year and a half ago (summer of 2004). Of course I made web sites before, but they weren’t intended to be seen and used by everyone. Around that time, I wanted to know all about SEO, so I went into “sponge mode” and absorbed all that I could. I got most of my info from SEOChat which was pretty good back then. Today, I’d choose another forum to pick its members’ brains.

What is Wikipedia for, really?

The Wikipedia project was set up to create a large online encyclopedia that everybody can contribute to. It uses wiki software, enabling just about anyone to register (for free) and edit the articles.

Who uses it?

More and more people find their way to the Wikipedia each day. Webmasters link to it if they want to provide background info. Some browsers and browser extensions have a Wikipedia search function built in. Some meta search engines like use Wikipedia results to spice up the results. And Google – indirectly – points to Wikipedia stuff via their [definition] link on the results pages.

How can it benefit SEO?

Wikipedia is large, old, has a good reputation and its content is refreshed every minute. And, even though everyone can edit it, it is hard to abuse. Every single one of its articles is monitored by editors, often by those who contributed to the content. Because of Wikipedia’s age, freshness and authority, it is the perfect place for a link to one of your pages – preferably from a related article. Most SEOs will know by now that related links pointing to your pages are very important to determine those pages’ rankings (i.e. where they appear in the search results).

Are there any other advantages?

Loads of people visit Wikipedia and click through to its articles’ resources. You might get some decent traffic if your link is on there! And then there is of course the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you’ve contributed to an already good article with a quality outbound link, enriching other people’s searching experience so-to-speak.

Google uses Wiki results in some of the SERPs, how does that affect SEO? Can SEOs control this somehow?

Google sometimes shows a Wikipedia snippet as a direct “answer” to a search query – on top of the list of regular search results. That is still a bit of an experiment, but all the more reason to and be a part of the article linked-to. However, ultimately, you should aim to be an acclaimed authority in your own right… Then, maybe one day Google will show a snippet from YOUR page as a direct answer.

What are some tips to get a Wiki posted?

Adding a backlink to a Wiki page is easy. Making it stick is harder. If anything, it should be added to the correct section of the article, and it’s no use adding a link that points to a crappy page. Make sure your site is of high quality before you point to it. If not, the link will be removed in no time, and the URL will stick in the minds of regular editors: they’ll remove it on sight in the future. Wiki editors are quite protective of their goods.

It’s also a good idea to start a completely new article and subtly link out from there. There is still some uncharted territory; not every subject has already been covered. And if you are the original author of a good piece, then you have all the more right to spice it up with some of your links. It must be done subtly of course: it is not-done to make it a free-for-all list of all your own sites. Balance things with good info and a couple of links to your competitors (maybe leave your DIRECT competitors out).

A lot of SEOs complain it is difficult to get a much-coveted BL from Wiki. Have you had much success with this? If so, what do you recommend?

Most foreign versions of Wikipedia aren’t under the same level of scrutiny as the English version. So if your page is a bit of “questionable quality”, you might have more success adding it to some of those. Of course, they don’t have as much “authority” OR link power as the main English site, so the effect will be less.

A slightly more evil trick is to mask your adding a link by creating a diversion. Use another account to spam the article, and then go back to your original account to “revert” the spam to your previous version; that might help.

What about common mistakes or pitfalls?

Every edit you make can be traced – and reversed. Wikipedia’s regular spam busters just use the [history] tab to show an article’s editing history and compare all the steps side-by-side. So spamming it is not likely to do you any good. Ultimately, your account – or even your IP address – can be blocked. Best to be gentle with Wikipedia – we wouldn’t want it to lose its respectable status, would we?

Any other tricks or tips you’d like to share about Wikipedia?
Not really useful, but if you happen to come across articles with bad (or absent) pictures, it’s quite fun to add a picture yourself. It’s a bit of a drag to do nowadays (because you need to add the correct “copyright tag”). But you can post a link with the picture and get some traffic. Furthermore, Clusty has a tendency to show Wikipedia picture thumbnails next to the search results; again, that could draw in a couple of extra visitors, provided your picture is interesting enough…

Anything else?

Wikipedia is a trusted source. At least 95% of its content is fact

Thanks again Wit – you rock! :bow:

You’re welcome bud.

  1. Posted by SEO Research Hobbyist