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Don’t Use Wikipedia to Clean Up Your Online Reputation


You search for your name (or your business name) in Google, and your jaw drops.

There, sitting at #3, is a bad news story about you in a major publication. This is embarrassing. This will ruin your online reputation.

Who you gonna call?


Actually, no. The truth is that Wikipedia is the obvious place to turn, and I will explain why. But there is also a compelling case not to go near Wikipedia when your reputation is on the line.

You cannot remove bad news from Google unless you can get the publisher to remove the news from its site. That won’t happen in 99.9 percent of cases. So, your only option is to create content to outrank the bad news.

I have buried bad news for a couple of clients. I have turned others away, either because I did not think their reputation should be repaired or because I felt it would be tougher to do than the size of their wallets. The hefty challenge is to create the right pages. Those are generally:

  • Pages about you, with your name in the title tag and at least the main heading.
  • Page on websites with at least as much authority as the bad news site.
  • Enough of such pages to push the bad news off Google’s top-ten first page.

There are very few sites that fit the criteria above. Most pages like that are social profiles, such as on Twitter, LinkedIn, or FaceBook. Since Wikipedia pages often outrank other pages on almost every topic, people immediately think of creating a Wikipedia page.

On the surface, it makes good sense. But you must invest the money it takes to create a quality page that fits into the Wikipedia fabric. Any honest publicist will read you a list of caveats. Some of those include:

  • It is a lot of work to get it on the site. Lots of work means lots of money and lots of patience
  • If you are not already on Wikipedia, chances are that you are not “notable” enough. Your entry will likely be deleted. If you are notable enough, you would probably already have enough high-authority website mentions that a bad news story wouldn’t rank so high on Google
  • PR folks have a hard time writing the neutral tone needed for Wikipedia

The caveat they are unlikely to mention is much bigger than any of those above. Even if you can get on and avoid being deleted, you are not in control. The whole world can edit the page. That includes both editors and competitors. They are bound to add all that bad news you were trying to bury to the page.

When they add the bad news to your hard-won Wikipedia page, it pops back up in the search results, only higher this time.

Since Wikipedia will be near the top of Google’s search results (as you had planned), all the negative news will be there, shining even brighter for your potential customers to see. So much for reputation management and all the money you spent on it.

On the other hand, if you already have a Wikipedia page, you should take action. Adding the negative content before your competitor does is the best way to stay ahead of the game.

What? Am I really suggesting you add negative news to your own Wikipedia page? Yes.

It’s either you or “them”, and they might not be nice about it, especially if “them” is a disgruntled customer, employee, or supplier.

But you can make sure the news is added in a neutral tone. It might be bad news, but you can make it read factually rather than like you’re a low-down, no-good, rotten so-and-so. But beware: it’s not easy to write neutrally in an unbiased tone about your own bad news.

A Wikipedia page can really boost one’s reputation. It gives a person credibility and brings them business. It can be great for one’s reputation. But as a reputation management tool, it’s like adopting a velociraptor for a pet. Sure, it’s powerful, but…

3 Responses

  1. Hi David, very interesting post. I had not thought of this one, do you recommend all small business start their own Wikipedia pages? I love the idea of creating a lot more content to bury the bad. Good to know just in case 🙂 Thank you.

    1. Hi Lisa.

      Wikipedia has some fairly strict guidelines about notability, so most small businesses would never qualify. Possibly, if a small business is built around a truly mold-breaking invention, it could get coverage from USA Today and Forbes and BBC and CBC and CNN and the Wall Street Journal.

      Here’s a bit from the guidelines:

      People are presumed notable if they have received significant coverage in multiple published[4] secondary sources that are reliable, intellectually independent of each other,[5] and independent of the subject.[6]


      1. Thanks for the insights, David. Very interesting. It’s tempting to test out submitting a page to see if it gets accepted, but as you mention, you can spend a lot of time doing so, and if your page ultimately gets deleted, it was all for nothing. I love this article.

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