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Grey Hat SEO Part 1: Building Links from Wikipedia

Wikipedia Homepage

Whenever I give a seminar on linkbuilding or construct an off-site strategy for a client, invariably the topic of getting links on Wikipedia comes up. And with good reason РWikipedia is clearly one of the most visible websites in the world, with a mountain of content and Brobdingnagian domain authority.

“BUT WAIT,” you say, “those links you place on Wikipedia are no-followed!” And you’re absolutely right. The links on Wikipedia don’t directly pass on “link juice” in the way that followed links do.

However, it’s become quite clear that Wikipedia is one of the places that people writing content go to research topics. And it’s very convenient for that, as Wikipedia provides a list of sources. Being included in that list of sources dramatically increases the chances that a content writer will link to you – and their¬†link is most likely going to be followed. And of course, this is all in addition to the more immediate benefit of getting a boost in referral traffic from Wikipedia. Just make sure to take credit for it when you write up your next monthly traffic report.

Wikipedia References List

Sample Wikipedia references list (none of our built links included!)

So the fun part about Wikipedia linkbuilding is that, generally speaking, Wikipedia and it’s editors/moderators don’t want you to do it. All else being equal, deliberately modifying an independent source of information to promote your private business can be unethical. Thankfully though, there’s a smarter way to do it that can be a “win” both for your company and for Wikipedia’s readers.

The key, as always, is to add value. For instance, one of our clients is a highly specialized industrial manufacturer. They have case studies, white papers, and dozens of pages about specific applications of the material components that make up their products. This information could be incredibly useful, but was previously almost completely invisible, buried deep within their massive website. Wikipedia could be one (of many) ways to help bring that information to the surface.

So what did we do? We brainstormed a list of all the kinds of articles where the content they had generated could add value. Then, over time, added snippets of information to Wikipedia where it was hyper-relevant and respectfully cited a source. The text we added was in no way promotional, it simply stated objective facts. Lo and behold, the editors saw nothing wrong with this, and the links “stuck.”

But it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Even if you are adding value, most editors won’t look favorably on an account that is just going around adding links to one private business. Even if you are adding value, there’s a good chance someone won’t approve of such blatant tactics. So here’s where the real time investment comes in: you need to build up an authentic Wikipedia account. That means spending time on a regular basis creating and editing articles that have nothing to do with your company or your clients. I spent hours, over the course of months, writing articles on musicians, local cities, movies, history, etc. Once you have a healthy portfolio of edits under your belt, citing a source to a private company now and then doesn’t look suspicious at all.

So that’s how you use Wikipedia to drive rank and traffic, while not being too unethical about things (and in fact, maybe even contributing something valuable to one of the most amazing resources the Internet has to offer).

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About Taylor Caldron

Taylor Caldron is the SEO Manager at Pure Visibility, specializing in link-building and international SEO, and is experienced in B2B lead generation for industries ranging from industrial metals to foodservice. He began working for Pure Visibility in April 2012 after receiving his Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. You can find him on Google+.