Wikis | Stephan Spencer

Wikis Archives - Stephan Spencer

An insider’s perspective on Wikipedia and SEO

By | Search Engines, Wikis | One Comment

I had the pleasure of interviewing a well-respected Wikipedia editor who specializes in Wikipedia articles about search engine optimization. He also happens to be an SEO consultant. His name is Jonathan Hochman. The interview covers a range of things including how to build up your reputation as an editor, how to deal with people trying to delete an article you authored, the Notability test, external links, photos and Creative Commons licensing, the Village Pump, and more. That interview is available as a 40 minute long podcast.

Download/listen to the MP3 » (18 Megs)

I incorporated parts of the interview into my SEO How To article for Practical Ecommerce Magazine last month — “Can Wikipedia Help Your Business?” — so be sure to check that out too.

Some of my favorite tips from the article, some of which come from me and some from Jonathan, include:

  • Reputation is everything. Do this by building a solid history of edits that aren’t self-serving.
  • Engage with Wikipedians through your Talk page, their Talk page, and the Talk pages of entries you wish to contribute to.
  • Create an informative User page to build credibility and boost social networking.
  • When someone reverts your edit, seek clarification by asking them what you could do differently.
  • Make sure any new entry includes references to back it up. If the entry is for an author, reference their book’s ISBN number to support your case for notability. If the entry is for a company, link to a press mentions page on their website so that Wikipedians can establish level of notability.
  • Monitor entries that are important to you by using the “watch” function within Wikipedia so that when you log in you will be alerted to any changes to those entries.
  • After adding a new entry, build PageRank by internal links from other Wikipedia pages.

Ironic Google Ads Juxtaposed

By | Search Engines, Wikis | No Comments

I’m here at the ACCM conference. It’s been a fun show so far. Amy Africa’s session was hilarious and information-packed — awesome stuff! I presented on a SEM Lab (a site clinic) this morning. I was giving a tip to one of the site owners in the audience. Their most relevant keywords are very niche and hardly searched on at all. The more popular keywords weren’t really things that they offered, although those words were likely searches for their target audience. So I suggested they target these tangentially related keywords by offering a glossary of terms on their site. Each term, such as “market segmentation”, would have a page dedicated to it with not only a definition but also additional resources and links. Even better, they could make this glossary a wiki so that site visitors could add to and edit the definitions, thus encouraging visitor participation (i.e. “consumer generated content”!) and making the definitions more credible and more link-worthy because there was consensus from all the visitors. This really does work.

I showed the audience an example of this concept in action… specifically: SEO, a site that we at Netconcepts developed for marketing purposes.

Screenshot of ironic Google ads juxtaposed

We simply took a 12 page glossary of SEO terms that I used to hand out at conferences and turned it into a wiki. This site is ranked #1 and #2 in Google for “seo glossary”, among stiff competition, including Aaron Wall’s SEOBook. As I was explaining this in the session, I pulled up the SEO Glossary site and my co-panelists Matt Bailey and Detlev Johnson started laughing. I couldn’t figure out why they were laughing, so I had to ask. They told me: check out the Google ads on the page. On one hand, you have “Avoid SEO Malpractice: Know the Questions to Ask Your Prospective SEO Management Firm” and on the other you have the very dodgy sounding “Guaranteed Page 1 Ranking: Guaranteed Page 1 Rankings $49.95 No Charge Until You are on Page 1″. Oh the irony! It’s almost as if the first ad is referring specifically to its neighboring ad! I took a screenshot for posterity (the one shown directly above; the red arrow I added myself for effect 😉 )

Editing Wikipedia for SEO?

By | Search Engines, Wikis | 10 Comments

It’s getting a bit ridiculous how often Wikipedia shows up on the first page of Google for just about every search imaginable. Micropersuasion has noticed it for brand searches. Google’s getting a bit lazy I think to give Wikipedia carte blanche access to page 1 of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Often times Wikipedia doesn’t deserve to be there (like when it’s only a stub, for instance).

But because Wikipedia does dominate the SERPs, it makes it pretty darned important for your company to have a good, balanced, accurate entry in Wikipedia. Not a stub. Not conspiracy theories written by crackpots.

Do you know what your Wikipedia page says about you? Better check it now:


Do you have all the “External Links” you deserve on that page? For example, I see on REI’s entry there is no link to their site, or to their REI Adventures site either. That’s a missed opportunity — both in terms of clicks and in terms of PageRank. Here’s another example… on the Budget Group entry, I don’t see a link to their Budget Truck Rental site at When adding links, contribute other things too in the same edit, such as fixing typos, adding additional copy etc. That makes it less likely your changes will be reverted. External link only edits are looked on with suspicion, and rightly so, since most of those are spam.

Don’t have a Wikipedia entry for your company? Then work towards getting one — assuming you’re noteworthy. (Don’t just add your company’s entry yourself, as it’s against Wikipedia’s NPOV guidelines.) Why is it good to have one? Because it’s a lot easier to get internal links from other entries to your own. External Links are anathema to many Wikipedia editors. They much prefer internal links.

Because External Links are so hard to add (at least to make them stick, for longer than 5 minutes before Wikipedians delete them), try adding References. References are desperately sought after by Wikipedia editors. Indeed, many entries are flagged to display a big message at the top that “This article or section does not cite its references or sources. Please help improve this article by introducing appropriate citations.” So help out: add some references that back up assertions made in the entry, some of which could happen to be articles on your site (assuming they’re relevant and add value to the entry). And of course you need to make your References links. Don’t only add References linking to your own stuff, as that looks just a wee bit self-serving — it will stick out like a sore thumb and your References will get nuked.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that anyone can edit anything, and can do it quickly and easily, Wikipedia maintains a high level of quality and accuracy. A study published in the academic journal Nature concluded that it is “nearly as accurate” as Encyclopaedia Britannica! That boggles the mind.

