Let’s talk reputation management. When someone types your company name into Google, you want to own as many of the results as possible. Your company web site, your blog (if it has a different URL), your Facebook business page, your Yelp listing, and other business profile pages will often rank highly. This is good. You control these pages, and the more search results you control, the less likely an angry blogger or questionable news article will show up on page one.
Wikipedia is a rankings powerhouse and almost always shows up on page one, especially on Google. So, while having a Wikipedia page for your small business may sounds like a good idea, in most cases I don’t think it is. Here’s why.
Qualifying for a Wikipedia Page
Let’s get this out of the way: Most small businesses don’t qualify for a Wikipedia page, making the pros/cons debate of this article a moot point. Sure, anyone can create a Wikipedia page, but if you (or anyone, for that matter) make a page for a business that doesn’t belong, moderators/administrators will remove it. As the site’s Help pages indicate, Wikipedia is not a directory.
To qualify for a Wikipedia article, your small business must have received some measure of notoriety; it must be noteworthy for some kind of accomplishment. Wikipedia has a page detailing the notability guidelines that determine what fits and what doesn’t. Notability will often come in the form of high-level media or news exposure. A feature article in your local paper won’t cut it. A feature article in TIME magazine? That might be good enough.
Or maybe not. Consider this: Charm City Cakes, the Baltimore bakery that’s featured in the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes program, has a Wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charm_City_Cakes … but the page is actually about the show, not the small business. Junior’s Cheesecake, on the other hand, is a famous New York restaurant and it has a Wikipedia page. In fact, there are a number of small businesses with Wikipedia pages — a fact that reveals how difficult it is to determine what’s notable enough and what’s not.
- Zip’s Drive-In, a small fast food chain up here in my area, has a Wikipedia article. (I was shocked to learn this.)
- Burger Ranch, another small fast food chain in my area, also has a Wikipedia article, but note that it’s been flagged with an alert at the top: “This article may not meet the general notability guideline.”
- Tekserve has a Wikipedia article. It’s a New York-based Apple sales and service provider.
- Sparks Steak House in New York is also on Wikipedia, but not for business-related reasons. It’s notable for being “the establishment where Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano and mobster Thomas Bilotti were gunned down” in 1985.
- Hollywood-based Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles has a Wikipedia article, although my untrained eye wonders how it passes the notability test.
As you can see, there are small businesses that have a Wikipedia article. It’s not impossible. So, let’s say your small business is notable enough. The question remains, should you have a Wikipedia page?
The Pros of Having a Wikipedia Article
In no particular order:
1. Great exposure. Wikipedia is a heavily used web site, and having an article about your company means more exposure, more eyeballs, and so forth.
2. Reputation management. As I mentioned above, your Wikipedia article will probably rank on page one for your company name, and that helps with your online reputation management.
3. Increased trust. There’s no underestimating the need to earn trust, both from customers and search engines. A Wikipedia article can help with both, I believe.
The Cons of Having a Wikipedia Article
Again, in no particular order:
1. You don’t have a say in what’s said about you. Even if you qualify for a Wikipedia article about your business, Wikipedia will frown on you or an employee creating the page, and they’ll frown on you even updating or correcting the page. You don’t meet the neutral point of view policy. Your best bet for influencing the article is to have a Wikipedia account in good standing and, after identifying yourself as a company employee, be active on the “Talk” page for your article, suggesting additions or corrections you think someone should make. But you can’t make the changes yourself, and this may prove very frustrating.
2. It requires constant monitoring. If your small business is operating on such a level that you deserve a Wikipedia article, there’s a chance that you’ll have some competition and/or some angry customers or disgruntled employees that would love to make you look bad. While you can’t go in and edit your own Wikipedia article, they probably can. So you have to be extra vigilant in watching for updates and then hope that you can find someone to correct or edit any untruthful information that someone adds. In some situations, this monitoring can become very time-consuming.
3. No room for error. The exposure and notoriety that comes with having a Wikipedia article means you have almost no room for error when it comes to future business mistakes. Your CEO makes the news after his picture is taken outside a strip club? That’ll show up on your Wikipedia page. An ex-employee files a discrimination suit against you? That’ll show up, too.
As a published author, I probably qualify for a Wikipedia article. But I don’t want one: too many potential headaches, too much need for monitoring, not enough benefit in return. That’s my general attitude at the moment toward Wikipedia. And that’s what I said last week when a magazine writer asked me about putting a small business on Wikipedia at the end of our interview.
But ultimately, I think it depends on the small business. For some, the exposure and status of being the subject of a Wikipedia article might be a good idea. That’s especially true for small businesses with the time and resources to monitor their Wikipedia article and help make any needed corrections. But I’ve never recommended that one of my clients try to get one. The cons have outweighed the pros. I’d rather my clients spend what little time they have for online marketing in other pursuits, not in watching over a Wikipedia article and worrying about who’ll be next to edit it.
Your turn: Am I wrong? As a small business owner, would you want a Wikipedia article about your company? Marketers and SEOs, have you ever recommended for or against a client having a Wikipedia article? Comments are open, please make this post better with your thoughts.