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Reputation management is something that all companies must be prepared to do in order to protect their brand. There are two main areas of reputation management. The first involves getting out in front of any negative publicity and the other is trying to recover once something negative about your company goes public. The latter is the most common as many companies are simply not willing to step up and admit a mistake prior to a whistleblower taking the information public. As such, they suffer the consequences and must play catch up in order to protect their reputations.

Through my years as a professional Wikipedia editor, I am often contacted by companies who in some way are looking to use Wikipedia as a reputation management tool. My advice to them 99% of the time is to simply walk away and pray that a Wikipedia page about their company is never created. To help understand the effect that Wikipedia can have on reputation management, it is helpful to understand that one of the most common goals of reputation management is to push any negative content that shows up on the first page of Google results to the second page and beyond. After all, the click thru rate for page two results on Google is less than 2%. Logically, you can reduce the effects of negative information about your company by 98% if you can push the negative content to the second page. This is where reputation management companies make their money.

Reputation-management-graphic

The bulk of revenue for reputation management companies involves pushing negative content to the 2nd page of Google. There are various methods used to do so, but the most common involves article writing. Well-written articles strategically placed on different websites and optimized with the correct keywords will cause the articles to rise to page one in Google. Once those articles move up to page one, the negative content will be pushed to the bottom and more than likely to the 2nd or 3rd page of Google. The articles written by reputation management companies contain positive or neutral information about the company they are writing for so that anyone who clicks on the article will not be led to the negative press that previously showed up on the 1st page.

When conducting research on reputation management, companies always come across my favorite statistic about Wikipedia – Wikipedia Appears on Page 1 of Google for 99% of Searches. This, according to a study reported by the website Search Engine Watch, shows how much Google loves Wikipedia. Every Wikipedia page that I have ever created has been ranked on page one in less than a week after its creation. Google is said to index new Wikipedia articles every 72 hours; however, many articles that I write wind up on page one in less than 24 hours and some have showed up within an hour. This is a dream for anyone looking to get something positive on page one of Google. Simply create a Wikipedia page about your company and it will rise to the 1st page, pushing down negative content. Hold up! Not so fast!

Using Wikipedia for reputation management can turn out to be a thorn for many and here is why. Once a Wikipedia page is created, it is unlikely to ever be deleted as long as it meets notability guidelines. This means that once your page is created, it will be there forever. If you are not already familiar with how Wikipedia works, it is an open community of editors where anyone can edit; you don’t even need an account. So, even if you have the most gleaming positive article in Wikipedia now, that doesn’t mean that what you wrote will stay there forever. Editors can come along and introduce and/or change information in the article as long as there is a reliable source to back up the edit they performed.

There has always been a debate about the power of Wikipedia backlinks. The links are no-follow links, but seem to have a powerful effect on SEO. With that in mind, sites that are linked from Wikipedia tend to rank higher for the specific page linked. Now is where your reputation management efforts will be completely erased and here is why……Once your article is created in Wikipedia, there is a likelihood that someone will come along and introduce the same negative content into the article that you have successfully pushed to the 2nd page of search results. As editors need a reliable source to back up the content they introduce, the same sources that you pushed to page two of Google will likely be used as the supporting source. The effect of these links being in Wikipedia will help bring the negative articles back to page one or at least slightly higher than they already are.

So, in addition to having negative content in your Wikipedia article (the same content you successfully pushed to page two in Google), the Wikipedia article will hit high on page one where everyone can view the negative content. You will also bring back all the negative articles that you pushed out of the 1st page results, basically erasing any reputation management efforts that you previously engaged in. In the end, you will be in worse shape than when you started, which is why Wikipedia should never be used as a reputation management tool.

About Mike Wood

Mike Wood is an online marketing expert and owner of Legalmorning.com. He specializes in reputation and brand management, article writing, and professional Wikipedia editing. He is an expert Wikipedia editor and has helped hundreds of businesses and people post their articles to the site where they have otherwise failed. He is a regular contributor to many online publications including Yahoo, Business Insider, and Social Media Today.

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  • Milka Mungunda

    This sounds interesting, well and good, but, what ia the remedy once you are on that first page to never have it again?

    • Mike Wood

      If you are on the first page with a Wikipedia article, it is impossible to remove the negative information. What I have helped companies do is edit their article so that it is more neutral. Wikipedia has a policy that states that articles need to be written from a neutral point of view. Articles that are grossly slanted one way or another should be brought back to neutral. On a side note – companies need to be careful of “whitewashing” which is the process of removing all negative information and fluffing up their article in an attempt to mask any negativity. This is a big mistake as it will only cause their page to be stalked (and for good reason) by editors and administrators looking for any type of corrective edits. From that point forward, it will be more difficult to edit the page to bring it back to a neutral point of view. Hope this helps.

  • Katherine Kotaw

    Excellent article, Mike. I do have a question: Would you encourage a new business to seek publication on Wikipedia or is it too risky because, as a company without an established reputation, it would be particularly susceptible to negative content? (with little to offset it?) I am frequently asked the question, “How can I get on Wikipedia?” Should the answer sometimes be, “Stay away.”?

    • Mike Wood

      Great question. First, keep in mind that in order to have an article on Wikipedia, the company must be “notable” by Wikipedia standards (http://www.legalmorning.com/not-being-notable-for-wikipedia-does-not-mean-you-are-not-notable/). Almost all new business will not meet the criteria for Wikipedia as they do not have enough independent coverage of the company in reliable sources. However, there are a small percentage that do (many “disruptive technology” companies often receive quite a bit of press as a start-up). Now to your question….

      It is really a decision that a company needs to make on their own. Most companies starting out (with the exception of medical technology companies) do not anticipate having negative information about their company in the future. So to tell you to go ahead and create a page or simply stay away is advise that I cannot give. As as new business, what I would encourage is focusing on branding outside of Wikipedia. Flood the market with positive press. Having a continuous flow of positive press will do more for a company than any well-written Wikipedia page.

      Once the company has become more established and has received more independent coverage in newspapers, magazines, etc., this would be the time to evaluate if having a Wikipedia page is worth it. I hope this answers your question.