BTW, anyone notice how lousy Wikipedia’s internal search engine is? Try searching for “recreational equipment inc” for example. Oops, “No page with that title exists”! Doh, you forgot to include the dot! 😉 Try “recreational equipment inc.” instead and then it works. Ugh. SLI Systems, you guys should donate your “Learning Search” to Wikipedia. They need it bad.

Wikipedia changes the game, but the game isn’t over

By | Search Engines, Wikis | 3 Comments

I blogged last month about Wikipedia and SEO. There are a number of considerations when making edits, creating entries, and passing the “Notability” test — practices to avoid so you don’t run afoul of their guidelines and so on.

Well folks, the game has changed. Wikipedia just instituted nofollows on all external links. This had already been in place for a while on some of their sister sites. This effectively removes a lot of the incentive to contribute to Wikipedia. Or does it? It does if your end goal is receiving PageRank to your own sites. But not if your goals are traffic (a top ranking Wikipedia page that links to you will still drive plenty of direct clickthrough traffic your way), credibility (companies with entries give the impression of being bigger and more legitimate), and reputation management (because a favorable Wikipedia entry for your company will probably occupy a spot in the top 10 in the SERPs for searches on your company name).

So are legitimate SEOs going to give up on contributing to Wikipedia? I hope not — at least for the ones who are adding value to Wikipedia. I think we’d all like the spammers to leave (I certainly would!), and I know that is Jimbo Wales’ intention, but I doubt that’s what will transpire. Nofollowing blog comments didn’t drive the spammers away; I can’t see it working for Wikipedia. Especially as long as Wikipedia holds the top spot for important keywords such as “marketing” in Google. (sigh!)

More discussion on this development at SEOMoz.

Online retailers doing wikis?

By | Ecommerce, Online Retail, Wikis | No Comments

In the past I’ve made the case for using wikis for online marketing.

Perusing recently I saw that there were already over 7500 product wikis contributed by Amazon customers. Cool! (Unfortunately not a single one of their wikis is indexed in Google because of the search engine unfriendly way they’ve implemented wikis on their site. Indeed, I couldn’t even find a way to link to their wikis from here, because links like this one expire and stop working after a while.)

It made me wonder how many other e-commerce sites were embracing wikis as a way to augment their product information and encourage customer participation in the site. I haven’t heard of any other online retailers doing this.

Know of any etailers experimenting with wikis?

There is the ShopWiki website, which is not an online retailer but a site targeted to online retail. ShopWiki was founded by Kevin Ryan and Dwight Merriman (DoubleClick’s former CEO and former CTO, respectively). There is some good stuff in ShopWiki. For example, if you are looking to buy a compound bow, there is great buying guide as well as an explanation of how a compound bow works, type of material used in its manufacture, etc. (Unfortunately, like with Amazon’s wikis, ShopWiki’s wikis — including their buying guide on the compound bow — aren’t making it into Google. Fewer than 72 wiki pages are indexed).

Not strictly an online retail wiki, yet it overlaps partially with the ShopWiki is wikiHow, a how-to manual launched by the dotcom eHow. I am unclear why eHow started a separate wiki rather than folding it into I think they should have just opened up their eHow site for user contributions.

I think a wiki is especially suited to applications such as buyers guides, encyclopedias, glossaries, manuals, travel guides, etc when you want to elicit user contributions without making visible a lot of back-and-forth discussion. The real value is in the final product, not in the discussion that got to that point. That is where a wiki really shines.

Wikis for marketing

By | Wikis | 3 Comments

Imagine launching a website that your readers can actually edit. That in a nutshell is a “wiki.” Sound scary?

Sometimes it goes horribly wrong. For instance, the LA Times launched a wiki for their editorials, then promptly removed it after it started getting defaced.

But then there are some amazing successes. The most oft-quoted wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia created entirely by its visitors and boasting over a half million entries. Here are some interesting stats on Wikipedia’s growth: here and here.

But Wikipedia isn’t really an example of a wiki used for marketing purposes. Here are a few examples that market or promote a product/service/company/destination:

  • Channel 9 Wiki — Part of the MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network). Microsoft uses this to engage with techies worldwide and keep the dialogue going. I’ve even contributed to it myself then blogged about it.
  • — My company, Netconcepts, recently launched this wiki to provide a resource that is fluid and changeable as the SEO industry evolves. It’s part of our consultative selling strategy.
  • NYWiki — everything you’d want to know about people, places, and things in New York City. A privately-owned website. They make money off of Google AdSense advertising.
  • NewPRWiki — a wiki on new forms of PR, started by communications consultant Constantin Basturea
  • Memory Alpha — a wiki for die-hard Star Trek fans. They make money off of Google AdSense advertising.

Only the first two examples are really marketing initiatives.

Anyone have any more/better examples of wikis used in marketing?

MSN Search embraces wikis as a customer communication channel

By | Search Engines, Wikis | 3 Comments

A few days before Christmas, Microsoft’s MSN Search team announced their MSN Search Wiki. The word quickly spread to blogs like ResearchBuzz, SearchEngineWatch Blog, and Google Blogoscoped. Of the major search engines, MSN Search is the only one to employ wikis as a way to encourage customer participation in the product development process. Hats off to Microsoft for showing such leadership!

A wiki, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is essentially an interactive website that any visitor can edit, with a view to improving or enhancing it. In other words, a “website run by the community.” It’s not uncommon for entire websites to be built by web visitors. A great example is the Wikipedia, an entire encyclopedia written by and maintained by its online visitors.

I’ve just made some contributions to MSN Search’s wiki, including:

Come on everyone, join in and help Microsoft make a killer search engine!