By William Beutler published May 15, 2017 Est Read Time: 6 min

What You Need to Know to Get a Wikipedia Article Published


Since 2001, Wikipedia’s community of volunteer editors has created more than 5 million pages, many of them found on Google’s first page of search results for that topic. Wikipedia’s ubiquity bestows upon it the ability to lend its credibility to other subjects, which is attractive for companies and organizations who crave recognition.

But Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are focused on building a serious encyclopedia, and not so interested in helping a brand’s content marketing plan. If you want to create an entry about a company (or any topic related to your business), you need to understand what Wikipedia is looking for and the right way to go about it. This post describes the process at a high level, but it’s only a starting point – follow the links within to learn more before you try.

Determining eligibility

Before all else, you need to determine whether your company meets Wikipedia’s eligibility requirements or, as Wikipedia refers to it, notability, which is admittedly rather judgmental. (No one wants to hear “Sorry, you’re not notable.”) The hard truth is that most companies don’t immediately qualify, and trying to create a page in these circumstances can be immensely frustrating. So what qualifies, and what if you’re not there yet?

The hard truth is that most company entries don’t qualify immediately for Wikipedia, says @williambeutler. Click To Tweet

To be eligible, your company needs an interesting story about what it has achieved, and it must be a story that’s been told by working journalists. Wikipedia is not a place for self-published information, but instead what others have written about your brand. Credible news sources are a must. Press releases and company websites just don’t cut it, and for the most part can’t be used.

Evaluating sources

A good early step is to identify all the information about your company in the news. Has a big city newspaper or trade publication written about your business model, your founding story, or market position relative to competitors? Does it make a clear case why your company is doing something interesting or unusual? If you have several articles like this, great – you’re in the hunt. If you don’t, save yourself time dealing with Wikipedia and pursue a PR strategy to earn that in-depth coverage.

Identifying credible news coverage is tricky: national publications are most valuable, but many media outlets these days publish online contributor blog posts. Forbes, for example, has a contributor network that looks official but is not written by Forbes journalists. These contributions are not deemed as credible sources by Wikipedia. Also, a large number of brief mentions do not add up to in-depth coverage nor do frequent quotes from your founder or key employees count toward notability.

Writing the draft

Before you write, refer to Wikipedia’s lengthy and exacting Manual of Style governing how content should be presented. A good place to start is the entry about your first article.

Organize your draft in successive paragraphs as follows:

  • An introduction with a high-level overview of the company
  • A description of the company’s history
  • A description of its product or services in modest detail (too much and editors will judge it as promotional)

It’s important to write in a detached manner, avoiding marketing clichés like calling yourself a “leading provider of solutions.” Stick to the facts and be specific.

To write a quality Wikipedia post, use detached manner, stick to facts, avoid clichés, says @williambeutler. Click To Tweet

You also should learn the proper format for references and detail them in a references section at the end of the article. These references are what Wikipedia editors use to judge whether your article meets the notability criteria. Remember, you can only include information from third-party sources that Wikipedia considers reliable.

You can go a long way toward crafting a credible article by studying an existing, high-quality company page to see what’s included. But be careful of creating a page similar to your competitors’ Wikipedia pages – just because they’re published doesn’t mean they’re good. Wikipedia knows it has lots of bad articles, and it doesn’t want more. Instead look to one of Wikipedia’s designated good articles about similar companies. For example, the article about Chuck E. Cheese’s is well-researched, well-cited, and fairly complete. As a counter example, the Mellow Mushroom article is less well-developed, missing needed sources, and far less informative.

Creating an account

Once you have a draft, you need to communicate with Wikipedia editors. To do this, create a user account. Do not simply name the account for your company (long story). Give it a unique handle or even use your first name with the company name, like “Jane at ContentCo.” Even “Snuffleupagus45” is better than “ContentCo.” And learn how discussion pages work because this is where you talk things over with editors who review your draft.

Next, you’ll need to declare your conflict of interest (COI) – your precise connection to the subject of the article. The topic of COI is a thorny one on Wikipedia. You may have heard that you’re not supposed to edit your own page, and while this is broadly true, you can mitigate the issue.

The only cardinal sin is to pretend that you don’t have a conflict of interest; the Wikimedia Foundation’s terms of use require disclosure of any relevant financial relationships. If editors suspect that you haven’t revealed your true relationship, they will give you a stern warning at best or block your account at worst.

Cardinal sin of Wikipedia contributions? To pretend you don’t have conflict of interest, says @williambeutler. Click To Tweet

Be forewarned: You can’t solve this conflict problem just by handing off the work to a contractor to edit and assume there is no conflict of interest. There is. And don’t just ask friends to do it – that puts them in a bad position.

The thing to do, as Wikipedia’s own Jimmy Wales says:

  • Create an account.
  • Be up front about your connection to the subject.
  • Take a hands-off approach by getting a volunteer to review and approve your draft.

Follow this path, and editors should take you seriously.

Submitting for review

The final step is taking your draft to the articles for creation process, and adding it to the review queue. Once you’ve done that, it will probably take a few weeks for a volunteer to read the draft. Sometimes editors will come back with critiques about what else it should include or what should be deleted. Do your best to incorporate their feedback, and don’t take it personally if they don’t like something you’ve written. Sometimes, what seems reasonable to you may run afoul of Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines – and Wikipedia has many of them.

Undoubtedly, this can be a confusing process, and Wikipedia editors know it. Alas, there simply isn’t a better way: Building an encyclopedia is hard, and reviewing contributions from outsiders can be harder still. But if you can figure out Wikipedia’s sourcing requirements, internalize its style points, and learn the process for writing and submitting an entry, you can help make Wikipedia better and tell your brand’s story at the same time.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: William Beutler

William Beutler is the founder of Beutler Ink, a digital agency specializing in visual design, content marketing, and Wikipedia engagement. He is the author of an e-book, Wikipedia and the Communications Professional, and in 2014 coordinated a joint statement by the world's largest marketing and PR firms pledging to follow Wikipedia's rules. He is @williambeutler on Twitter.

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