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January 14, 2008

Should associations write their own Wikipedia entries?

In Sumo wrestling, sometimes the bigger guy's strength can actually become his biggest weakness.

Last year, I wrote a post warning association executives of the inherent risks involved in creating Wikipedia entries for their associations. I set out to write six arguments against it, but couldn't stop until I had reached nine. Associations Now even picked up on the point-counterpoint between Joe Grant and I, and printed a summary of our blog-debate in August 2007 (article appeared only in the print version).

Call me Mitt Romney, but I'm going to flip-flop on my position about whether or not staff should set up articles in Wikipedia about the association for whom they work. Don't do it. In addition to the nine reasons to steer your association clear of Wikipedia, I've come to the conclusion that one of the quote-unquote benefits to being on Wikipedia actually makes it more of a liability for associations. This one factor compels me to advise associations against developing their own Wikipedia entries. Let me explain why.

Recently I've watched certain pages rocket to the top of Google's results for certain search phrases. At the same time, I've also been reading and talking with others more and more about search engine optimization (SEO). And all the while I have increasingly noticed that Wikipedia entries are commonplace in Google's top 10 results (just search Sumo and see for yourself). Wikipedia is the eighth most-visited site in the United States and its millions of pages live at the top of the search rankings for all kinds of terms.

Here's the rub. Why would you intentionally create a Wikipedia entry that will develop so much SEO juice to compete with your own website for the attention of web searchers? Your association is an a battle for the web surfing attention of your members and constituents. In the not-for-profit space, I would advise against encouraging staff to set up Wikipedia articles about their associations. The upside for philanthropic organizations may be higher.

So whereas I used to have nine reasons to encourage associations to steer clear of creating entries for their organizations in Wikipedia and could justify the risks, I now have ten. But the tenth one puts me into the naysayer category.

As a final thought, I would (and do) encourage associations to expand on and develop entries in Wikipedia about topics within their trade's or profession's sphere of influence, though this also is not without some risk.

Tagged: ; ; ;


Scott said...

Ben --- have you considered any marginal positive value of an incoming link to the association web site from wikipedia? I'm not sure what the value would be, if any, but it could be helpful for SEO...

Lindy Dreyer said...

Good advice. I think the key is to gauge the encyclopedic value of the content on your association page. If it's nothing more than an alternative to your homepage or "about" page, you're right. It's competing.

However, if your association has important encyclopedic content to add to Wikipedia--for example, if your association's past presidents are famous or important enough to have pages of their own--then the Wikipedia page could drive a lot of traffic to your site.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

I'm sure there is some marginal benefit, but I don't think it would be enough to overtake Wikipedia's Google juice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

Great article, check your email!