Should a Small Business have a Wikipedia article?

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, Reputation Mgmt. by Matt McGee on September 17, 2009 41 Comments

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.

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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.

Final Thoughts

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.

(Thanks to Ryan Rose, Michael Crites, Eric Wu, and Michael Gray for help with this article.)

Comments (41)

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  1. Ryan Rose says:

    Matt,

    Excellent post! I would advise anyone to read this post and weigh the pros and cons. Myself, I wouldn’t want to have a wikipedia page just for the sole fact that it is out of my control.

    p.s. thanks for the mention. :)

  2. I personally think the pros outweigh the cons for any business when it comes to having a Wikipedia article.

    A Wikipedia article will almost certainly make it into the page 1 SERPs for the company brandname, helping push down and away other, lesser websites which may have lower standards as to what negative content may be allowed to appear.

    Even though Wikipedia links are nofollowed, there’s some reasons to think that they may still be conveying PageRank in Google’s eyes. My experience is that Wikipedia links are very beneficial.

    It is a valid concern that you mention that any scandals involving the company may end up on its Wikipedia page, virtually permanently, always to follow the company around into the future.

    Yet, there is a level of enforced neutrality in Wikipedia that other websites do not share, and many other sites are likely to be used to beat up on companies.

    So, I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

    I have a client who had sufficiently justifiable notability to merit their own Wikipedia page, and I assisted them in facilitating the Wikipedia community in getting their article posted and corrected. I’ve also assisted some other major companies in getting their Wikipedia articles to fit within the guidelines, reducing chances of them getting deleted for overly “advertorial” language.

    Mostly, however, companies approaching me who wish to have their own Wikipedia page out of ego or desire for marketing benefit simply do not have sufficient notability and do not have sufficient citations to achieve it. It shouldn’t be considered a cheap/easy avenue for marketing.

    One must perform normal PR activities and get the business’s name established properly to reasonably qualify for meriting a Wikipedia article.

    Matt, I think you do merit an article – are you sure you wouldn’t like one? :-)

    • Walter says:

      How do I get in touch with you. I represent a significant company with genuine notoriety but do not know how to legitimately start a Wikipedia page

  3. Steve says:

    Very interesting. I never would have considered that having a Wiki page about your company or business could be a bad thing. I don’t buy that you would have to monitor it 24/7 unless your business routinely deals with irate customers. Good points to ponder though.

  4. Brian Combs says:

    Good article, Matt.

    IMHO, if your company just barely qualifies for a Wikipedia article, it would probably be more hassle than it’s worth. You’ll have people who resent your company being included and the disgruntled will come out of the woodwork.

    And, given the 10:1 theory of satisfied:unsatisfied with commenting online, you might have trouble having enough people to defend you when negative things are posted.

  5. Rob Barba says:

    Great article.

    As Brian has mentioned, having a Wiki article is more trouble than it’s worth. If, for some reason, my company were to qualify for one, I’d probably be wasting more time fending off any negative publicity than enjoying any benefit that might come from it; I suspect others would be in the same quandary.

    As an interesting side note, it’s also worth mentioning that someone aside from you also wondered about that Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle entry – it was apparently tagged with a notability mark after your article was written.

  6. As a seasoned Wikipedia editor, I can only agree with Matt.

    Wikipedia is most definitely not a directoy and requires constant monitoring. Companies seeking to ‘monologue’ through Wikipedia are in for a shock.

  7. Mark Oliver says:

    Thanks Matt,

    All good food for thought, but what about SEO? We’re all trained to chase inbound links from highly ranked authority websites.

    WikiPedia is a highly ranked website. Does an inbound link from WikiPedia provide huge link value, or could it be worthless from that prospective due to ‘no-follow’ attributes on links.

    As we try to build up inbound links; WikiPedia ‘looks’ like a great one to get.

  8. Matt McGee says:

    Thanks for providing an alternative viewpoint, Chris. I see your points, and as I said, for some SMBs it might be a good idea to have a Wikipedia article (if it’s deserved). It depends on the small business.

    And no, I don’t want an article about me. No thanks. :)

  9. Matt McGee says:

    Mark, I think Chris makes the point correctly that, even though the link is no-followed, it’s reasonable to think they could still carry some value from an algorithmic perspective.

  10. Jen says:

    I have been editing my client’s wikipedia page and honestly, I don’t think a wikipedia entry is good for small businesses since everyone can add content to it. Some are even defamatory and not true but wikipedia editors approved it because they see “valid” citations even if it came from a bogus source.

  11. Paul Flood says:

    Thanks for this insight as well as for the follow up comments. At face value, it may seem to hold only positives but the perspectives that were raised definitely present issues that need consideration.

