Online reputation

How to solve your Wikipedia problem. (Yes, you have one.)

August 14, 2012: 10:30 AM ET

Wikipedia has become the new thorn in the side of countless startups, small businesses, celebrities, and prominent executives. Here's how to take control of the situation.

By Ryan Holiday

FORTUNE -- Here's the scary reality: your customers "go-to" source for information -- where they learn about your company, read your history and get their facts -- is wrong the majority of the time. I'm talking about Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia shows up in the top 3 results of more than 70% of Google and Bing searches (99% for Google UK) yet 60% of company Wikipedia pages contain factual errors.

Odds are, those numbers include pages about your company, its prominent executives, investors, and possibly even its products. And that matters because today lazy journalists from major publications copy entire Wikipedia paragraphs in their coverage. If you think that your potential customers, partners, and new hires aren't using Wikipedia to make decisions, then you're fooling yourself. Wikipedia informs the world.

So it's critical that you not only have a Wikipedia page, but that it fairly and accurately presents the truth about your business. But with its clunky code, obscure rules, and an increasingly hostile community, Wikipedia has become the new thorn in the side of countless startups, small businesses, celebrities, and prominent executives. I know this because they come to me for help.

Here's how you can solve the problem:

1. Be notable enough for a page

Not anyone can have a Wikipedia page. Wikipedia pages must meet the site's threshold of "notability." Your business could be a local institution, serving millions of people a year, but if you or the specific fact you wish were mentioned on your page has never been written about by the right media outlets, it's not noteworthy, as far as Wikipedia is concerned. If a statement hasn't been explicitly stated or backed by a reputable media outlet, Wikipedia editors yank it from the database.

So if you want a page, seek out coverage from third-party, reliable sources. Think newspapers, magazines, books, and journals, not your personal blog, press releases, or a Facebook page.

MORE: The myth of the 'entrepreneurial employee'

But it's easier to hack this than you think. If you're starting from scratch, check out HelpAReporterOut.com and start getting free, easy press from reputable reporters. If there are things you want people to know about your business, you better make sure you've communicated them to the media. Otherwise Wikipedia is incapable of presenting that information. I'm actually suggesting you speak to the media with your Wikipedia page in mind. More

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