Remember what life was like before the internet was widespread?
What would you do if you wanted to figure out who was the head coach of the 1986 Detroit Pistons or learn about the migration habits of the European turtle dove? You had to rely on your memory (spotty, at best), ask a friend (possibly unreliable), or take a trip to your local library (does anyone know how the Dewey decimal system works?).
Now a simple Google search can provide you with the answer to virtually any question you could ever have.
And one of the most popular resources for finding information of all types is Wikipedia.
A community-curated encyclopedia, it has more than 56 million pages in 328 languages, most of which anyone can edit.
And yet, despite this free access, it maintains a surprisingly high level of accuracy.
Cunningham’s Law may attribute to this, which states that “the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.”
That’s great and all, you’re probably saying right now, but what does that have to do with search engine optimization? It turns out it’s quite a lot.
When you think about it, it makes sense.
The seventh most popular website in the world, Wikipedia shows up on the first page of search engine results for all types of queries – including some of the ones you’re probably going after.
And with a little strategy and digital savviness, you can put it to work for you via both off-site and on-site SEO tactics.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading.
While Wikipedia pages are built and maintained by users, you can’t just go creating new pages willy-nilly.
Otherwise, people who want to feel important and every mom-and-pop shop in the world would litter the online encyclopedia with unimportant entries.
Just imagine the headaches it would cause if you were trying to research Rene Descartes (the famous 17th-century philosopher and mathematician) and instead ended up on a page about Rene Descartes, who works in the produce department at a supermarket.
To prevent this scenario, Wikipedia has strict guidelines about covering topics.
- Notability – a topic must have received significant coverage from reliable, independent sources.
- Neutral point of view – all content must be presented without editorial bias, with positions represented proportionally in other sources’ coverage.
- No original research – everything in Wikipedia must exist and be verifiable in another reliable source.
- Verifiable – all information must come from sources and use citations wherever possible.
- Reliable sources – entries must cite information that comes from reliable publications covering the work, its creator, or the publisher of the work.
- Spam – content may not be advertising masquerading as information, external link spamming, or contain references intended solely to promote the author.
But here’s the thing: Wikipedia is apparent in its five pillars that it has no firm rules.
It understands policies evolve, so if you have enough time to spare, you can find published Wikipedia articles that break each of the guidelines listed above.
Now let’s dive into how to make Wikipedia work with your SEO efforts.
Google And Wikipedia
Google and Wikipedia are two of the most prominent players on the internet.
And while each wields enormous influence in its sphere, like chocolate and peanut butter, they’re even better together.
How Does Google Use Wikipedia?
As you’ve probably noticed from your searches, Google tends to rely on Wikipedia for featured snippets about people and places. But the relationship between the two sites goes much deeper.
Wikipedia is the online resource for knowledge.
People know, use, and trust it to provide information on virtually everything. And it’s not just humans who feel this way.
Wikipedia has a domain authority of 100, and in a 2018 Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed the Google Knowledge Graph uses Wikipedia.
When asked about data sources, he said, “We use the knowledge graph (which comes from various places, including Wikipedia) to try to understand entities on a page.”
With this in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many marketers link to Wikipedia pages in the hope that the search engine giant will notice their site and give it some reflected authority.
There’s just one little problem: Google doesn’t do that anymore.
Sites link to Wikipedia, CNN, and Disney homepages in the hope of being seen as important sites by search engines.
Well, they used to, almost 30 years ago.
— johnmu of switzerland (personal) (@JohnMu) December 23, 2021
Well, what about backlinks? Wouldn’t a link from a Wikipedia entry enhance your ranking with all those citations?
Unfortunately, in an attempt to cut down spam and discourage the creation of advertorials or other marketing initiatives masquerading as encyclopedia entries, all of these links are nofollow.
John Mueller verified the futility of actively seeking Wikipedia backlinks in a Reddit post from 2021:
“Randomly dropping a link into Wikipedia has no SEO value and will do nothing for your site. All you’re doing is creating extra work for the Wikipedia maintainers who will remove your link drops. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.”
Okay, so Wikipedia doesn’t help SEO via inbound or outbound links, and its guidelines expressly prohibit the creation of entries for marketing.