  12. Syzlak says:

    Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles has the Notability warning at the top of the page

  13. MelissaH says:

    I wouldn’t want one myself for my site but I would advise someone to weigh the pros and cons before adding it. Working with rehab centers building their web sites is great but, I wish I had more time to just blog

  14. Gregory Kohs says:

    Matt, you and your readers may be interested in my story and experiences. I am the founder of MyWikiBiz, a service that authored content suitable for Wikipedia, in exchange for payment. It created a brief but impactful media ruckus. At one time, Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia who lies about being its “sole founder”, deleted an article I had written about Arch Coal — the second-largest coal mining company in America. He called it a “PR puff piece” and other of his dedicated followers began to question whether or not only the SECOND largest coal mining company (in the Fortune 1000, mind you) deserved a Wikipedia article.

    Of course, the article prevailed as rational people began to see how idiotic was Jimmy’s behavior. And, in the end, there is even an article about MyWikiBiz itself in Wikipedia.

    I guess I had the last laugh, huh?

  15. Dean says:

    Definitely food for thought here and a need to weight up the pros and cons, but I think it’s probably an advantage rather than a disadvantage personally.

  16. Jed says:

    Yes, it adds credibility to have a wiki article but we have to consider the pros and cons. If you could not manage the post don’t do it or else it can mess you up.

  17. NIck says:

    Thanks Matt, as well as to Ryan Rose, Michael Crites, Eric Wu, and Michael Gray, for a very informative article. After seeing a competitor of mine, who listed his business on Wikipedia, I planned on adding ours as well. Now that I see that his post was inappropriate, I will not make the same mistake.

    Your other articles are *extremely* informative for us do-it-t-yourself SEO/small business marketers. Thanks for the excellent tips:)

    Sincerely,
    Nick

  18. Sandy Harper says:

    Thank you for the interesting and informative article, Matt (and the other contributors). I am looking forward to reading more of your articles.

    I had no idea how Wikipedia worked. It’s sometimes overwhelming to be a small business owner, so I am grateful for people who willing to share their knowledge.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Sandy Harper :-)

  19. Martin says:

    Good article. I was surprised reading the article about Zip’s Drive Through because it doesn’t really contain much useful information or notability and only uses the company’s own homepage as a source.

    Does this not then mean that just about any company could have a wikipedia article?

  20. Jami Broom says:

    Thanks — just sent this article to a client to help explain to him why it’s not a good idea for him, and the editors would probably remove his entry.

  21. Shaun Mackey says:

    Interesting article. I don’t see many people include the cons of setting up a wikipedia page and appreciate your objectivity. It’s sort of like the old saying… “if you have to ask…”

  22. Nick says:

    One of my main competitors has a wikipedia page that is blatantly just a big advert. Should I report it and request it be deleted? It’s obviously helping their rankings but goes against the ethos if wikipedia.

  23. Johnny Bravo says:

    Great article. I’ve been going back and forth about making a Wikipedia article for my company. We’ve been around for more than 40 years and were one of the first in the industry so I think we’re deserving of an article. But I’ve never thought about some of the cons you mentioned. Some good points but all in all I think a Wiki site and it’s weight in Google’s eyes is worth it.

  24. Ildar Shar says:

    Very interesting post. I think pros outweigh the cons when it comes to getting an article about your business in Wikipedia. It’s really a great resource and will attract a hell of exposure. And if anybody is afraid of some bad things that can be written about the business there, etc. – then one can’t be in business. Business is all about building trust and letting go on the control, you will not be able to control everything.

    • Matt McGee says:

      It’s not just about the issue of control, Iidar. You’re right that businesses should expect negative things to be said every now and then. The problem with Wikipedia is that the business owner has no way to reply to what’s said. In fact, as I point out, the business owner isn’t even allowed to have any input at all into the content of his/her Wikipedia page — and that’s ridiculous. If someone who has a history of editing Wikipedia pages makes a damaging mistake on your page, there may be no way at all to correct it. (For a good look at how ridiculous the Wikipedia editor world can be, read this article: http://daggle.com/closed-unfriendly-world-wikipedia-2853)

      Aside from all that, I still maintain that the vast majority of small businesses don’t meet the qualifications to have a Wikipedia page.

  25. Ildar says:

    That’s a good point Matt. I agree that there may be some damage to the business, if there is absolutely no control over content, especially given the trust that people have for Wikipedia information.

  26. Joe says:

    Matt, I am so happy I found your article! I have woorank.co.uk telling me I need one and they don’t even tell you why. Cheers for clearing this one up.

    I presume that Wikipedia would be listing the companies online that deserve the accreditation. Why should they do it?

