Mike Wood and I met online. His profile piqued my interested when he shared that he had released a book on Wikipedia marketing. That's not something you hear every day!
So I decided to interview him to learn more about Wikipedia and what a small business can achieve with it. His answers are below.
Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Mike, thank you for answering my questions. First tell us who you are.
Mike Wood: I am an online marketer and Wikipedia expert currently residing in Southern California. I am originally from Southwest Michigan where I was born and raised. I worked as a police officer for most of my adult life, but also spent time in government regulations for a Native American casino in the Midwest. I'm married, have two daughters, and living a dream in one of the most beautiful states in the country.
CM: Why did you decide to specialize in online marketing and provide Wikipedia writing services?
MW: Fun story, actually. I was in law school when I began to do freelance writing on the side. At the time, I was a volunteer Wikipedia editor but took on a project to edit Wikipedia for pay (freelance project through Freelancer.com). The company was happy with the results and the pay was good. It didn’t take long before word of mouth and a little advertising turned “Legalmorning.com” into a viable business.
Everything else I picked up along the way. I became knowledgeable in website building as I needed a website. I got good at SEO through trying to gain organic traffic to my website. Everything I know about marketing was self-taught, I learned through reading, or simply absorbed everything I could from my peers and influencers.
After a short time, online marketing became fun. I saw that I was able to do it with proficiency and really enjoyed being able to work online. I also found that I could support my family financially as opposed to being a starving attorney. So I stayed with marketing, even after earning my law degree. Half a decade later, here I am after publishing my first book on the subject.
CM: This book, titled Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool: How to Reap the Marketing Benefits of Wikipedia is based on your experience as a Wikipedia editor. Would you tell us more about it?
MW: I found out early in my career that there was very little information about marketing yourself on Wikipedia. Many people were trying to manipulate the site (spammers, black-hat SEO, etc.). To this day, I still receive emails from people wanting me to post ridiculous information to the site or create backlinks to sites that have nothing of quality. I spent much of my time trying to teach people the proper way to use the site in order to get the marketing benefit.
So over the last couple of years, I became sick of typing the same emails to people explaining various guidelines about marketing on Wikipedia. Many people want to get on Wikipedia, but the majority of them do not understand how it works.
As I stated, I have fielded a ton of emails and wound up answering the same questions about Wikipedia over and over. This book covers many of those questions. I talk about why you should use Wikipedia, how to do backlinks in Wikipedia (although I do not recommend it), what to look out for, leveraging different pages, and more.
CM: Why is Wikipedia such an interesting tool? And since anyone can write articles, what are some of the dangers of relying on the site for promotion?
MW: I cannot explain the Wikipedia phenomenon, but people simply love it. Of course it is one of the most visited websites in the world and pages show up on page one of Google. But there is also a personal feeling of accomplishment people get from having a Wikipedia page.
Now, I would never rely on Wikipedia for promotion. Keep in mind that when I talk about Wikipedia as a marketing tool, I am not talking about spamming the site. I am talking about receiving the marketing benefits of Wikipedia. In the book, you will read how I talk about keeping the goal of Wikipedia in mind first (create quality pages, constructive edits, etc.) and the marketing benefits will come.
CM: From the perspective of a small business owner or solo-preneur, what elements should be included / avoided in a Wikipedia article? And does the size of the business play a part?
MW: I think you see the theme that you need to stay away from promotion. There is a huge marketing benefit of having a Wikipedia page, but you really need to make sure the pages you create are neutral and conform to Wikipedia guidelines. No one wants to read about how many awards you won or how many books you have written.
Think about what you like to see when reading a Wikipedia page. Is it fluff or do you want solid, unbiased information? So avoid anything that simply puffs you up or reads like your resume.
If you write basic information from a neutral point of view, people will click the link to your website (from Wikipedia) if they want more information. Use your website for promotion.
The size of the business really does not play a major role in the crafting of a Wikipedia page. All pages are based on sources. So, if a business has more news coverage that talks about them, it will likely warrant more content in the article.
CM: Now, let's talk about your podcast. The Marketing Impact Podcast helps listeners in the realm of marketing. You have featured prominent guests like Tom Treanor. With so many other podcasts in the field, what makes yours unique?
MW: You are correct in that there are many podcasts out there. I would not say that mine is unique, but that it is a different taste. Each host has a little different take on marketing, different format, and presentation style. What I enjoy, and many of my listeners do as well, is that I am not topic specific. I do not focus on Wikipedia marketing (although I do cover it in various episodes). I don’t focus on email marketing (although I talk about it briefly as well). I like to cover every topic within the niche of marketing. It is sort of the catch-all of marketing.
Now this is not the best marketing advice as you really should narrow the focus of your podcast, but I did it to be different. I also come into contact with so many different people in the industry that it makes it easy for me to find guests to be on the show. If I had a narrow focus, I wouldn’t have as many guests. I also NEVER feature any of my Wikipedia clients on the podcast as I protect their anonymity 100%. You can read why in the book.
CM: According to you, what is the number 1 mistake small business owners and solo-preneurs make when they start online? What advice would you give them to avoid it?
MW: The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you know everything (or knowing “enough”). Reading an article about email marketing does not make you the authority on the subject. Same as writing a business plan does not mean your business will be successful.
You must always continue learning. If you think you know everything on a topic, I guarantee you don’t as the world of marketing is changing daily. Think about it, a little more than a decade ago, there was no such thing as social media marketing. Now it is one of the most talked about topics in the world of marketing.
Read, read, and read some more. There is a ton of information online. You can also download e-books all day long with Kindle Unlimited. Follow influencers on Twitter and pay attention to what your competitors are doing. You need to keep filling yourself with knowledge. Something you learn today could be the thing that saves your business tomorrow.
CM: Where do you think marketing is headed in the next five years? What will be the role of Wikipedia in marketing?
MW: I hate to say it, but marketing is going to be data-heavy in the next five years. Data is going to tell us where to deliver content, place ads, and look for leads. Data has always been there, but now people are using it more and more. When competitors start using it, other businesses are forced to use it to keep up. The “keeping up” with competitors is where big data is at now. Look for it to be pretty much standard in marketing within the next five years.
I don’t foresee any major changes in the role Wikipedia will play in marketing. It is very much a niche site so there are no competing sites that are likely to take away page views. What I would focus on is the role its sister projects will play and how those tie back to Wikipedia. In particular, Wikidata, which is used along with Wikipedia to help supply information for the Google Knowledge Graph.
CM: Anything else you would like to add?
MW: If you are going to Wikipedia for the sole purpose of promoting yourself, then my book isn’t going to help you. If you are someone looking to have a presence on Wikipedia and don’t know where to start, then this book will be your eye opener.
Wikipedia as a Marketing Tool: How to Reap the Marketing Benefits of Wikipedia is available on Amazon.