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Wikipedia and SEO: Everything You Need to Know

Do you remember what life was like before the internet took off?

What would you do if you wanted to find out who the head coach of the 1986 Detroit Pistons was or learn about the migratory habits of the European pigeon? You had to rely on your memory (spotty at best), ask a friend (possibly unreliable), or take a trip to the local library (does anyone know how the Dewey Decimal System works?).

Now a simple Google search can provide the answer to virtually any question you may have.

And one of the most popular resources for finding information of all kinds is Wikipedia.

A community-curated encyclopedia, it has over 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.

This can be attributed to Cunningham’s Law, which states that “the best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; is to post the wrong answer.”

That’s great and all, you’re probably saying right now, but what does this have to do with search engine optimization? Turns out it’s quite a lot.

When you think about it, it makes sense.

Wikipedia, the seventh most popular website in the world, appears on the first page of search engine results for all kinds of queries, including some of the ones you’re probably looking for.

And with a little strategy and digital intelligence, you can make it work through off-site and on-site SEO tactics.

Ready to learn more? Continue reading.

Wikipedia Guidelines

Although Wikipedia pages are built and maintained by users, you can’t keep creating new pages unintentionally.

Otherwise, people who want to feel important and every mom-and-pop shop in the world would litter the online encyclopedia with unimportant entries.

Imagine the headaches it would cause if you tried to research René Descartes (the famous 17th century philosopher and mathematician) and instead ended up on a page about René Descartes, who works in the produce department of a supermarket.

To avoid this scenario, Wikipedia has strict guidelines for covering topics.

But here’s the thing: Wikipedia is clear in its five pillars that it has no hard and fast rules.

Understand that policies evolve, so if you have enough time to spare, you can find articles published on Wikipedia that violate each of the guidelines listed above.

Now let’s look at 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 is hugely influential in its own 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 places is much deeper.

Wikipedia is the online resource for knowledge.

People know it, use it, and trust it to provide information about 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 that the Google Knowledge Graph uses Wikipedia.

When asked about the data sources, he said: “We use the knowledge graph (which comes from various places, including Wikipedia) to try to understand the entities on a page.”

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that many marketers link to Wikipedia pages in the hope that the search engine giant will take notice of their site and give it some reflected authority.

There’s just one small problem: Google doesn’t do it anymore.

The sites link to Wikipedia, CNN, and Disney homepages in the hope that search engines will consider them important sites.

Well, they did almost 30 years ago.

— johnmu from Switzerland (personal) (@JohnMu) December 23, 2021

Well, what about backlinks? Wouldn’t a link from a Wikipedia entry improve your ranking with all those citations?

Unfortunately, in an attempt to reduce spam and discourage the creation of advertisements or other marketing initiatives masquerading as encyclopedia entries, all of these links are no-follow.

John Mueller verified the futility of actively looking for Wikipedia backlinks in a 2021 Reddit post:

“Randomly dropping a Wikipedia link has no SEO value and won’t do anything for your site. All you’re doing is creating extra work for the Wikipedia maintainers who will remove your links. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.”

OK, Wikipedia doesn’t help SEO through inbound or outbound links, and its guidelines specifically prohibit creating entries for marketing.

What is a search engine optimizer to do?

Just because you can’t use some of the most 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 generating clicks, there are several ways to use Wikipedia for both off-page and on-page SEO.

Ways To Use Wikipedia For Off-Site SEO

In the past, many SEO professionals found all kinds of spammy ways to game Wikipedia to get extra web traffic.

And as expected, these people ruined it for everyone.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to use Wikipedia for your off-site SEO purposes.

Here are some ways to do it:

1. Get referral traffic through citations and broken links.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that nofollow links aren’t valuable.

When a quote links to your site, you can get referral traffic from people searching 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 on those citation links.)

Also, other sites looking for a reliable source for their web pages 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 that it is often the most relevant link for broad keywords.

With a tool like Semrush, you can find out who is linking to a page and then use that information to build links to those sites. This will improve your authority and thus improve your ranking.

You can also go through referral pages to increase your network of related websites, people and organizations.

3. Create your own Wikipedia page.

Okay, this is a bit complicated. Your sole proprietorship, Jill’s SEO Shop, is probably not noteworthy enough to meet Wikipedia’s expectations. But a company like John Deere or Louis Vuitton is.

If your business deserves its own Wikipedia page, you should have one.

If you think you’re a good fit, you should work with an experienced Wikipedia editor to develop well-structured content that meets the requirements and tells your company’s story.

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 rankings.

Here are some ways you can help:

Finding the right words and phrases is an important part of search engine optimization.

Wikipedia is an excellent source for discovering the nomenclature and real language of the industry.

Since most Wikipedia articles are written or at least edited by subject matter experts, you can expect them to use the phrases and language that your target audience will use in searches.

This is especially useful if you are 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 of its traffic statistics publicly available.

If you have an idea for a new blog and want to see if there’s interest in that topic, checking visits to related Wiki pages is a good place to start.

It’s not a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, if a Wikipedia page gets a lot of traffic, more people will search for information on that topic.

Likewise, an article topic that only gets a handful of visitors each month might not drive 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 through the dates. Check out the linked pages and steal and borrow their ideas.

Make boring content enjoyable and you’ll start getting clicks from those sites.

You also want to search for stubs and pages with dead links and necessary citations.

Providing information on specific topics, replacing dead links with your own, and serving as a resource are great ways to build your authority and create content for underserved topics, which can mean high search rankings.

Putting Wikipedia To Work For You

Wikipedia is an interesting unicorn of a place.

With no marketing angle, no-follow links and no paid advertising opportunity, at first glance it may seem like something an SEO can ignore; that would be a mistake.

While you should be careful not to spam, if done correctly, Wikipedia can be an incredible resource for search engine professionals.

If you are creating high-quality content relevant to a page, you can serve as a source.

But even if you don’t, you can use Wikipedia as a research tool to find new ideas, topics, and link sites.

With such strict guidelines, it may seem alien at first, but with a little work, you can use the online encyclopedia to help your site rank higher and generate more traffic.

Featured image: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

You can "deep link" to a section of an article (or another Wikipedia page), using a hash character ( # ), then the title of the section, with underscore characters ( _ ) replacing spaces. For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitten#External_links links to the same section as Kitten#External_links.

How can I improve my website SEO?

Follow these tips to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and watch your website rise to the top of search engine results.

  • Post relevant and authoritative content. …
  • Update your content regularly. …
  • Metadata …
  • Have a link worthy site. …
  • Use high tags.

What is meant by Google algorithm?

Google’s algorithms are a complex system used to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query. The search engine uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking factors to deliver web pages ranked by relevance to search engine results pages (SERPs).

How long does it take for a Wikipedia article to be approved?

The total evaluation time ranges between 3 and 6 months. During this period, if your article is published, you will receive a link via email. Wikipedia receives thousands of entries every day. It has its own team of highly professional Wikipedia editors who scrutinize content and look for gaps.

Is a Wikipedia page good for business?

Wikipedia can be an excellent source of credibility, backlinks and organic traffic to your site. It can also improve the visibility of your business.

Who invented domain authority?

It was created by the software development company Moz and provides an overview of the likely performance of the search engine. It gives sites a score between 1 and 100, with the higher end of the scale representing a better result.

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