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How to Do Backlinks in Wikipedia the Right Way


Over the years, Wikipedia has become a minefield for marketers, often causing more trouble than it’s worth. However, Wikipedia is still effective and can be used by content marketers to both assist with SEO and contribute to the mission of the world’s largest encyclopedia.

Content marketers often misunderstand how backlinks work in Wikipedia. They think that if the topic is relevant, simply adding a link to the “external link” section of a page is good enough. Not so.

Adding a link to Wikipedia is like surgery – if not done correctly it can cause many issues, including having your added domain listed as spam and banned from Wikipedia.

It is so difficult to obtain and maintain a Wikipedia link that I ceased offering this service a long time ago. However, knowing that many marketers are going to do it anyway, I wanted to share some best practices on Wikipedia backlinks. If done correctly, it can still be a great benefit to your SEO.

Going from do-follow to no-follow

First, let’s look at how backlinks have changed in Wikipedia over the years. When Wikipedia launched in 2001, backlinks were all “do-follow” – created for SEO purposes. With Google’s heavy weighting of Wikipedia and its backlinks, marketers were quick to pick up on the SEO effect.

Wikipedia editors quickly caught on that spam was aplenty. The community took massive steps to help curb spam, including changing links to “no-follow,” which have less SEO effect, and creating a black list to block domains they considered spam.

Now, even though no-follow backlinks have less effect on SEO than do-follow backlinks, Wikipedia backlinks are still some of the most coveted in the marketing industry. This is because Google gives heavy weight to Wikipedia links despite the fact that they’re no-follow.

Identifying where to link

I will share what really works in securing Wikipedia backlinks, based on my professional experience.

  • Do not simply look for citation-needed entries. Wikipedia automatically searches for and scrutinizes completed citation-needed templates. If the added links do not contribute to the entry’s quality, they will be removed and potentially blacklisted.
  • Find entries in dire need of cleanup and expansion. In these cases, you have a better opportunity to contribute quality content – expanding the knowledge shared on that topic and contributing to Wikipedia’s goal of freely sharing knowledge.

To find an article needing more quality information, go to the all-articles-to-be-expanded page. More than 1,800 articles fell into this category in one month this fall. Explore more than one month for an endless supply of pages that could benefit from your input.

Knowing the types of links

Now that you know where to find places for your links, let’s look at the best-suited types of links:

  • Make sure the links come from a reliable source. Wikipedia’s rules on reliable sources are lengthy. Basically, don’t use self-published sources (press releases, etc.) and make sure that the linked website employs fact-checkers to ensure accuracy of content.
  • Check whether Wikipedia already considers the source as reliable. See if the cited website has its own article. For instance, AdAge has its own Wikipedia page, which increases the likelihood that links from its site will be accepted as a reliable source.
  • See if your cited website has been used as a backlink. Go to the search box and type in the URL that you want to check. A site that has been used numerous times also increases the chances of it being accepted as a reliable source.

In this screenshot, you can see that AdAge has been used 301 times as a reference in Wikipedia. You also can see the top result is AdAge’s own Wikipedia page.


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  • Make sure the link is more than a landing page. A link to a landing page without information to support the content is considered spam by Wikipedia editors.
  • Link directly to the relevant content page. The link must have content that supports the information you are adding. For instance, if you are adding information about advertising, you cannot simply link to your website’s home page as the authoritative source. You must connect to the exact page that supports the content, similar to how you would cite sources in a research paper or industry study.

Putting it together

Now it’s time to add the link. To do things correctly, you must contribute to the encyclopedia – adding more links than just the backlink you want to include.

Here is an example of how it works:

Let’s say you want to add a link from The Motley Fool to the Big King sandwich article on Wikipedia. The link relates to the advertising of the Big King in 2014 – that section is empty in the entry. Adding the link not only enables you to place the link you want but it also contributes positively to Wikipedia.


Click to enlarge

You also have a USA Today citation about advertising of the Big King – although you’re not looking to secure a backlink to USA Today, incorporating it adds credibility to the entry.

Now, you must write the content for the entry that is supported by the citations:

“In 2014, Burger King reintroduced the Big King as direct competition to McDonald’s Big Mac. (USA Today citation) Part of its advertising campaign was that the beef used on the sandwich was bigger than that of the Big Mac. (The Motley Fool citation)”

By incorporating two credible sources into the added information, you increase the chances that your intended link (The Motley Fool) will survive scrutiny. I also suggest adding even more content to the entry to truly enhance the value of your contribution.

TIP: Follow the proper format to add links. I go in depth into how to do this with a three-step guide for adding citations. Make sure to know what you are doing – adding a link incorrectly can lead to an editor accusing you of spamming even when you aren’t.

In conclusion, I cannot reiterate it enough – do not simply link from Wikipedia for the sake of linking. Make sure to do it correctly and contribute along the way. Introducing content that adds quality to the encyclopedia is likely to help your link last a long time and greatly benefit your SEO efforts. Remember that there is NEVER a guarantee with Wikipedia so any process you employ is not foolproof, just a best practice.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Wikipedia linking.

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Cover image by SplitShire via