Wikipedia and Business – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wikipedia—everybody uses it, but no one admits it. No reputable writer would ever include Wikipedia pages in a reference source list. Wikipedia has strict publishing guidelines, of course, but the information is not always reliable because anyone and everyone can write and edit it.

Even so, Wikipedia is widely used and entries show up in search engines, often near the top. That fact alone makes it appealing for businesses. A company page also augments online branding and reputation.

But how can your business have a Wikipedia page that conforms to all the site’s rules, like those pesky “impartiality” mandates? Wikipedia contains plenty of company pages. You know it’s possible.

If you’ve been thinking about adding a page for your company or editing an entry that already exists, here’s what you need to know.

1. Wikipedia’s Not Your Average Marketing Platform

In fact, Wikipedia’s not a marketing platform at all. If you look at company entries, such as the BetterWorks page, you won’t find a single marketing word or phrase. What you do find are cold, hard facts—the company’s purpose, location, key people and innovations.

Article information must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV) and include reputable third-party sources. Wikipedia considers NPOV a fundamental principle, and creating a page with promotional or marketing material will result in heavy editing or getting banned.

2. Is Your Company Notable?

Is your business noteworthy? Of course you think it is. But, to have a unique business page rather than one merged into a more general topic, your company must be notable according to Wikipedia guidelines. And those guidelines are formidable. Obviously, companies like Apple and Microsoft meet the notability challenge. But your company can’t compete with big names like that. What makes your company notable in Wikipedia’s eyes?

Here are some ways a business meets notability standards:

  • Media coverage, books, publications, press releases or any public mention written by someone unaffiliated with the organization. Unfortunately, a mention in your hometown newspaper is not noteworthy enough. Mentions on high-ranking websites, national magazines or major newspapers are. Search online for mentions you may not be aware of. Gather as many reputable third-party citations as possible with a goal of four or more.
  • Achievements count toward notability. Has your company won awards or acclaim for innovations, breakthroughs or inventions, or been part of a bigger project that positively impacted others? Worthy achievements are not about the company’s sales milestones, but about how your company made new inroads into old processes and positively changed the way things are done.  

3. It’s Not a DIY Thing

You now have an idea about what should and shouldn’t be on your company Wikipedia page, but there’s a catch. You or anyone else connected with your company cannot create the company page without full disclosure. It’s against the rules. It’s a conflict of interest. You’ll get around that little issue, right? You think, I’ll hire somebody to write something up for my business. Guess what? You can’t do that without full disclosure, either. So what can you do?

If you’re sure your company meets the notability requirements and no page currently exists, you do have options.

  1. Create a user page and disclose your relationship to the company.
  2. Click the {Wikipedia: Requested articles} link.
  3. Choose the category that most closely fits your business sector.
  4. In no more than two lines, describe the basics about your company. Absolutely no puffing allowed. State that you have a conflict of interest because of your relationship to the business. A conflict of interest statement may seem counterproductive, but in fact, it increases your chances of approval.  
  5. List third-party references to your company that support your notability claims. Do not list any material written by you or anyone related to the business. Wikipedia does not specify a number of resources required for approval but calls for multiple significant sources that directly describe your company in detail.
  6. Cross your fingers and submit. If your request shows promise, an editor may start an article based on the information and sources you provided.

An alternative method to inclusion is to create a draft of an article within your user page and submit through the {Wikipedia: Article} wizard. If you take this route, make sure your article meets the sourcing and neutrality requirements. Otherwise, it’s a road to nowhere.

4. But Wait! There’s Already Something There …

But wait! You searched Wikipedia and found an existing article for your business. You tell yourself, “OK, that’s good, right?” But, when you read the article you realize it’s full of errors. And some of the information is outright misrepresentation. Did that employee you fired for malfeasance a couple of years back decide to exact revenge? Whether the information is intentionally incorrect or not, you can take steps to correct the untrue information.

You’ll get the overwhelming urge to edit the article yourself. Hold back. Any edits you make violate the conflict of interest rule. Instead, head to the article’s talk page and open a discussion about the article. Explain who you are and how you’re connected with the company. Transparency will give you more credibility, not less. If you make valid points in the discussion, an editor will likely fix the errors.

Another step you can take is to use the {request edit} template. Again, clarify who you are and how you’re connected to the company, and in a reasonable tone explain why you believe specific information is false and why it should be corrected or deleted. Use verifiable third-party sources to support your claim. Keep an NPOV throughout your commentary. Advertising is not allowed on Wikipedia, but neither are attacks. If your input is deemed valid, editors will correct the false statements.

Having a company Wikipedia page enhances your visibility, improves your ranking in search engine results and boosts your reputation. Your business may not have the third-party citations it needs to earn its own spot yet. So work on growing your business, innovating and excelling in your field. If you do that, a Wikipedia article about your business may not be far behind.

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