Why should I care about Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is a massive and influential global presence: you should be aware of it and view it as a critical medium in your communication portfolio.
- Wikipedia is the 6th most visited website on the web.
- It has 2.7 billion page views a month.
- It is usually among the top two results for a Google search on any company or person.
- Google uses Wikipedia information to create “Infoboxes” about companies and people, positioned even more prominently than search results.
- Despite widespread problems with accuracy and bias, it is viewed as a highly trustworthy source by much of the public and is frequently relied on by the press, even more than official websites.
- Amazon’s Alexa uses Wikipedia information to answer questions about companies and topics.
Am I allowed to hire a consultant to write or update an article?
Yes. But only if the consultant abides by all Wikipedia policies, especially full disclosure of Conflicts of Interest (“COI”) on the discussion page for an article. Paid writers or editors who fail to disclose a COI when working
It isn’t enough if they promise to do it just for your article because when user accounts for non-complying editors are blocked, all their work might be removed. The volunteer reviewers are usually very smart people – they generally can glean when a contributor probably has a COI and isn’t disclosing it. Some volunteers are fanatic about catching non-disclosing COI contributors and removing their content. If the content involves a famous individual or organization, they will also sometimes publicize their finding to the press.
A reputable Wikipedia consultant should be willing to show you the user account of the Wikipedia editor who will work on your article (it must have a “paid editor” or “paid consultant” disclosure) and articles from that
specific editor (the “Talk” tab for the article must also have a disclosure and evidence that a review from an independent editor has been requested.) All this information is public (although usually seen only by other Wikipedia editors), so a consultant who claims they can’t show you this information because of confidentiality is by definition a “black hat” practitioner. An editor cannot hide who they are working with except by obfuscation techniques in violation of the Wikipedia Terms of Service.
What’s the difference between a “white hat” and a “black hat” consultant?
WhiteHatWikii is one of the only “white hat” Wikipedia consulting firms. It’s why we’re trusted by some of the best known companies in the world. A “white hat” consultant is paid, but still tries their best to abide by all Wikipedia’s complex policies, especially full disclosure of a Conflict of Interest. There are scores of other Wikipedia policies that come into play when doing COI editing .
Undisclosed conflict of interest editing or advocacy is a “black hat” practice, even if the consultant swears they abide by all other Wikipedia policies. Black hat practices can include a variety of workarounds to the many
special policies that are required when doing COI editing. For example, making direct edits on a page instead of working with a volunteer editor to review and approve your suggested edits is a black hat practice.
Black hat editors take many short cuts (even if they claim they follow Wikipedia policies) to save time and money
and to take advantage of the various ways you can bypass Wikipedia policy to sneak in (or out) content that would otherwise require a great deal of effort to get officially reviewed or approved.
If a practitioner starts as “black hat”, they are reluctant to ever go “white hat” because all their
previous work might be scrutinized.
At WhiteHatWiki, we don’t take short cuts. We fully disclose. We research and source our work intensively, usually providing multiple sources for every important fact in a new article. We engage with volunteer editors
and respect their feedback. But we also know our facts and Wikipedia policy, so we can effectively argue our positions in the event of a dispute. We want everything we do to be reviewed by editors so there will be no question it’s been done according to policy. In the long term, that’s what’s best for our clients.
What are the risks of hiring a black hat practitioner?
Disclosure. Embarrassment. Content being removed (or restored) to articles. Less rigorously sourced material is more vulnerable to rewrites. Less rigorously written articles are more likely to attract the negative attention of editors. Even if not caught in the short term, “black hat” articles generally aren’t as good because of all the corners that are cut. So you’ll end up with a lower quality article..
Is it illegal to promote yourself on Wikipedia without disclosing you’re involved?
Sometimes, especially when it comes to companies. United States law on undisclosed advertising or promotion can be found here: Endorsement Guidelines. Laws in other countries vary.
Do companies or people really get in trouble for not disclosing conflicts of interest or inserting anonymous promotional content on the Internet?
It happen all the time. For example, in 2015 dozens of newspapers reported on anonymous edits originating from inside the New York Police Department HQ. Some of the edits were about extremely controversial subjects involving the police department. When he criticized the practice, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was “outed” by the New York Post as having done the same thing himself, through his campaign.
