Like many people, I look up things on Wikipedia every day. Oh, I don’t always trust what I read, but then again, I’d never make it my sole source for serious research either. The fact that it’s one of my top casual destinations underlines its importance in strategic search engine optimization. Of course, Google and Wikipedia are both well aware that Wikipedia is, some of the most valuable SEO real estate due to both raw popularity, and Google’s tendency to up-rank Wikipedia pages . . . well, just because. Every SEO analyst has a story of a client who had trouble cracking the top because Google saw fit to chuck an obscure Wikipedia stub up to #1.
Wikipedia links are now nofollow links, meaning they don’t grant authority (or “link juice”) to sites that link to them. If you give it a little thought however, you’ll soon realize that this doesn’t actually make much of a difference, provided you go about using Wikipedia intelligently. Here’s what we’ve done to successfully use Wikipedia in our campaigns:
Realize that Eyeballs Matter: In other words, even if there’s no link juice going around, the fact that real people look at Wikipedia articles and click through links matters. Not only does this mean more traffic, but your links may be picked up by sources that do provide link authority.
Remember Wikipedia Mirrors and Scrape Sites: There are plenty of Wikipedia mirrors that do grant link juice. Wikipedia’s Creative Commons License allows this. Once your content and links are harvested, they suddenly gain multiple links. Some mirrors are actually decently ranked and trafficked, too.
Be Picky With Articles: First of all, don’t just swing by and add a barely relevant link to a high PageRank article. Wikipedia volunteers and bots will kill those right away. Find the right article for your client. That means picking the most relevant article or writing it yourself, if it doesn’t exist. If your link actually makes sense, it’s not going to get removed. Plus, more niche pages aren’t subject to the same competition as major pages are, but they still benefit from a rank boost – that’s where those annoying stubs at first place come from.
Edit Skillfully: When you dig in, perform a significant, competent edit to the entry. You should add genuine value to the article’s raw text. This means you have to do some independent research, but you have an excellent resource at hand: your client. If your client knows his business, you know how to add to the article you’re linking him to. Your edit should be well-written, featuring unique text, and should conform to Wikipedia’s style guide. If you make the article an order of magnitude better, the links you add will be seen as just another part of that improvement (and if you do a good job, they really are).
Link Generously: It’s not all about you, you, you! When you add links to the article, add resources besides your client. This signifies your good intentions and is better for the article. You can even link to relevant competitors – but of course, their content won’t be quite as optimized to fit hand in glove with the article.
Chain Link to the Client: I have to admit I thought of keeping this last bit to myself because it’s worked out so well for us. Yes, Wikipedia links have the nofollow attribute, making them useless for direct link juice. To get by this, we set up an offsite blog for one of our clients. We put some quality content there and used it as our link target, while it linked back to our client’s site. As a result, the client experienced constant inbound traffic from a site able to grant link authority, and the blog got a decent rank too, thanks to a combination of social bookmarking and backlinks from third party Wikipedia mirrors.
Now if you read between the lines of above, one thing jumps out: Many of the tips for SEO-ing Wikipedia are in line with being a decent Wikipedia “citizen.” Market by adding value to articles and everybody wins.