Wikipedia, the online, collaborative encyclopedia is often defined by what it is not. Wikipedia is not a directory, Wikipedia is not a soapbox, and most recently according to in the Wikipedia discussion on best practice for PR professionals using Wikipedia, it is not a reputation management tool.

The 5th most visited site in the world with a reach of 400 million per month, Wikipedia is on its way to meeting founder Jimmy Wales’ objective of providing worldwide access to the sum of all human knowledge. No wonder internet marketing, PR and communications specialists are so keen to exploit the site. But what can it do today for the electronics, engineering and tech industries?

Can Wikipedia boost a tech firm’s search engine ranking?

The ‘no follow’ attribute is applied to external links in Wikipedia, so stuffing a Wikipedia article with links to a business site will do nothing to improve its ranking.  However, Wikipedia articles do rank highly and appearing in the encyclopaedia implies notability and pedigree.  As well as the kudos of having an entry an increase in web traffic can be expected. If a business or individual is cited as a major player or expert in a field, their status within the sector is boosted and public profile raised. For technical authors and freelance journalists for the electronics and engineering sector, an article in Wikipedia is invaluable.

How does a business get a Wikipedia entry?

Anyone can add or edit a Wikipedia article but it is very difficult for businesses, particularly small business to have their entries accepted. Wikipedia insists that all articles are unbiased and verifiable. There must be no promotional language, so declaring that a product is ‘’the best ‘ or ‘award winning’ might get the article removed. Every statement must be supported by references to respected sources like academic papers, the press or published books. References to directories, promotional material, advertorials and small trade journals are not enough. Paying someone to edit Wikipedia in your favour is likely to get the entry removed all together.

Wikipedia and the electronics and engineering sector?

The tech industries are all about innovation and invention supported by science, academic research and testing.  This makes referencing a Wikipedia article fairly straightforward. There is plenty of scope for initiating articles or collaborating on stub entries for new products and processes. The entry for Semiconductors currently has a request for volunteers to rewrite the article in more accessible language and there is a healthy debate on the talk page for Machine Vision about whether or not the entry should be merged with the Computer Vision article.

There are requests for photos and diagrams for many entries in the science, technology and engineering sections of the site. All images must be copyright free or licensed under Creative Commons. Getting your business cited as the source of an image is an excellent way of getting that highly desirable mention in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the same as all social media, results are not immediate and you have to be prepared to give your time generously. If you join the community, engage with the debates and contribute, tech firms could get back a lot more than expected.