Wikipedia is one of the most (if not THE most) authoritative sources on the internet. With an average of 8 billion pageviews every single month and over 6 million articles posted only in the English version of the colossus, Wikipedia claims its well deserved spot as the 5th most visited website of the planet.
Yet, it does not serve any ads to its users. How is this possible? Every other site you visit on a daily basis probably runs ads to survive. How come the 5th most visited site in the world doesn’t? Can it survive solely on donations?
And… is there any way you can promote yourself on Wikipedia, even if it’s forbidden? Let’s find out.
5 Workarounds for Promoting Yourself on Wikipedia
Even though there might be no way to directly advertise on Wikipedia, there are clearly ways you can get your brand or message on it. However, self promotion in a very… promotional manner is prohibited. For example, autobiography is not recommended as it cannot be truly objective. In fact, nobody close to you should actually write about you, your company or your products. You can still do it, though. But the risk of it being rejected is high.
But as long as you stick with the community’s standards, you’re definitely good to go. Before we get to the actual things you can do, I’ll share a couple of old stories with you regarding online advertising and Wikipedia.
1. Marketing Play
The famous tire manufacturer Pirelli used it to boast about its advertising prowess, some time ago. Their technique, according to the ad, was to “doctor” Wikipedia articles in a somewhat novel way. By replacing the pictures previously used to illustrate certain Pirelli and tire-related articles with higher-quality images but with a twist. In their own words, what was characteristic of the new images was that “the Pirelli brand appeared on every single image in a super contextual way, turning the image into a powerful ad placement.”
What Pirelli did was to “improve” Wikipedia articles about the brand with high-quality images from their own bank which had the brand name visible in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
While some images only had the brand name visible on tires (not very in-your-face), others were much more obvious, having Pirelli banners at the center and race cars barely in the background. The idea apparently came from advertising agency Havas Digital. Regardless where it came from, it caused quite a stir.
However, hold on your hats, ‘couse it was all fake!
Wikipedia’s reaction was swift and decided that it was all a fake. All changes are carefully and closely tracked by a fierce team of Wikipedia editors. If you’re a brand, that goes double for you. So what were the chances for Pirelli to deploy those changes long enough so that they’d get to capture them for the tire company’s ad? Planting images would ring as big an alarm bell as planting words or links.
Administrators of the online crowdsourced encyclopedia were quick to set the record straight and emphasize that their photographs policies are very clear and favor Wikimedia Commons content over proprietary content, even when image quality might be higher for the latter.
There were even people who checked and confirmed at the time that no attempts had been made to change photos on the advertised articles . Perhaps somewhow ironically (depending on your definition of the word), Pirelli didn’t catch. That boat even after the incident: there is no mention about this incident on the Wikipedia page for Pirelli, or anywhere else in the encyclopedia, for that matter. But despite that and the fact that Pirelli itself later admitted to it all being a fake and carried out as a guerilla marketing stunt, the idea of “cracking” Wikipedia was planted in the minds of marketers everywhere.
The video was removed from Pirelli Brazil’s Youtube channel , yet copies of the video continued to create uproar. Ralph Traviati, the company’s spoke person stated that the video produced by Harvas was only a demonstration of an initiative that was never implemented. Yet, knowing Wikipedia’s policy towards advertising, why would anyone try to have such an initiative? However, the PR did their part well and some reactions were spawned on Twitter as well, as you can see in the screenshot above.
If you care about your time, don’t waste it on trying to do anything like that. It will get flagged and removed quickly. There are over 100.000 active users and over 1000 admins ready to ban your account and IP. Pirelli was successful in this because it got some coverage in the media. Fake news isn’t very appreciated, however the marketing play above isn’t something people will necessarily dislike.
2. Conflict of Interests
A perhaps even bigger scandal developed in the fall of 2012 and involved accusations of product placement on Wikipedia. What happened was that the Did You Know (DYK) section on Wikipedia was seemingly assaulted by articles about Gibraltar. Sure, it’s an interesting territory, but to appear 17 times in the DYK section in a single month is a feat that borders the unbelievable. Mostly because it is hard to believe that it would pop up “randomly” so many times in a single month (all 17 times happened in August 2012).
It turns out that these articles were all promoted by Wiki gatekeeper Roger Bamkin, who, incidentally, also happened to have a contract with the government of Gibraltar to publicize the territory on the online encyclopedia. Of course, most Wikipedia editors and board members have other daily jobs, but they’re not supposed to act on them while working for and on Wikipedia.
But even though Bamkin’s actions were intuitively wrong, they were in a somewhat gray area: after all, he didn’t go and edit the articles in Gibraltar’s favor (a much more serious offense), he just gave them a gentle push to the front section.
To us, Jimmy Wales’ idea about the five-year ban might sound reasonable. But it doesn’t mean it’s going to sound the same to the people who are actually doing the work. The talks involving “Gibraltarpedia” on the Wiki talk pages seem never-ending. And opinions about the five-year ban range from “a bit excessive” to “a flat-out terrible idea”. And these are not users who are happy about the Gibraltar scandal (or at least they don’t seem to be). But rather users who seem to genuinely think about the impact of such a measure in the long run.
We invite you to take a look at the screenshot below and judge for yourself weather the Gibraltarpedia follows the rules imposed by Wikipedia itself. Not exactly, huh?
3. Getting Links from Wikipedia for SEO
SEO is also a form of marketing, so getting editors to link to you will help you, one way or another. The links might result in direct traffic or ranking boosts.
I’m sure you’re going to say something about all the links being nofollow, but I can counter that. Nofollow links can actually help you rank better. So if you can get relevant nofollow links, don’t hesitate to do it. Especially from such a highly authoritative source like Wikipedia.
However, creating an entire article requires a significant amount of knowledge. It’s not as easy as editing one. You also have to respect all Wikimedia’s fair use guidelines, otherwise you risk working hours for nothing.
You can start creating by using Wikipedia’s Article Wizard. It’s a good idea to first start with some edits, then work your way up to modifying sections or creating articles from scratch. Wikipedia likes interlinking between its own pages, so make sure you do some of those. Then, you can even start using your own articles/content as sources. A popular method is the broken link building method.
If you’re looking for topics to write about, you can check out the requested articles list. You can in fact list your own article there to request another editor to write it. However, it might take years if not forever for someone to pick it up, as the list is huge. And as I said, the number of contributors is dropping.
4. Paying Editors to Write or Edit
A quick hack into getting listed on Wikipedia. Or even getting a link might be paying a contributor to write your article or edit an existing one. However, this is easier said than done, as contributors that are paid must disclose this on their profile.
This is pretty much the same story as with SEO paid links. You must disclose the payment through the ‘nofollow’ tag.
You’ll probably find many ‘contributors’ there willing to do this for you. However, they’re basically doing what you would do. Create a fake account, post or modify something, write it poorly, not disclose it and then get banned.
Instead, stick to either the Reward Board, where you can ask existing editors to make some changes or work for you (considering it respects the guidelines, of course) in exchange for a financial reward.
Another way is to rely on professional teams from PR and advertising agencies like Ahn & Co. or EthicalWiki. They both provide guideline compliant Wikipedia writing services and even offer money-back guarantees against deletion. But one thing’s clear: they will be unbiased, so if you did something significantly wrong, it will probably be there. Even if they don’t add it, other editors will.
5. Google’s ‘Mentioned on Wikipedia’ Rich Snippets
One cool side effect of being listed on Wikipedia is the increased chance of being listed into Google’s Rich Results Snippets.
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