  27. Matt, I was just investigating about the pros and cons of creating a “Wiki” page for small business. Your article brought up many good talking points and I think you highlight the issue well, which is, do you have the time to constantly monitor your page? Since this article is about small business, the answer is probably “no”.

  28. You write, “To qualify for a Wikipedia article, your small business must have received some measure of notoriety.” Don’t you mean “fame”? Notoriety, like infamy, is bad news. I am considering creating a Wikipedia site to promote the good news about my business.

  29. Dean Shames says:

    Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is a reputable chain of restaurants around Los Angeles; the fact that it has a Wikipedia page is not unheard of in any way.

  30. Steve Deane says:

    I think it’s ok to have a wikipedia page about your business so long as it’s not an advert for your business. Keep to the facts and you should be ok. That said, I agree with the point made about keeping on top of it. You wouldn’t want your competitor editing your page.

  31. A. M. says:

    As a Wikipedia administrator who has deleted countless company articles (either because the company is not notable, or the article is unambiguously promotional, or both), as well as blocked countless accounts who created these articles, I have some advice.

    1. Create a username that belongs only to you, not to the company. It’s OK if you create a username associated with the company (like “Jane Smith at Acme Corp”) as long as the name represents only you. Usernames that represent organizations or roles (like “webmaster” or “VPmarketing” or what not) are blocked on sight as violating Wikipedia’s username policy.

    2. Be up front. Disclose your conflict of interest publicly, on your user page (but DO NOT promote your company on your user page or anywhere else). If you don’t, it’s likely to be discovered anyway. Also, if you fail to disclose your COI and your account gets blocked, the resulting loss of the Wikipedia community’s trust from your failure to disclose your COI will just make it harder to get unblocked.

    3. Be sure your company has significant coverage in multiple, reliable sources independent of your company. No press releases, no blogs, no self-published articles written by company employees. Independent, reliable sources should have significant coverage, not trivial mentions. If you can’t meet this threshold, don’t even bother writing the article, it will be deleted.

    4. Use Wikipedia’s “Articles for creation” procedure, rather than simply create the article yourself in main article space. Again, be sure the article has adequate references and is not promotional in tone.

    5. If your company already has an article, propose major changes on the article talk page rather than making the changes yourself. It’s OK to make minor corrections and updates.

    6. Finally, familiarize yourself with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines. I alluded to a few above: username policy, conflict of interest guideline, corporate notability guideline.

    Pay attention to those things and you should do fine.

  32. A. M. says:

    I’ll add another thing. Avoid SEO services that uses Wikipedia to improve your search engine rankings. There’s one recent incident I remember where an SEO service spammed their client’s web link all over the place, using multiple accounts to evade blocks, and when the site was finally blacklisted, they created multiple redirect domains to evade the blacklist.

    As a result of the company’s failure to perform due diligence in selecting their SEO service, that company’s site is now blacklisted from ever being included in Wikipedia, likely forever, due to the behavior of the SEO. The company has begged for removal (presumably because Google pays attention to Wikipedia’s blacklist and reduces the page rank of sites listed there). However, once blacklisted, a company NEVER gets removed at the request of someone with a conflict of interest. Delisting requests are considered only from trusted editors.

    Hire an SEO service at your peril, and check out how they do their job first.

  33. Curtis says:

    Your point on having no room for error is not something I initially thought about when considering a Wikipedia article. Although it’s undesirable to have a negative connotation associated with ones business, companies/CEO’s/employees should ultimately be perusing ethical business practices, transparency, and good intentions to the other companies and people they deal with. This accountability, overall, seems like a good thing for everybody at the end of the day.

  34. Emma says:

    What are your thoughts for Charities & Not for profit organisations having an article?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Emma, I’m sure the same considerations apply for charities — they have to be notable, etc.

    • A. M. says:

      Emma: All organizations, whether they are for-profit or non-profit, whether they are a company or a club, have the same notability criteria for inclusion on Wikipedia. The requirements are described here: Wikipedia:Notability (organizations and companies)

      Also, accounts can be blocked for promoting a worthy cause as easily as for promoting a company. Wikipedia doesn’t discriminate about what is being promoted; promotion is still promotion. An article about a not-for-profit organization must still be neutral in tone and contain sufficient citations to reliable independent sources to demonstrate that the organization is notable. In the Wikipedia world, “notability” isn’t related to the importance of the organization’s work; rather, notability is defined as significant coverage in multiple independent secondary sources.

  35. Walter says:

    Also the article mentions that the self promoting Wikipedia entry is open to competitor or disgruntled consumer /ex-employee comments. However isn’t it true that the administrator of the page is usually the self promotor or friend/employee so they just delete balanced but negative entries against the page.

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