Other examples of “outed” anonymous users making edits or contributions without COI include Microsoft, the CIA, the Republican Party, Anheuser-Busch, the Washington Post, Fox News, Newt Gingrich, Dow Chemical and the Israeli government.
Aside from the embarrassment and bad press, the articles themselves end up under heavy scrutiny from Wikipedia administrators who become especially severe in their judgments about neutrality, sourcing and promotional content. Sometimes articles like these are locked down so no further changes can be made without a high-level admins’ approval.
What’s the purpose of Wikipedia?
“Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a vanity press, or forum for advertising or self-promotion,” according to Wikipedia. In other words, the information shared on Wikipedia has to have educational value for the general public. That is the primary purpose of any article on Wikipedia. Of course, it will also be valuable for you or your business to share accurate information with the world. And you should always ensure that the information contributed by others to an article related to you is accurate.
What qualifies someone or something to be in Wikipedia?
This is known as the notability test. Here’s the official test (abbreviated):
If a topic has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, it is presumed to be suitable for a stand-alone article or list.
- “Significant coverage” addresses the topic directly and in detail, so that no original research is needed to extract the content. Significant coverage is more than a trivial mention but it need not be the main topic of the source material.
- “Reliable” means sources need editorial integrity to allow verifiable evaluation of notability, per the reliable source guideline. Sources may encompass published works in all forms and media, and in any language.
- “Sources” should be secondary sources, as those provide the most objective evidence of notability. There is no fixed number of sources required since sources vary in quality and depth of coverage, but multiple sources are generally expected.
- “Independent of the subject” excludes works produced by the article’s subject or someone affiliated with it. For example, advertising, press releases, autobiographies, and the subject’s website are not considered independent.
If I don’t qualify as “notable”, what can I do about it?
Quality, independent sources need to write about you or your company or whatever the subject of the article is. These can be mainstream publications or credible trade publications. Once notability is established, the range of sourcing for other facts in the article is somewhat looser.
Positioning the subject with the right type of language and sources to support notability is critical. We have dealt with several subjects that were rejected as articles when originally submitted by a company or individual but then later approved after we offered a new article with better framing and sourcing.
How do you work with clients who want a new article on a subject?
Right off the bat, we’ll do a notability review. If we don’t think your subject will qualify as notable, we’ll explain and what has to happen before that might change.
Next, we’ll talk to you about the subject of the article, and then review all the related source material. We read everything, even if takes many days. We’re looking for reliable sources for every fact, and helpful information that you might not even know would be considered eligible to appear in a Wikipedia article but we know may qualify because of comparable articles.
We’ll also review related Wikipedia articles and consider proposing changes to insert your subject into those as well, if the topic merits being included. Inter-linking within Wikipedia helps establish the credibility of a subject.
We’ll then proceed to a draft article, including sourcing. Our writing is terse, specific, and stylistically academic. We present it to your for review in an early form and then again, when it’s been fully formatted on Wikipedia, so you can see exactly how it will look, pre-publication. After your review for accuracy, we submit it for review, with appropriate COI disclosures, in all the required places. When needed, we write a memo for the article explaining why the subject is notable, verifiably sourced and presented in neutral manner.
After an article has been reviewed, we follow up accordingly. Sometimes no changes are made. Sometimes language has been re-worked or sections moved or removed. It’s possible the changes make the article better or don’t affect its quality much. But if we think the changes do the article a disservice, we engage in polite discussions with the reviewers, marshaling our facts and citations to Wikipedia policy. These discussions can become extremely technical and long, even for a short entry. On rare occasions where we can’t reach a resolution, we may request that additional editors become involved in the discussion.
Finally, we’ll continue to monitor the article for at least a month and then for whatever period of time you’ve hired us to provide alerts and responses.
How do you work with clients who want updates to existing articles or the removal of misleading or false information?
The strategy for updates, especially the correction or removal of misleading or false information, can be very complex. First, we’ll assess whether there is adequate reliable sourcing to support the update. Then we’ll write the updates, with citations, on a sandbox (unless it’s just an argument for removal of a false statement) for your review for accuracy. The next step is submitting to an independent editor to review the proposal. The discussion page of the article, for those with an existing interest, is a standard starting place. The official Wikipedia queues for review of proposed edits by COI editors can be turned to in other cases .We also can manage situations where multi-editor discussions and voting on proposals become necessary — often involving highly technical arguments over obscure Wikipedia policies. e.g. what constitutes a “Coatrack” (extraneous content) in a biography of a living person (“BLP”) In these situations, more experienced editors often can intimidate less experienced Wikipedia editors with technical jargon. Unless you have an experienced Wikipedia editor very familiar with Wikipedia policy working with you, your position might not be properly represented.
We’ve had great success with Wikipedia “crisis management” – getting highly misleading or false statements, that are very damaging to reputation of the subject (especially people), removed quickly.
What do I do if someone with an agenda is attacking an article about me or my organization?
It can be extremely frustrating if someone who seems to have an obvious agenda to hurt your reputation is adding misleading or false information to an article about you. In severe cases, the situation is akin to a crisis. You might be tempted to reverse the change yourself, only to find the editor(s) reverse your reversal. Following our advice can seem like a hassle, since we’re going to do a COI disclosure and seek independent review of our proposed changes. That said, in some cases, we’ve managed to get information that obviously violates Wikipedia policy removed in just a matter of hours. In less clear cut cases, or where there are a group of editors coordinating an attack on an article in violation of Wikipedia policies, it can take several weeks to get a resolution. Consensus discussions, bringing in more editors to weigh in, votes, mediation, and appeals can require a great deal of time and expertise. We’re honest in assessing what can be accomplished. Our goal is to involve editors who are very experienced on Wikipedia to bring order to the disorder and chaos created by agenda editors, who are not interested in creating fair encyclopedia articles. When you stick with the process, reason should eventually prevail, although article monitoring might be required for an extended period of time.
Will Wikipedia really notice if I try to sneak in a promotional article or edit?
Yes. On April 5, 2015, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told 60 Minutes there are more than 100,000 core volunteer Wikipedia editors. Sue Gardner, executive director of Wikipedia, 2007-2014, explained how they work: “There are folks… that vandalize the encyclopedia. They insert false information, they insert bias. But the core Wikipedia community, the people doing most of the work, consider themselves to be defenders against wrong, unhelpful, outside influence… Editors patrol articles. They patrol what we called “recent edits”, They are monitoring edits that are coming in. And they flag ones that they think are a little suspect or aren’t properly supported. Most vandalism is fairly obvious.”
What’s Wikipedia monitoring and why should I bother?
Anyone can change a Wikipedia article at any time. It’s a completely open content and editing platform. Wikipedia monitoring is real-time monitoring of articles by WhiteHatWiki. We can set up your article so we receive alerts if anyone changes the article. We can then review the changes and send you a notice and recommendation for action in the event the changes violate Wikipedia policy. We can begin a discussion with the user who has changed the article and/or initiate an appeal or administrative review.
How long does it take for a new entry or new content to be reviewed and approved?
Typically, anywhere from a week to two months, although we’ve even seen some turnarounds in one or two days. It depends on how interesting an article is to the volunteer editors. Changes to an existing article can be much faster than the review and approval of a new article.
What do I do if my new article gets rejected?
WhiteHatWiki will only accept an assignment for a new article if we are sure it will be accepted. As of early 2018, we had a have a 100% success rate with publication of new articles we determine to be notable because we are so discerning. Some articles have to be resubmitted if more sourcing is requested. We decline about 75% of client requests for assignments. If we think the subject you are proposing is borderline, we will explain this to you, advise you on the reasons why and what you can do going forward.
Who writes and edits Wikipedia?
Thousands of volunteers from around the world. Many of them are drawn to Wikipedia because they want to contribute articles on a few specific subjects. E.g. character actors from silent films or British naval history. As they become more involved and expert at Wikipedia’s policies, some choose to begin editing and reviewing articles on a wider range of subjects, just to help the project. It’s unlikely (though possible), for example, that the person reviewing content pre-publication will have extensive expertise in business, technology or finance.
What’s a conflict of interest (COI)?
Wikipedia is a project under WikiMedia. Wikipedia has further defined COI as “incompatibility between the aim of Wikipedia, which is to produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia, and the aims of an individual editor. COI editing involves contributing to Wikipedia to promote your own interests, including your business or financial interests, or those of your external relationships, such as with family, friends or employers.”
In the case of WhiteHatWiki, we always we strive to make any editing or contributions we make to be in full compliance with Wikipedia’s mission and, since we accept payment, we fully disclose that we may have a conflict of interest. There are several methods to disclose COI. None affect the article itself as it’s seen by readers.
What’s full disclosure?
Wikipedia provides several methods to disclose a contributor has a conflict of interest, including disclosure on a user profile. None of these affect the presentation of the article itself. When our editors provide a COI disclosure, they also affirm at length that they are aware of and will abide by all Wikipedia policies, as well as its core mission produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia. We also provide the real-life name and credentials of our contributors so reviewers will know they have great expertise as writers and researchers.
If you have a COI, full disclosure has been mandatory since June 2014.
What’s the official position of the PR industry?
Most of the largest PR firms in the world met extensively with Wikipedia in 2014 after allegations of widespread editing without any COI disclosure. The firms subsequently issued a joint statement pledging to abide by official Wikipedia policies from then on. More than two dozen PR firms have signed on to the statement. The statement includes the following pledges:
- To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
- To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
- To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
- Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.
In practice, this has meant many PR firms no longer do any work with Wikipedia. Strictly abiding by policies is simply too complex a task without specialized in-house expertise. And the potential downside is too great for firms or clients caught up in controversies. That’s yet another reason why it pays to work with a firm like WhiteHatWiki that offers specialized services with Wikipedia.
Why are black hat practitioners cheaper?
“Black hat” editors all publicly claim to abide by Wikipedia policies but unless they fully disclose they are paid editors with a conflict of interest, they are violating one of Wikipedia’s most important policies and risk getting banned and having their content removed. Why do they do it anyway?
The work of anonymous “black hat” editors usually isn’t as closely scrutinized by reviewers as that of paid editors because no conflict of interest is disclosed. As a result, they can afford to be far less intensive in researching and writing articles (and charge less per article.) Black hat editors frequently take short cuts, against Wikipedia policy, to save time. For example, they might even find a way to avoid new content from being reviewed (in the short term) by another editor.
Since they are writing anonymously and without disclosure, they also don’t tend to disclose their real-world credentials to the world, let alone their real name. They aren’t standing behind every article with their real world reputation. By remaining in the shadows, they don’t feel as much intense pressure to abide as strictly as possible to the sometimes burdensome Wikipedia policies. They might pass the savings along to you, but they also pass along the long-term risk and the lower quality of their work.
Can’t I just set up a new account if I get caught in a conflict of interest?
This is called “sock puppeting” and is strictly against Wikipedia policy. It’s also potentially illegal. Wikipedia has tools to block entire IP addresses from posting entries once a user has been found to be consistently violating policy. They also put the previously affected articles under permanent watch.
What should I do about content I don’t like that’s appearing on an entry about my company or me?
In severe cases of false information, including potential libel, we can often get the content removed within a couple of hours. In all other cases, you can’t make the edit yourself, even if there’s a factual mistake. Instead, you have to request another editor makes the edit, explaining your reasons in detail and disclosing your COI. At WhiteHatWiki, we know how to best engage with editors to facilitate these types of reviews. If you try to do it and don’t know how or what to say, you can end up waiting forever or not giving the proper policy justifications for the change.
If you try to take a short cut and remove the content directly, you might end up in a ping-pong war with whoever originally entered the content. An “edit war” will count against you if an article ends up in an appeal. It can get you banned from Wikipedia.
Can I write an entry about my own company or myself?
This is strongly discouraged by Wikipedia. You either have to wait for a volunteer to notice you or, hire a consultant who knows the proper procedures. If you try yourself, you still have to disclose your Conflict of Interest and abide by the Wikipedia mission to produce a neutral, reliably sourced encyclopedia. As a result, many such entries are rejected when reviewed independently in the general “Articles for Creation” queue. Once an article has been rejected, it becomes more difficult for a new article on the same subject to be approved.
Wikipedia editors will check to see what else you’ve written or edited for Wikipedia. If there’s no other work unrelated to a single company or individual, they’ll easily deduce yours is a special interest account with a probably conflict of interest. Special scrutiny will result. In the case of new entries, this may means the entire piece is rejected.
At WhiteHatWiki, we’re experts at writing Wikipedia articles, so we’re well equipped to make sure your piece is polished and suitable to Wikipedia from day one. We also write about lots of different subjects.
Can I count on my edits on Wikipedia remaining anonymous?
No. If you don’t register your account, your IP address is visible to the public. If you do register an account and just use it to write about one company or individual, you still may get “outed” and reported by a volunteer. There is a special bulletin board for Wikipedia admins just to review suspected undisclosed COI or “sock puppet” accounts.
Can we have a company Wikipedia account that we share?
No. Wikipedia accounts have to be unique to an individual user.
What’s the difference between paid editing and paid advocacy?
Paid editing is receiving compensation to help with an article but also abiding by all Wikipedia policies, such as full disclosure and writing from a neutral point of view. Paid advocacy is inserting subjective commentary, akin to using an article strictly for marketing, PR or an agenda. It’s prohibited and might also be illegal in the United States under FTC rules.
What are the advantages of hiring an expert?
Wikipedia’s policies are extremely complex. And just reading the rules is one thing. Actually applying them on real articles, reviewed by editors notorious for rejecting content that doesn’t meet Wikipedia’s standards, is far more difficult.
We work to bulletproof your articles, beefing them up with multiple sources and packing a great deal of content into tightly written language. This is a skill honed by many hundreds of hours of Wikipedia writing as well as decades of professional writing and editing experience.
In the event of a problem, experts, like WhiteHatWiki, can engage with Wikipedia editors using the specialized lingo (and links) that have developed to cite Wikipedia policies and guidelines. When it comes to negotiating a tough problem, demonstrating to other editors that you know what you’re doing, and you’re not just wasting their time with complaints, makes all the difference.
How do I know if the person is really an expert?
Aside from previous experience as a journalist, academic or professional writer, there’s no substitute for having written and edited many articles published on Wikipedia. A consultant should be happy to share their previous articles with you – if they claim they can’t because of confidentiality, then they are a “black hat” practitioner. Their client work on Wikipedia should always be disclosed already or they are in severe violation of core Wikipedia principles. You should also check out the expert’s user profile page to be sure they disclose they are a paid editor. If they don’t disclose, they’re a “black hat” editor. See above for an explanation as to why hiring a “black hat” editor is a bad idea.
What makes you an expert?
Our Wikipedia experts have impressive backgrounds as academics, journalists, executives and lawyers. They’ll use their real names and credentials when they submit the article or edit for independent review, an extra layer of transparency uncommon on the mostly anonymous Wikipedia. We’ll discuss the credentials of the specific expert assigned to you when we present you with a proposal.
We’ve written Wikipedia articles for many Fortune 100 companies, CEOS and founders, post-funded start ups, and investment firms. We’ve also successfully assisted with establishing the Wikipedia presence of many great brands. Aside from writing about companies and individuals, topics we’ve written about range from artificial intelligence to cyber security to philosophy.
We’re responsible for many thousands of edits on Wikipedia and have engaged in prolonged and elaborate policy debates on the back channels of Wikipedia when necessary to preserve the factual integrity of our contributions.
How much will this cost?
We provide a custom quote depending on the amount of work involved. We are going to be more expensive, in general, than “black hat” consultants because:
- Playing by the rules takes vastly more time and effort.
- We write very high quality pieces backed by extensive research. It’s not unusual for us to spend three or more days writing and researching a new article about a company or individual and even longer for a concept piece;
- The Wikipedia and real-world credentials of our experts are likely far superior to most “black hat” consultants. Credentials count since we’re using real names in standing behind an article.
What’s promotional content?
Promotional content is the number one trap inexperienced Wikipedia writers fall into. It’s like advertising without educational merit and advocacy instead of neutrality. It’s the opposite of what you’d want in an encyclopedia such as Wikipedia. And it’s prohibited. There is a fine line between writing a very thorough article and an article that goes overboard promoting a person, company, products or services. It takes experience to know where that line is. In closer cases, the determination is subjective from editor to editor.
That said, many Wikipedia editors are hostile toward any content they perceive will benefit a company or individual and label it as promotional. Thy believe information that brings any incidental value to the subject of the article automatically disqualifies it. This misunderstanding is common and can require extended discussions to overcome.
What if I want an entry in more than one language?
We can work in English, French and Spanish and many other languages. There are more than 270 language editions of Wikipedia, each with their own specific policies and guidelines, and their own cadre of volunteers.
Can I just add URLs as my citations?
No. While not an instant disqualifier for an entry, it does look very sloppy and will attract negative attention from reviewers. References are written in a formal academic style that varies by type of source. Often HTML needs to be inserted if the same source is used multiple times. While doing proper formatting is very time consuming, it helps bolster your article immensely when it comes time to review it.
Does every fact in an article have to be supported by a source?
Yes. And if it’s a critical fact, preferably more than one source. Unsourced statements are considered “original research” by Wikipedia and are prohibited. The use of too many unsourced statements is a primary cause of entire entries being rejected.
I’ve seen articles I consider to have promotional content or unsupported statements. Why is that?
Not every article on Wikipedia is reviewed with the same scrutiny. “Black hat” editors skip the review process altogether – and their articles might not be independently patrolled for some time. Articles on different subjects also have different standards, largely because of the enthusiasm of editors. Articles about entertainers tend to be looser and sometimes much longer than articles about entrepreneurs or companies.
Promotional language is also sometimes added in to articles after the fact of an article’s initial approval, when it’s less likely to be scrutinized. That said, don’t be tempted to take advantage of this as a loophole. Volunteer editors are always scouring old articles and if they find promotional language, they might end up cutting not only that section, but also much more. Volunteer editors will also place large boxes on top of articles they consider to be promotion or reading like an advertisement – substantially devaluing the article in the minds of readers.
What happens if there’s an ongoing disagreement about whether content should appear on an entry?
The first step, during a declared COI proposal for a revision, is always to engage in a civil conversation with the editor with whom there is a disagreement. Sometimes these discussions can involve many more words than the length of the article or content in dispute.
If you try to take a short cut and add back (or remove) the content directly, you might end up in a ping-pong war. This will count against you if the article ends up in an administrative review. It can also get you banned.
The presumption of who’s in the right is initially in favor of the person without a COI. As soon as they disagree with you on an edit, the content is deemed controversial,. A discussion, group consensus, or administrative review needs to be requested. Arguments are marshaled pro and con the edit and consensus or the higher-ranking admin will decide. Generally, their decisions are fair. There are situations where discussions and votes are manipulated by editors with a hidden agenda. These are among the most difficult problems to deal with on Wikipedia and can require multiple rounds of review and appeal.
Will an article about my company look different to readers if it’s been disclosed that the author has a conflict of interest?
No. The article looks exactly the same. An experienced Wikipedia user might check the Talk page of the article where the COI should be disclosed or check the user profile of the author/editors, where COI should also be disclosed. If the article has been handled correctly, there will also be a record that it and/or any changes have been reviewed by an experienced editor, who has approved of the content as abiding by all Wikipedia policies despite the COI.
If I hire you, am I guaranteed results?
For new entries, we’ll only work with you if we genuinely believe you or your company meets the Wikipedia guidelines for “notability” and will be accepted. We turn down the majority of those who approach us for help, advising them to work on getting better secondary sourcing, As of early 2018, we had a 100% success track record for newly proposed websites, although on a few occasions, we’ve had to resubmit articles after more secondary sourcing became available . More complex article updates, rewrites or crisis management situations might result in changes or rejection by volunteer editors. Exact wording or results can’t be guaranteed. Some Wikipedia policies require subjective interpretation, a reviewing editor might decline one of our proposals. We’re very experienced at working with editors to satisfy their objections and, if necessary, to appeal decisions.