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How Wikipedia impacts enrollment at your school

May 31, 2019

Wikipedia is the second hit for your school on Google. Go ahead, take a look. It often comes second. Here is one school.

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 8.36.24 AM

So what Wikipedia says about your school matters. Since it is almost summer, here are some things to think about. (Note, in your analytics, you’ll see source. Check to see where Wikipedia sits. It is worth thinking around 2-5% of the people click to your website from Wikipedia. That will give you a sense of the traffic.)

You don’t own your Wikipedia entry. 

You don’t own your profile on Wikipedia. I remember years ago, when I worked in an advertising agency, the head of our PR department was frustrated by the Wikipedia entry for one of our clients. He told me he was going to change it because it was “wrong.” So he changed the whole thing and made it “right.” It went from telling to selling.

It was changed back the next day, and he was banned. Let me repeat, you don’t own it. Wikimedia Foundation says:

“Adding content that is solely for commercial promotion goes directly against the policies, purpose and mission of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world.”

What you can do on Wikipedia. 

Now, before you read any of these, please always, always, always remember you don’t own your Wikipedia entry. Step one is to respect all the people who work on keeping Wikipedia up and up to date. I’ve been a Wikipedia editor for over 10 years. I don’t update a lot, but I have edited hundreds of entries, including a liberal arts school.

What you can do. 

Your school might not just have one Wikipedia entry. The Japanese language Wikipedia entry for Colgate stated that Colgate was 10 miles from New York City. It is 10 miles from the geographical center of New York State, which is a totally different thing than being 10 miles from NYC.

When I last checked, there were 17 different Wikipedia entries for Colgate. Not 17 translations. 17 different entries. Track down how many you have, and find a student (or professor) who speaks one of the languages, and get them to take a look. Your goal is to get the facts right. Nothing more.

Speaking of facts, make sure they are right. Wikipedia needs verifiable data, so make sure the facts are backed up somewhere. New buildings, new dorms, new Presidents, new data.

Don’t sell, just tell. This is the opposite advice from my last post.

Alumni on Wikipedia. 

Your school should have an alumni section. If you’re unlucky, then there’s an entire article on Wikipedia dedicated to your alumni. If that’s the case, I recommend breaking them into categories that help organize the story. Harvard does a nice job. Sorting on Wikipedia makes it easier to consume, so as long as you’re not promoting, and just sorting, it should be okay. Please be conscious of the number one rule.

Adding images.

You can add images. It isn’t simple, but you can add images of the University to the entry. I would always start by claiming your location, and adding photos to that entry. They will sit above your Wikipedia entry on your Knowledge Key, the thing on the right-hand side of a desktop search on Google.

Adding images means simply adding images that tell the story, not images that sell the story.

This is about telling, not selling.

Please note: the number one thing you should take away from this article is that you don’t own your Wikipedia entry. DO NOT FORGET THAT.

Respect it.

Matt is on Twitter. We do digital media seminars about Wikipedia, the SERP, and all your digital properties. Register.


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