When it comes to marketing online, one of the best things you can do for your law firm is publish an article on Wikipedia.
Although anyone can write or edit articles on this massive online encyclopedia, everything must pass a rigorous review process before it’s finalized, approved, and published for the public to see. In order to have your own work published, you’ll need to meet a few technical requirements and make sure the content you intend to publish meets Wikipedia’s high standards.
Technical Requirements for Publishing On Wikipedia
Create an Account
The first thing you’ll need to do is create a Wikipedia account. A registered account will allow you to add to or change existing articles, or create your own. The process is very straight forward. Be sure to use accurate information when setting up your account. Wikipedia is all about trust.
Start by Contributing To Existing Articles
It’s probably not going to go well if you try to jump straight in and write your own article from scratch. It’s better to get your feet wet and explore how the system works by making contributions to, or editing, existing articles. Try searching for topics or important figures in your area of law where you have some expertise.
By contributing to Wikipedia’s existing articles you’ll begin to build trust. As you build your reputation in the system you gain user access levels, such as “auto-confirmed user,” which allow you to do more things on the site without the need to wait for other editors to confirm your actions.
Once you’ve got some smaller contributions under your belt and your user access level starts to rise, you’ll be in a much better position to create a page on the topic of your choice and actually have it published. You can’t just publish whatever you like at will, though. Wikipedia’s content standards are high.
Content Tips for Publishing On Wikipedia
Putting together the right content for Wikipedia can be time consuming, detail-oriented, tedious work, but it’s worth it. Because it’s one of the most highly trusted sites on the Internet, having your work published there brings big benefits from readers, search engines, and even media outlets.
Here are a few guidelines to help you get your article(s) through the Wikipedia review process and published for all to see.
Write to Educate, Not to Advertise
Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is, above all else, an educational tool. Everything you write must be informative, educational, and neutral in tone. You can talk in detail about the precedent setting case your law firm won last year, but you can’t tell people that’s the reason they should call you for a free consultation. Anything that looks even remotely like a sales pitch will be rejected.
Gather Verifiable Sources
Wikipedia relies on multiple layers of fact checking and verification to maintain the quality of their articles. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. If it can’t be verified by a third party, it didn’t happen.
This means you’ll need to find plenty of trusted, quotable and notable sources to back up your facts. Going back to the amazing case your firm won last year, an article written strictly from your point of view is not going to stand up. You’ll need to cite newspaper articles about the proceedings or interviews that were conducted after the verdict, etc. Everything needs a source to back it up. Dates, page numbers, video time indexes, etc. are expected to be included.
As you might expect, known media outlets and trusted websites will carry more weight than mentions on unknown blogs. Many of Wikipedia’s editors seem to agree that “real world” media references (magazines, newspapers, TV, etc) are preferred over sources that exist solely online.
Whatever you are writing about, whether it’s a lawyer, a law firm, or a court case, be as thorough as possible. This means you may have to mention and link to competitors or perhaps even make some unflattering statements about yourself and/or your law firm.
If you try to hide or intentionally omit relevant facts, someone else will likely find them and add them anyway. You might as well put them in yourself and have some control over how it is written.
Write in Your Own Editor
Some may think it’s common sense, but it’s worth stating that you should write the article in your own editor or word processor, like Word or Google Docs, then copy the finished work into the Wikipedia editor when you’re ready and format it from there.
As anyone can edit anything on Wikipedia, leaving a “work in progress” on the site is dangerous. Someone else could alter or delete your work before you’ve finished it.
Get To Know Wiki Markup
Wiki markup is the collection of codes that are used to format the text within articles that appear on Wikipedia. You’ll need to learn to use these codes or work with someone who understands them. It can be a bit intimidating for someone who doesn’t have much or any experience with HTML.
The easiest way to see what Wiki markup can do is to take advantage of the “sandbox” space you get with your Wikipedia account and play around. Open up the markup help page in one tab and the sandbox in another and experiment. You should get the hang of it fairly quickly.
You Need Permission To Use Images
Wikipedia is very strict about the images that are used on the site. You must be able to prove that any image you want to use is available to be used by the public. This means you need to be the copyright holder or have (verifiable) permission from the copyright holder to use images within your article(s). The system will ask you for all relevant information whenever you try to upload a picture.
You can use images that are released under the Creative Commons License that you find on services such as Flickr or Google Images. Images released under this license are free to use in most cases as long as you’re not using them to make a profit.
Try searching the help section of your favorite image site for “creative commons” and it should tell you if you can filter for images released under this license.
Submit Your Article For Review
When you’re ready, it’s time to submit your article for review. The review process gives other Wikipedia editors a chance to look over your work and make suggestions wherever they think something could be improved. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
There isn’t much more to it. If your article is well received, you or someone else can move it to the public space. If suggestions are made or facts are challenged, you’ll have the chance to make revisions and undergo further reviews.
It will certainly take some time, and might take a few tries to get your first article published, but the exposure and boost to your law firm’s online reputation will be well worth the effort.
If you follow the tips we’ve outlined above, you’ll have a very good chance of becoming a published Wikipedia editor and author. Once you’ve been through the process, it will be easier to plan and publish more articles if you wish.