What’s a search engine optimizer to do?
Just because you can’t use some of the more popular SEO tactics with Wikipedia doesn’t mean the online encyclopedia can’t help you improve your search engine rankings.
SEO Strategies For Wikipedia
From keyword planning to content ideas, building credibility, or driving clicks, there are several ways you can use Wikipedia for both off-page and on-page SEO.
Ways To Use Wikipedia For Off-Site SEO
In the past, a lot of SEO professionals found all sorts of spammy ways to game Wikipedia for additional web traffic.
And as you might expect, these people ruined it for everyone.
But that’s not to say there aren’t ways you can use Wikipedia for your off-site SEO purposes.
Here are some ways to do just that:
1. Grab referral traffic via citations and broken links.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking nofollow links aren’t valuable.
When a citation links to your site, you can get referral traffic from people looking for the original source of information.
(If you’ve ever cited a Wiki article in an online argument only to hear, “lol, Wikipedia,” you know the value of clicking those citation links.)
What’s more, other sites looking for a reliable source for their webpages are more likely to link directly to you. As a Wikipedia source, you have instant credibility.
2. Use Wikipedia to develop link opportunities.
When people are looking for a high-level overview of a topic, Wikipedia is often the first stop. This means it is often the most relevant link for broad keywords.
Using a tool like Semrush, you can discover who links to a page and then use this information to build links with those sites. This will enhance your authority and thus, improve your ranking.
You can also comb through the reference pages to increase your network of related websites, people, and organizations.
3. Create your own Wikipedia page.
Okay, this is a little tricky. Your one-person business, Jill’s SEO Shop, probably isn’t noteworthy enough to meet Wikipedia’s expectations. But a company like John Deere or Louis Vuitton is.
If your company deserves its own Wikipedia page, you should have one.
If you think you fit the bill, you should work with an experienced Wikipedia editor to develop well-structured content that will meet the requirements and tell your company’s history.
Just be careful to avoid being labeled as spam.
Using Wikipedia For On-Site SEO
It’s easy to forget, but the purpose of any encyclopedia, online or physical, is to provide information.
And as the world’s most extensive encyclopedia, Wikipedia is an excellent tool for SEOs looking to maximize their ranking.
Here are a few ways it can help:
1. Keyword research.
Finding the right words and phrases is a huge part of what search engine optimization is all about.
Wikipedia is an excellent source for uncovering the nomenclature and actual language of industry.
Because most Wikipedia articles are written or at least edited by experts on the topic, you can expect them to use the phrases and language your target audience will be using in searches.
This is particularly useful if you’re working in a technical field.
2. Determine interest in a topic.
One of the best things about Wikipedia from an SEO perspective is that it makes all its traffic stats available to the public.
If you have an idea for a new blog and want to see if there’s interest in that topic, checking the visits to related Wiki pages is a great place to start.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, if a Wikipedia page has a lot of traffic, more people will search for information on that topic.
Likewise, an article topic that’s only getting a handful of visitors each month may not generate much traffic to your site either.
3. Use it as a content planning tool.
Coming up with new content ideas is a constant challenge for many SEOs. This is where Wikipedia can be your best friend.
Start by combing the citations. Look at the pages linked to and steal and borrow their ideas.
Make boring content enjoyable, and you’ll start grabbing clicks from those sites.
You also want to look for stubs and pages with dead links and citations needed.
Providing information to flesh out topics, replacing dead links with your own live ones, and serving as a source of information are all great ways to build your authority and create content for under-served topics – which can mean high search rankings.
Putting Wikipedia To Work For You
Wikipedia is an interesting unicorn of a site.
With no marketing angle, nofollow links, and no opportunity for paid advertising, at first glance, it may seem like something an SEO can ignore – this would be a mistake.
While you need to take care that you’re not spamming, if done correctly, Wikipedia can be an incredible resource for search engine professionals.
If you’re creating high-quality content relevant to a page, you can serve as a source.
But even if you’re not, you can use Wikipedia as a research tool for finding new ideas, topics, and linking sites.
With such strict guidelines, it may feel alien at first, but with some work, you can use the online encyclopedia to help your site rank higher and drive more traffic.
Featured Image: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock